PSG gives United a reality check

Zaniolo double gives Roma the edge over Porto

February 13, 2019 08:45 pm | Updated 08:45 pm IST - Manchester

Overjoyed: Presnel Kimpembe, right, celebrates after scoring PSG’s opener against Manchester United.

Overjoyed: Presnel Kimpembe, right, celebrates after scoring PSG’s opener against Manchester United.

Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his side was shown how much it still has to improve after being swept aside by an injury-hit Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 in the first-leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe struck in a seven-minute spell just before the hour mark as PSG displayed its credentials to finally become champion of Europe for the first time, especially once it gets the world’s most expensive player Neymar and Edinson Cavani back from injury.

After a run of 10 wins and one draw in 11 games since Solskjaer replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho in December, a first defeat for the Norwegian is a reality check for United’s revival and it has a mountain to climb when the sides meet again for the second-leg on March 6.

Pogba sees red

The English giants will also have to cope without Paul Pogba in three weeks’ time as he was sent off a minute from time to round off a terrible night for the host.

“Today we weren’t at the level, this is a level up from what we have played against. We have had a great run, we came into this game in a great frame of mind, great form, but it’s a big step up,” said Solskjaer.

PSG showed it still retains plenty of world class talent despite their big name absentees as United struggled to contain the slick passing of Thomas Tuchel’s men in midfield and the pace of Mbappe in attack.

Angel di Maria was roundly booed by the home support on his return to Old Trafford after an unhappy one-season spell with United after signing for a then club record £60 million in 2014.

Silencing detrators

But the Argentine silenced his detractors by setting up both goals and also mocked the throwing of a beer bottle at him by pretending to drink from it.

For all PSG’s injury problems, a double blow also rocked United in the seconds before half-time and at the break as Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial limped off to be replaced by Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata.

The home side never recovered its composure as PSG produced a stunning second-half display to all but book its place in the last eight despite David de Gea’s best efforts in the United goal.

Kimpembe was left completely unmarked to side-foot home di Maria’s corner from point-blank range on 53 minutes.

A brilliant team goal then doubled United’s trouble soon after when Mbappe was again too quick for Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly to meet di Maria’s low cross.

“The first goal is always going to be important and the way we concede it is disappointing,” added Solskjaer.

“The second goal was quality by them. The ground he (Mbappe) makes up that boy to get in the box, to all the strikers that want to be poachers that’s how to get in the box.”

Thereafter only de Gea stood in the visitors’ way as he stayed big to block Mbappe’s attempted chip as he bore down on goal again before Juan Bernat’s rising drive was then diverted wide.

And any hope of a United comeback in Paris suffered another huge blow when Pogba was dismissed late on for catching Dani Alves with a raised boot.

Teenage sensation Nicolo Zaniolo bagged a brace as Roma beat Porto 2-1 in their last-16, first-leg clash at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

The 19-year-old got his first ever Champions League goal in the 70th minute in Rome on Tuesday, adding a second six minutes later to inflict a first defeat on Porto in this year’s top-tier European competition.

But Adrian Lopez pulled a vital goal back for the Portuguese club after 79 minutes.

“It’s an incredible night, I’m speechless and never would have expected such a thing,” Zaniolo told Sky Sport Italia .

“But we’ve got the second leg coming up, we shouldn’t have conceded the goal.” The night belonged to the youngster from Tuscany who has become a fan favourite since arriving from Inter Milan, where he never played a top-flight game, in exchange for Radja Nainggolan last summer.

He was given an ovation by an ecstatic home crowd who see him as the heir to club legend Francesco Totti.

The match sparked into life midway through the second half as Zaniolo netted with a precise finish after Edin Dzeko’s lay-off.

He soon had his second when Dzeko went on the counter-attack, his shot bouncing off the post with Zaniolo on hand to tap in the rebound.

“Celebrating under the ‘curva’ is an extraordinary feeling,” said Zaniolo. “I can’t describe it. I hope to score many more.”

“Zaniolo is not a surprise any more,” said Roma captain Daniele De Rossi.

“His physical strength is incredible for a guy of his age and he combines it with great technique. He is already a great player, but he will become a great champion.” Eusebio Di Francesco’s Roma, last year’s semifinalist, had fallen to the Portuguese club in both their previous meetings, most recently the 2016 play-off round in qualifying.

Before Zaniolo’s heroics, the match had been a lacklustre affair between two sides who had both eased through the group stage.

There had been tensions however between Porto coach Sergio Conceicao, a former Lazio player, and fans from their arch-rival Roma.

A furious row also erupted between Conceicao and Di Francesco, a former Roma player, on the touchline.

“He got annoyed, so did I, we spoke a little too loud,” explained Conceicao. “But it was nothing serious, everything is okay.

“As beforehand it’s still 50-50 (to qualify). Our goal leaves everything open,” said Conceicao.

“I’m convinced we’ll go through to the quarterfinals.” Di Francesco praised “one of the best performances of the season from a collective point of view” from his team, who as so often conceded a goal quickly after going ahead.

“We won’t be going to Porto to defend, but to score,” he warned.

The host had the best of the first half with veteran Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas denying Aleksandar Kolarov and Lorenzo Pellegrini off the rebound.

Dzeko looked destined to break the deadlock on 38 minutes when he beat the Porto defence only to blast a shot against the post.

Roma stepped up the pressure after the break, with Zaniolo setting up Bryan Cristante who wove his way through, again forcing a Casillas save.

A Danilo Pereira header flew wide, with Casillas on hand to parry a low Pellegrini effort, before Zaniolo broke through with his double to become the youngest Italian to score in the Champions League.

Lopez pulled a goal back for Porto three minutes later as the Roma defence were caught out by Tiquinho Soares’ miscued volley, before Hector Herrera curled wide and Aleksandar Kolarov missed a chance late for a third for the host.

Roma held on for its first success over Porto, which has won the competition twice, most recently in 2004 under Jose Mourinho.

“We cannot be calm with a 2-1 victory but I think now we can say the chances of qualification are 51-49 for us,” said De Rossi.

The results (last-16: first-leg): Manchester United 0 lost to Paris Saint-Germain 2 (Kimpembe 53, Mbappe 60); Roma 2 (Zaniolo 70, 76) bt Porto 1 (Adrian Lopez 79) .

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.