If there is a manual or a notice to understand how this Paris-Saint-Germain (PSG) works, no one has managed to get their hands on it this season.
The victory (3-2), obtained on the snow-covered lawn of Bayern Munich, Wednesday April 7, thus defies meteorological and statistical probabilities. In conditions closer to a biathlon pursuit than a quarter-final of the Champions League, the Parisians suffered a heavy shot (thirty-one strikes for their opponents) and responded six times with clinical efficiency.
In this revisited Fort-Alamo, PSG clung to the virtues of dominated teams, even outclassed at times. That is to say a mixture of esprit de corps – “The players showed a combative state of mind”, greeted the Parisian coach Mauricio Pochettino – associated with a hint of luck, not to mention a new order of candles to implore the porter Saint Keylor Navas.
Half goalkeeper, half ball magnet, the Costa Rican entered the brain of Munich shooters, orphans of their finest trigger, the Pole Robert Lewandowski, injured for this double confrontation. This more than compensates for the package of a Marco Verratti, positive for Covid-19 for the second time in two months.
Luck and talent
Because sport consumes superlatives, the term exploit is tempting to coat this victory against a defending champion who has been undefeated for nineteen games in the competition. Except that the PSG, by its means of State with Qatar, its status of finalist in title or the permanent danger represented by the duo Neymar-Mbappé, is not quite in its register with this role of small team came to rob Bayern, passing through the sewers of the Allianz Arena.
But in recent months, Paris has not mastered anything. Next to the dream night in Barcelona (4-1), there are slips against dunces of the French championship (Lorient and Nantes) or even this fresh defeat of four days against Lille decided to become caliph at the place of the caliph in Ligue 1. At the Parc des Princes, PSG had failed in the game and in the mind like a Neymar, frustrated and expelled.
To tell the truth, the Parisians operate as a team of cuts and blows. As a perfect pupil of Marcelo Bielsa, Pochettino prefers to see his teams dictate the rhythm of the matches, control the ball and run a lot. In Munich, it above all fulfilled the last condition. The rest is a combination of two things: “The talent of the players and a dose of luck that allowed us to win this match”, summarizes the Argentine coach, lucid.
🗣💬 “My players had a remarkable sense of sacrifice. We are trying to repeat these performances to gain in regularity… https://t.co/QXYKwMmwpb
This talent is that of a Neymar capable of sucking up five defenders to better shift Kylian Mbappé from the 3e minute. Luck is the continuation of the action with the hand fault of Manuel Neuer, the kind of event as improbable as a bad note played by Rachmaninoff. The talent also resembles Marquinhos, defender with attacking gestures and scorer on one leg (30e) before being replaced in the aftermath, injured adductors.
Paris and the specter of return matches
Wednesday, at 2-0, PSG fell again and this time impossible to incriminate the unfortunate Thiago Silva (today at Chelsea), a little too easily dressed as a captain back in the hot moments in recent seasons.
Deceived by his “ex”, Eric Choupo-Moting (37e) then by Thomas Müller on the hour mark, the Parisians resisted with their current means, those of a defense cobbled together with the goodwill and the limits of Colin Dagba and Mitchel Bakker on the sides or a Danilo Pereira , taken down a notch after leaving Marquinhos.
With the man of the match trophy in his hands, Kylian Mbappé also highlighted the collective courage of his people at the microphone of RMC Sport: “We suffered, but we suffered as a team. “ Important nuance. After his hat-trick in Barcelona, the striker doubled the pleasure with this grazing shot flush with the post of a Neuer cooled by the realism of the world champion (68e).
But Mbappé knows too well this subtlety of the regulations of European competitions, also called the return match. In 2017 with the famous “remount” of Barça, and two years later with the accident against a weak Manchester United, PSG had squandered its initial advantage. In tennis, we talk about “little arm”, this fear of concluding that often separates the good players from the best.
Before erasing the memory of the lost Lisbon final in August 2020 (0-1), and shouting “revenge”, PSG has six days ahead of it – interspersed with a trip to Stasbourg in the league – to review its copy . Park the bus in front of Navas’ cages, wait for the balloons to ricochet off him, and make Mbappé speak the lightning, the plan worked once but has some limits.
Hansi Flick has already noted them. Sorry for the ineffectiveness of his players and deploring new injuries (Niklas Süle and Leon Goretzka), the Bayern coach did not lay down his arms. “We know that Paris is a very strong team but we can hurt them too, and we want to try to take advantage of it on Tuesday by trying to be more efficient”, warns the technician.
The statistics however give him only a 5% chance of seeing the semi-finals after a 2-3 loss in the first leg at home. But should we still talk about logic and blacken statistical notebooks with this PSG? Not sure.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea win against Porto
In the other quarter-final of the evening, the English club Chelsea, now coached by former Parisian technician Thomas Tuchel, won 2-0 against Porto, in a match relocated to Seville for health reasons.
The young attacking midfielder Mason Mount scored the first goal, counted as away, before Ben Chilwell made the break at the end of the game. These achievements put the Blues in a very good position to find the last four of the C1, which would be a first since 2014.
The return match will be played on Tuesday again at Sevilla FC’s Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium, for the same health reasons linked to Covid-19 between Portugal and the United Kingdom.