Despite a 1-0 defeat in the return leg, PSG secured their place in the semi-finals this year on away goals (3-3 in total) and showed a maturity that may have been lacking in previous campaigns.
While the top three of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel Di Maria are undeniably one of the best forward lines in world football, questions have often been asked about the team’s determination and willingness to do the dirty work.
These questions were emphatically answered against Bayern as PSG resisted whatever the reigning European champion threw at them, adding pragmatism to their tricks and films.
“Football is such a great game, but it’s also a game you never give up and you have to fight,” PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino said after the match.
He added: “We were very focused. It was a really tough game. I’m really happy because the players deserve a lot of credit. Winning and qualifying for the semi-finals is an amazing time for us.”
Bayern Miss Lewandowski
With all the money spent at PSG in recent years, its Qatari owners expect the team to win the Champions League soon. Managers – and players – have come and gone as the club searched for the perfect winning formula and full-time celebrations on Tuesday were revealing.
Neymar, who despite hitting the woodwork twice in the first half was talismanic throughout, was visibly excited and appeared to be celebrating with teammate Leandro Paredes right up against Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich, which he later said was purely accidental.
Pochettino, who looked equally emotional, kissed Neymar several times as the players left the pitch. Photos and videos on social media then showed the team celebrating their comeback in the home locker room.
Bayern, meanwhile, will feel badly done after two good performances in the high-quality competition, but they sorely missed star striker Robert Lewandowski.
The Poland international has been in great shape in front of goal this season, scoring 35 Bundesliga goals, but missed both legs with injury.
This meant that Bayern’s attack was led by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting who, despite the only goal in the second leg, cannot be categorized as a superstar like Lewandowski. The absence of other senior players, such as Serge Gnabry, also meant manager Hansi Flick ran out of options on the bench, which was largely filled with inexperienced youngsters.
Even without his main goal scorer and despite the loss, Flick suggested his team deserved more.
“Out of the two games I think we were the better team,” said Flick. “We were a bit lucky, we were missing a few players but we have to accept that.”
In truth, Pochettino’s plan worked perfectly. He seemed more than happy that Bayern dominated possession for much of the draw and backed their defensive players to do the legwork – a task made more difficult by captain Marquinhos’ injury.
Sucking Bayern into the space reserved for PSG to launch counterattacks which created an exciting spectacle for neutrals to watch.
Now, with Bayern knocked out, the tournament looks wide open and PSG will be confident they’ve knocked out the champions. He joins Chelsea in the last four games where he will face either Manchester City or Borussia Dortmund.
Adding some spunk to the glitter, this could be the year that PSG finally win the coveted Champions League – a trophy their owners desperately want to have.
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