• Tom Abadie


Updated: May 4, 2021

The second semi-final of this season’s Champions League ended with Manchester City taking a 2-1 advantage going into the second leg, back in Manchester. While PSG were the more dangerous team in the first half, the Citizens were overall the better team by clearly dominating the second half of the game. Pep Guardiola’s men took out Paris’ energy after the break and could have scored a third goal, giving them an even bigger advantage in the second leg next week. PSG were impressive to start with but progressively moved backwards and lost all control of the ball and the game. They even ended with ten men and will be relieved the visitors only took a one goal advantage back to Manchester.

High intensity, high tempo

As per usual in the Champions League this season, PSG came into the game with a defensive shape but with a high line and the strikers relieved of their defensive duties. Neymar and Mbappé were left up front, with Di Maria linking the play after gaining back possession. The Frenchman was not on his best day, really struggling to get away from Dias and Stones, even with the high line City were playing. The Brazilian on the other hand excelled in bringing the ball up field when he dropped deeper and was always available in the first half.

His Argentinian counterpart was crucial in creating space, dribbling in tight spaces and created some great opportunities for his strikers. More importantly, his left foot delivered a great assist to his captain Marquinhos, yet again scoring an important goal in Europe. His glancing header at the near post gave PSG the lead after quarter of an hour. Another set of opportunities could have given the French team a two-goal advantage, particularly on set pieces. It was not to be and progressively Mahrez and his teammates started to step up their game. The wingbacks, who hadn’t been involved at all in this first half were getting into the game and creating opportunities. The teams went back to the changing rooms with the hosts in front, but some promising attacking play from City showed the premise of a very different second half.

Belgian magic

After the break, Guardiola’s men rose to the occasion and showed their true colours. Mahrez was consistently dangerous on his flank, and De Bruyne started working his wand to make the magic happen. The Belgian was orchestrating the sky-blue music band, and his every touch was in perfect symphony with the general partition of the team. With his pinpoint passing, he was opening spaces for his team to run into. However, it is a pass that didn’t reach any teammate that made the difference. A weighted cross into the box never found someone’s head and ended up in the net. Keylor Navas, surprised to see nobody head the ball, stayed glued to his line. 1-1.

Progressively, Paris started moving backwards, giving away fouls and losing the plot. They weren’t getting any opportunities to hit City on the break, all three attackers disappeared from the game and the nerves were starting to show. Navas started making more mistakes, his defence as well. Paredes concedes a cheap foul just outside the box. De Bruyne and Mahrez step up to take the freekick. With his beautiful left foot, the Algerian slots the freekick in the bottom left corner, going straight through the wall. A moment of magic from him or another Parisian mistake who knows, probably a bit of both, but it is now 2-1 to the visitors. With the way things were going, City could score another and take a real advantage. Another mistake from the home team led to Gueye being sent off for a very dangerous tackle on Gundogan. With ten men, PSG held on and eventually kept the score to 2-1.

Guardiola will be happy with the turnaround but could have hoped for a little more from his team to take a proper advantage. Bar a few scares and a marking error on a set piece, the Citizens dominated the game and will be ready to finish it off next week in Manchester. They would qualify for their first Champions League final in their history. On the other side, Paris will be disappointed with their performance, particularly Kylian Mbappé who certainly didn’t perform like he has been recently. They will be fighting for the title again this weekend and trying to have enough strength and better tactics to get the result they need next week to go for a back-to-back final in the competition. Should be a very open game, like last night.