- Neymar hits the bar with brilliant solo effort then the post minutes later
- Choupo-Moting profits from slight goalkeeper error to score opener
- PSG survive multiple scares to see out the match and knock the champions out
Mauricio Pochettino managed to do what Thomas Tuchel failed to do last season: on a cool spring night in Paris, he conjured a victory for PSG against Bayern Munich. His team may have lost in this leg, but their victory away last week was enough to take them through to a semi final against either Manchester City or Dortmund. And after the way in which they saw off the current champions with a combination of brilliance and steel, it would not be wise to bet against them going all the way.
It was clear from the outset that neither side had forgotten how to thrill in the seven days since their astonishing scrap in the Munich snow. Once again, this was a fizzbang of attack and counter attack, breathtaking individual skill confronting magnificently honed team ethic. And what players were involved. For all Neymar’s laughable histrionics (within moments of kick off he had made a bold late bid for this year’s best actor Oscar, rolling around as if under sniper fire after a robust challenge), but what ball control he possesses. His feet dancing like Nijinsky, he was a constant threat to Munich’s patchwork defence.
There was a delightful jig on the edge of the visitors area, followed by a shot that hit the bar. Then moments later, Kylien Mbappe set him up after Julian Draxler had broken at pace, his shot slipped beyond Manuel Neuer only to strike the post.
But then Munich demonstrated how precisely to take a chance. With Thomas Muller as ever applying a perfect touch, they broke quickly, as they had all night. David Alaba had a shot that Kaylor Navas saved well. But the ball bounced up and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting - once again, as he had been in the first leg, the understudy for the headline act Robert Lewandowski - rose above Presnel Kimbele to force the ball over the line. A goal built at the Bet 365 Stadium.
And so the action continued to fizz. Angel Di Maria was magnificent, constantly employing flicks and feints to confound his markers. But whatever PSG’s astonishing forward line could do, Muller could match. If only Leroy Sane had been on the same wavelength. A couple of times in the first half, Muller set him up only to see the opportunity squandered.
What PSG are not programmed to do, however, is try to sit on a lead. After all they are managed by Pochettino not Jose Mourinho. In the second half the double act of Neymar and Di Maria went through the repertoire of flicks and tricks, as if performing in a testimonial rather than a Champions League quarter final. The ball apparently glued to their feet, they conjured a chance that the Brazilian, scrabbling at the last to make contact, missed making contact by inches. It was Paul Gascoigne Euro 96 revisited. But Munich were not mesmerised. They attacked and created chances.
Leandro Parades headed off the line after Kingsley Koman steered a header goalwards. This was a game of constant thrust and counter thrust: if it wasn’t Neymar it was Sane going for goal (and just missing); if it wasn’t Di Maria passing beautifully, it was Muller giving a masterclass of movement. Backed up by superb defending by Jerome Boateng and Lucas Hernandez, this was a game of resolve and determination combined with skill and enterprise. The trouble was Munich, hamstrung by injury and poor recent recruitment, had nothing on the bench to refresh their already depleted first choice. But nothing could stifle their resolve.
For the last ten minutes they tried everything - wave after wave of long balls, short balls, quick interchanges and booming crosses - in search of the second goal that would take them through. But, even at the last, when Sane put a cross straight into Navas’s arms when gloriously placed to make the difference, they could not find a way through the blue wall.
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