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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Manchester City take top spot, PSG through despite defeat

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MANCHESTER: Manchester City’s Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson (centre right) catches the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group A football match between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England. – AFP MANCHESTER: Manchester City came from behind to secure top spot in Group A with a 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain as both sides qualified for the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday. Kylian Mbappe put the French giants in front against the run of play five minutes into the second half. But PSG run the risk of being drawn against the likes of Bayern Munich, Chelsea or Liverpool in the last 16 after Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus turned the game around for the English champions. PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino had to fend off questions in his pre-match press conference over whether he may be making a permanent move to Manchester to take over the vacant managerial role at United.

The Argentine’s first year in the French capital has been far from plain sailing despite a 11-point lead at the top of Ligue 1. Lionel Messi’s arrival to form a fearsome front three alongside Mbappe and Neymar has heaped expectation upon Pochettino to deliver a first Champions League crown to Paris. The blessing and curse of that richly-talented trio was in evidence as the visitors were largely overrun but suddenly clicked to create the opening goal. City’s collective cohesion had the better of the clash of styles, but lacked the clinical edge offered by PSG’s Galacticos.

Presnel Kimpembe cleared Rodri’s goalbound header off the line before Achraf Hakimi did likewise to turn Riyad Mahrez’s shot that was destined for the top corner over the bar. Despite missing the midfield trio of Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, City were still creating chances at will as Messi, Neymar and Mbappe did little to help their teammates defend. Ilkay Gundogan had the hosts’ best chance before the break, but his curling effort came crashing back off the post. Mbappe wasted the one opportunity PSG did muster in the first half as he pounced on a John Stones mistake, but fired over.

The Frenchman was not so wasteful five minutes after the break as he drilled low through Ederson’s legs from Messi’s deflected cross. But the pattern of the game remained unchanged as City charged forward and finally found a way through. Kyle Walker’s cross escaped Jesus, but rolled kindly for Sterling to prod in just his fourth goal of the season at the back post. Keylor Navas then produced a stunning finger-tip save to deny Jesus.

Pochettino responded by introducing Angel Di Maria to add to his attacking trident and he teed up Neymar with a great chance to restore PSG’s lead, only for the Brazilian to slot wide with just his international teammate Ederson to beat. Moments later another slick team move from City created a deserved winner. Mahrez’s cross to the back post picked out Bernardo Silva, who nonchalantly turned the ball back into the path of Jesus to calmly slot home. Victory gives City an unassailable four-point lead at the top of the section with just one game to go. But RB Leipzig’s 5-0 thrashing of Club Brugge means PSG are also guaranteed to go through in second place. – AFP

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