A game that saw the two teams field teams worth a combined £1B lived to its billing. It was the battle of not just two of the most affluent teams in the world, but also the most talented teams in the world. New PSG coach Mauricio Pochetino was in his second ever UCL Semi Final (first as PSG coach) and Pep Guardiola was in his first UCL Semi Final since his time at Barcelona. PSG clearly had the better individual players especially at the top end of the pitch and that was shown from the first minute. Neymar, Mbappe and Di Maria seemed a little too much for the City team to handle and their ability to weave through players continued to push City further back into their own half. Pochettino pushed his full back so far up the pitch allowing his front three to do majority of their damage down the middle. Eventually City cracked and it was from a set piece. Marquinhos made a smart run to the front post and met a perfect cross from Di Maria to put the Paris side one goal up at the Parc De Prince. Neymar continued to dazzle for most of the first half and Manchester City could not get consistent possession at any point in the first half.
Pep has been cautious with his use of Aguero since his return from injury and Gabriel Jesus never seems to show that ruthless striker mentality and so Pep started without a striker. Another curious decision was leaving Raheem Sterling out of the game and because of that, City didn’t have any threat in the central forward area of the pitch leaving the PSG center halves un bothered for most of the first half.
Despite how ineffective the tactic was Pep didn’t change anything coming into the second half but from the whistle it was Man City dominance. Kevin De Bruyne was difficult to track and kept finding space around the box. Mahrez had PSG’s second choice full back Mitchel Bakker on skates for most of the night and while there was still no threat down the middle, Man City still found ways to over load various areas of the field and that in turn overwhelmed PSG. City’s domination would pay off as a curling Kevin De Bruyne cross went untouched and into the back of the net. Seven minutes later Riyadh Mahrez found a hole in the wall and placed his free kick passed Keylor Navas to give Manchester City a well deserved away win.
PSG will now have an up hill task 6 days from now when they go to the Ethihad in a bid to qualify for their second UCL final in as many years but while it would be difficult, it is far from impossible. They have two generational talents and a manager who at least for the first 45 minutes of the first leg showed he can create extra advantages for his already very talented team. Pep on the other hand will be dying to get to his first UCL final without Lionel Messi. The first leg was a treat and we can only ask for more of the same.