Manchester City beat Paris Saint-Germain at Parc des Princes in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final.
PSG applied all the pressure from the start and got their reward in the 15th minute. Angel Di Maria’s excellent corner kick was thrown home by Marquinhos, scoring a semi-final goal for the second year in a row.
The Parisians continued to control the game and twice came close to extending their lead. Neymar had a deflected effort on the bar, and Leandro Paredes took the lead with a free kick when he perhaps should have hit the target.
Man City had a few chances on their side, first approaching Bernardo Silva. He had to stretch to reach a long pass from compatriot Joao Cancelo, but managed to divert his effort onto the target. Keylor Navas turned him wide for a corner.
The best chance for visitors to the opening period came shortly before half-time. Silva gave the ball to Phil Foden, but he shot Navas directly when he really should have done better.
The second half started off in an equally exciting way. Marco Verratti was inches from the end of Kylian Mbappe’s cross for a tap, while Kevin De Bruyne saw his daring bike kick go over the bar.
In the 64th minute, Man City found their equalizer thanks to a bit of luck. De Bruyne lifted a cross to the back post, which eluded everyone and slipped in, giving his side a crucial away goal in the draw.
The goal completely shifted the balance of the game. Pep Guardiola’s men began to dominate the ball, while the hosts struggled to create anything and were frustrated, picking up some unnecessary yellow cards.
Seven minutes after De Bruyne’s goal, the Cityzens took the lead. Riyad Mahrez’s free kick wriggled through a crack in the wall and found the back of the net. Replays showed Presnel Kimpembe was responsible for the hole.
Man City continued to control the game and gained a new advantage after Idrissa Gana Gueye was sent off. The Senegalese midfielder issued a horrific challenge to Ilkay Gundogan, raking his crampons through the German’s calf, and then received a red card.
The away side had a few more half chances, but played a little safer in the final ten minutes. Mahrez fired a hopeful shot and Foden hit a straight at Navas.
The game ended 2-1 against Man City, which put them in an excellent position to reach their very first Champions League final.
Man of the Match – Riyad Mahrez
On a night to remember for Man City, there are a few who could have been selected for this award. Ruben Dias did a great job keeping Mbappe silent, De Bruyne got the vital equalizer and Foden always looked dangerous.
However, it was Mahrez who rose to plate and scored the winning goal. His free kick may have been lucky, but it was still a quality moment to put his camp forward.
The Algerian continued to perform after the goal, helping Man City dictate the game from there. He could have scored a second with a raspy late shot that just passed the near post.
Competition on the wings is high at the Etihad Stadium, but Mahrez may have nabbed a starting spot.
Will it FINALLY be the year of Man City in Europe?
Over the past decade, Man City have been nearly perfect domestically. They have won four Premier League titles (soon to be five), two FA Cups and six League Cups.
Along with that, they hold the record for most points accumulated in a single Premier League season, as well as most goals scored.
However, one thing has always escaped them and that is success on the European stage. Prior to this season, they had reached the semi-final just once in 2016, before exiting rather obediently to Real Madrid.
Sometimes they were unlucky. I’m sure we all remember the hectic quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur, which sorely denied them a VAR added time winner because Sergio Aguero was half a step offside in preparation.
Other times, they were the architects of their own downfall. Rejecting a two-goal lead in the second leg against Monaco, getting convincingly beaten at Anfield, suffering a shock defeat to Lyon – their recent efforts in the Champions League haven’t been very impressive.
This time things look different. They moved behind Borussia Dortmund but managed to come back and win the draw.
At the Parc des Princes, they again conceded the first goal, and were struggling to control the match. Neymar looked well in place, and Marquinhos kept their front line at bay.
But once De Bruyne scored the equalizer it was all City, and they went on to get the game-winning goal they needed. Now they enter the home game knowing that PSG will need at least two goals to have any chance of qualifying for the final.
If they made it all the way it would not only be huge for the club, but also for manager Pep Guardiola.
One of the biggest marks against the former Barcelona boss is his failure to reach a final in this competition without the superstars he had at Camp Nou. Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta – anyone could win stuff with them, right?
If he got his hands on the trophy again, it would silence any skeptics of Guardiola and establish him once and for all as one of the greatest managers of all time.
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