MAN CITY 2, PARIS ST GERMAIN 1
Manchester City underlined their growing reputation as one of Europe’s elite clubs with an impressive Champions League victory against Paris St Germain at the Etihad.
It was a hugely impressive powerhouse performance from City who displayed character and resilience after falling behind early in the second half to a Kylian Mbappe goal.
Strikes from Raheem Sterling and substitute Gabriel Jesus overturned the deficit as City booked their place in the knockout phase and finished as Group A winners with one game remaining.
They have finished top of their group for a fifth successive season which has only been achieved one before by an English club, neighbours Manchester United,
And the win put down a marker as PSG are one of the favourites to win this season’s Champions League, especially with their famed front three of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.
Despite that striking prowess at their disposal, PSG managed only seven goal attempts and two on target to City’s 16 with seven hitting the target.Embed from Getty Images
City manager Pep Guardiola was delighted with the victory and to top the group against top opponents.
He said: “PSG, what a team, what players, what can I say. Their quality is extraordinary
“We had more chances in the first half, but they defended well. They have a lot of quality, so you have to keep them far away from goal.
“After conceding a goal to a counterattack, after that it was a top performance, and we were aggressive without the ball. I am happy to win the group and be in the last 16.
“Now we can concentrate on the Premier League until February and then hopefully we can get into the quarter finals.”
Bernardo Silva said: “We are very happy to win the match. And to go through as winners of the group. It was a good performance, a good win. It is just one game, but we are through to the last 16.
“It was frustrating in the first half as it felt like we were controlling the game. We were pressing high, winning the ball and having possession but we weren’t scoring.
“After conceding the team had a great reaction. You are never safe. You give space to Messi, Neymar, Mbappe they can create chances.”
PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino said: “In the first half we did some good things and things we needed to improve.
“It was good to reach half time 0-0 so we could fix some problems.
“We started the second half well with Kylian scoring and we were in control but credit to Manchester City as they are a very good team, but we are disappointed to lose.”
Pochettino was again asked about his future as PSG manager in the light of him being linked to Manchester United but would not be drawn on “rumours”.
City made three changes to the side that beat Everton at the weekend as Phil Foden missed out through injury while Cole Palmer and Aymeric Laporte dropped to the bench.
Ruben Dias, Riyad Mahrez and Oleksandr Zinchenko returned to the starting line-up while Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish were still ruled out through injury.
PSG started with Neymar, Messi and Mbappe up front.
Former Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos was on the bench and could make his debut tonight.
Such was the strength of the PSG squad that the substitutes also included Gianluigi Donnarumma, Marco Verratti, Mauro Icardi, Angel Di Maria, Danilo and Georginio Wijnaldum while Julian Draxler and Rafinha were absent through injury.
City completely dominated the opening 45 minutes in terms of chances – 11 to three – but lacked a cutting edge while PSG defended resolutely.
Rodri head a fifth minute header cleared off the line by Presnel Kimpembe and Mehrez, following up, had his effort pushed into the side netting by goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
That set the tone for the half as Mahrez then had a drive headed over his own bar by Achraf Hakimi.
City went even closer when Ilkay Gundogan’s drive struck the upright following a poor clearance by Marquinhos and Mahre brought s fine, low save from Navas.
PSG hardly had a sniff at goal, yet in the last minute of the half had a chance to snatch an unlikely lead.
Neymar dispossessed Neymar in the middle of the park and released Mbappe who cut in from the left but bent a shot well over.
It served as a warning of the threat PSG posed, despite chasing shadows for most of the opening period.
And so it proved as PSG snatched a 50th minute lead against the run of play after a wonderful passing move in which Messi was involved three times.
Messi’s final diagonal pass deflected off Dias to find Mbappe free on the right of the box and his low drive went through the legs of goalkeeper Ederson.
Mbappe was making his 50th Champions League appearance and at the age of 22 years and 339 days became the second youngster player to reach the milestone behind Cesc Fabregas.
It was also Mbappe’s 20th away Champions League goal in 23 appearances, the quickest the 20-goal milestone had been reached.
Guardiola immediately responded by bringing on Jesus for Zinchenko.
Mahrez had a fierce angled shot beaten out by Navas before City finally found a route to goal in the 63rd minute when Sterling made it 1-1.
Rodri and Kyle Walker combined and the latter’s cross was deflected off Nuno Mendes into the path of Sterling to sweep home at the far post.
It was Sterling’s 23rd Champions League goal as he matched Frank Lampard’s total. The only English players ahead of him are Paul Scholes (24) and Wayne Rooney (30).
It was his fourth goal of the season for City and his third in three as he has finally hit top form.
This was also Jesus’ 19th Champions League goal as he overtook Brazilian legend Ronaldinho.
City, lifted by the equaliser, pressed to take the lead as Bernardo Silva released Jesus whose rising shot was superbly beaten away by Navas.
Neymar squandered a great chance for PSG to regain the lead. The Brazilian played a return pass with Angel Di Maria, weaved his way clear only to shoot wide.
How PSG were made to pay for that miss as City almost immediately took a 26th minute lead through Jesus.
Bernardo Silva squared a pass from Mahrez’ cross into the path of Jesus who steered a shot low to the left of Navas for his fifth goal of the season.