Mbappe became the center of attention atthe day it was made public that he plans to leave the French champions in January. A strong performance was required to put an end to the most recent Paris Saint-Germain soap opera on a night when Kylian Mbappe and PSG had already created headlines before even taking the field. Despite rumors that he had wished to leave PSG in January, Mbappe did go up to convert a penalty against Benfica in the first half.
Mbappe’s goal made him the club’s all-time leading scorer in the Champions League, but PSG’s performance in the second half did not reflect his goal or the advantage it gave them. Benfica played smart defense and developed into the game, forcing PSG into mistakes as they let up on the throttle and ceased applying pressure.
After 62 minutes, Joao Mario easily converted a penalty to tie the score for the visitors after Marco Verratti, whose influence was dwindling, clipped Rafa Silva. After Juventus’ unexpected loss to Maccabi Haifa earlier in the evening, a win for either team on the night would have been enough for them to guarantee their spot in the Champions League knockout stages, but neither team had the talent to take the game by the scruff of the neck. On a day when PSG supporters had undoubtedly already experienced exhaustion, it was a tiresome spectacle. What will happen next is anyone’s guess.
The Performing Side:
Kylian Mbappe: Was his goal a penalty shootout goal? Sure. And did he succeed? Absolutely. Nobody will look back and recall the dribbles that didn’t quite work or the misplaced crosses when it’s all said and done; instead, they will see Mbappe’s name on the scoresheet in the match that all but guaranteed PSG’s spot in the knockout stages. Given the headlines from Tuesday, it would have been very simple for the Frenchman to give in to the pressure, but he didn’t. He took the initiative and spoke.
Lionel Messi: In his absence, Messi’s rise has only become more apparent. The Argentine has been a huge success in his second season in Paris after a challenging first one, and PSG most clearly missed him in a performance that lacked passion, magic, and overall cutting-edge brilliance. Who would have guessed?
Hugo Ekitike: Ekitike didn’t need to put in a lot of effort to win the night. Like Messi, he could have avoided playing at all and still made the team. The team’s performance tonight provided more than enough justification to continue rotating even the most “irreplaceable” players. Galtier gave Neymar and Mbappe the benefit of the doubt despite the fact that they were far from faultless. That needs to alter. Ekitike is a fantastic talent who deserved to enter the game and alter it far sooner than he did. Galtier may come to that realization after suffering his third consecutive draw in a week.
The Losing Side:
Achraf Hakimi: Fans had every reason to be unhappy with Hakimi’s performance on Tuesday given how highly regarded he is. The Moroccan struggled because he was without almost everything that usually makes his game so unique. He didn’t push up high enough or make enough attempts to go past the line of defense, which restricted PSG’s ability to be creative. That reality combined with his lack of quality in possession resulted in a performance that was only slightly above average.
Marco Verratti: Verratti put on another lackluster effort as the game wore on, and it was obvious to all when he awkwardly brought Rafa Silva down in the box after an hour. He cannot participate in PSG’s subsequent Champions League match because of his careless challenge, which led to a booking after being detected by VAR. The entire squad suffers when midfielders like Verratti falter.
Pablo Sarabia: Nobody anticipated that Sarabia would step into the front three and replace Lionel Messi, who scored an incredible goal in the previous match and was out due to injury. That task is virtually difficult. But you have to establish your claim if you have the chance to start in a major game. Sarabia failed to. The Spain international, however, appeared frazzled and unable to make the most of the ball when it did eventually come his way. Missing urgency, poor touches, and forgettable. You don’t get into the starting XI by doing that.
The Defensive Side:
Gianluigi Donnarumma: Gianluigi was switched off during the first half and nearly cost his team a goal when they received the ball to the feet. Not at fault for letting a penalty ruin his perfect record.
Sergio Ramos: He was both inside and outside of possession. led his side’s activities at the back. He is such a significant presence for PSG, so they must keep him healthy this year.
Marquinhos: A more collected member of the back three is required, especially when seated next to Ramos. wasn’t particularly tested by the front line of Benfica, though.
Danilo Pereira: Pereira took many chances with the ball, some of which almost caught him off guard, but recovered smartly and swept up most of the time without incident. Perhaps a balance between risk and reward needs to be found.
It was never going to be easy for him to inspire his players to play at 100% and really give Benfica a fight, despite the headlines. However, Galtier’s changes were too tentative, and PSG had been on the verge of giving up before they finally did.
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