— Sports

PSG’s old shortcomings undermine Champions League bid

PARIS (AP) – Paris Saint-Germain’s old shortcomings quickly returned when Manchester City cranked up the pressure in their Champions League semifinal. Key players and teamwork went missing during 30 minutes in the second half of the 2-1 loss when PSG conceded two quick goals and failed to recover. PSG went from a position of authority to being second best all over the field.

As players exchanged nonplussed glances and looked to each other for leadership, Neymar flung his arms in the air and angrily berated his teammate Mitchel Bakker for not overlapping down the left side. While City’s captain Kevin De Bruyne lifted his side, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe failed to do the same. In the attack, they went missing and stopped tracking back after midfielder Idrissa Gueye’s red card, which further exposed the midfield and defense. Had City used its pressure to more clinical effect, PSG could have faced an even bigger deficit heading into next week’s second leg in England.

After trying to find solutions on his own rather than through teamwork, Neymar got booked for a pointless late challenge on Ruben Dias, having been sent off twice this season in the French league.

He was not alone in playing below his best, with standout goalkeeper Keylor Navas beaten by a cross from De Bruyne that went straight in.

Champions League

Gueye’s needless free kick on Phil Foden led to City’s second goal, and then he got sent off just four minutes after Neymar’s pointless booking. On City’s free kick, Leandro Paredes and Presnel Kimpembe jumped up, leaving a gap for Riyad Mahrez’s shot to squeeze through.

The imposing Kimpembe, one of the toughest defenders in the French league, also surprisingly turned his back on the ball when De Bruyne’s cross came in. As things disintegrated before his eyes, PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino was slow to react. He could have brought on Ander Herrera for Gueye but did not, and also left powerful striker Moise Kean on the bench when his physical presence might have made a difference.

It was PSG’s 12th loss of an inconsistent campaign and eighth at home.

There is still hope for the return leg, though, given that PSG scored four goals away to Barcelona in the Round of 16 and three away to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals during those first legs.

“We’ve had some great performances away from home. We need to believe in ourselves,” Pochettino said. “We need to play with the same intensity we showed in the first hour.”

Pochettino is under pressure on two fronts because PSG is still one point behind Lille and one ahead of third-place Monaco with only four games remaining in the French league.

His players must rally for Saturday’s home game against a Lens side in fifth place and chase a Europa League spot. Lille is at home to midtable Nice later that day.

That puts Pochettino in a difficult position, knowing that he can ill afford to rest key players against Lens and need them as fresh as possible for the return leg against City.


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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