Kylian Mbappe fittingly scored a brilliant last-gasp winner as Paris Saint-Germain beat Real Madrid 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
Much of the build-up to the match focused on Mbappe, given the expectation that he will join Madrid at the end of the season, and he ultimately made the difference at the Parc des Princes.
It looked as though PSG would be frustrated, as the France striker had previously been thwarted on a few occasions by Thibaut Courtois, who also saved a Lionel Messi penalty that Mbappe won.
But with time almost up, Mbappe finally got his goal to give PSG a slender advantage ahead of the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Mbappe looked a man keen to impress right from the outset, beating Dani Carvajal and crossing for Angel Di Maria to blaze over from eight yards.
He then got in behind Eder Militao, but Mbappe turned his mishit left-footed effort around the post by Courtois, who pounced on a deflected Danilo Pereira header at the resulting corner.
Madrid managed to tighten up defensively, thus keeping Mbappe quiet for the remainder of the opening 45.
Still, he burst into life again early in the second period, forcing Courtois into a fine save down to his right.
Mbappe was unsurprisingly the source of PSG’s best chance just past the hour as he won a penalty from the clumsy Carvajal, but Courtois again came to Madrid’s rescue.
Just when Madrid looked to have survived a late onslaught, Mbappe collected substitute Neymar’s clever backheel, jinked between two defenders and shot between Courtois’ legs – with the aid of a slight deflection – to win the game.
What does it mean? Pochettino can breathe a sigh of relief.
If you believe the rumours, elimination at this competition stage could cost Mauricio Pochettino his job.
While PSG was hardly exceptional, Pochettino will have wondered how they were not ahead as the game entered stoppage time.
A Messi penalty you might almost take for granted as a goal, but Courtois had one of those days for the most part.
Yet Mbappe showed what can happen with a forward line of such quality.
How decisive that goal will be in the grand scheme of this tie and Pochettino’s future remains to be seen,
But it certainly takes a little pressure off heading into the second leg.
Mbappe relishes the attention.
It would have been easy for Kylian Mbappe to fade into the background here – we have seen it time and time again.
When a coveted player fails to sparkle on the big stage, but right from the start, he looks in the mood.
Kylian Mbappe had a match-high seven shots and touched the ball 70 times, a somewhat unusually high number for a striker but highlighted his general involvement.
Everything good about PSG came through him, and he got the winner.
Di Maria disappoints.
Neymar’s introduction for Di Maria in the 73rd minute was a long time coming.
The Argentina international struggled in almost every aspect.
None of his three shots was accurate. He conceded the joint-most fouls (four) And posted the worst duels success rate of any player to engage in more than three (10 per cent, 1/10).
Di Maria just seemed to get in the way, and it was no surprise to see PSG look a little more fluid with Neymar in his place.
Key Opta Facts.
– Kylian Mbappe’s goal was just the second 90th-minute winner Real Madrid conceded in the Champions League after Mirko Vucinic for Roma in March 2008.
– This was just the second time PSG have won a Champions League knockout match via a 90th-minute winner after Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting against Atalanta in August 2020 (quarter-final).
– Madrid have failed to land a shot on target in just two Champions League games since 2003-04 (when Opta shot data began), with both matches coming against PSG (also Sept 2019).
– Madrid have failed to score in three consecutive away knockout matches in the Champions League (exc. neutral) for the first time in their history.
– Messi has failed to score in each of his last eight appearances against Real Madrid in all competitions and has gone 695 minutes since his previous goal against them (May 2018).
– Messi’s last two penalty misses in the Champions League have come at the Parc des Princes – with Barcelona in March 2021 and now for PSG. Since his first season in the competition (2004-05), no player has failed to score more penalties (five).
The Santiago Bernabeu will determine the tie on March 9th. But both sides now turn their attentions back to league action, with PSG going to Nantes and Madrid hosting Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.
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