PARIS – Hosts Paris Saint-Germain looked good in the first half but collapsed in the second as the Ligue 1 champions wasted a one-goal lead and lost to Premier League side Manchester City 2-1 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal on Wednesday.
PSG surged in front at the Parc des Princes thanks to captain Marquinhos header, which was set up by Angel Di Maria’s corner, only 15 minutes into the match.
City’s captain Kevin De Bruyne grabbed a lucky equalizer in the 64th minute when a cross-turned-shot found the net. Riyad Mahrez scored a superb free kick in the 71st to make it 2-1.
“We deserved the lead, but in the second half, they were better than us. Physically they were a little bit more aggressive, and it was difficult for us to recover the ball,” PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino admitted.
For the first 45 minutes, Pochettino’s men looked completely outplayed by their rivals although Phil Foden found a golden chance before the break, but was denied by PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
The attacking trio of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Di Maria linked up well and imposed great pressure on City’s defense.
“Sometimes you need to be more relaxed and be ourselves. The first half is normal – you don’t want to lose the ball (so) you don’t play free. We changed a little in the way we press. We were passive, then we were more aggressive. It’s not easy against Mbappe, Neymar, and Di Maria,” City’s manager Pep Guardiola said after the match.
The Spaniard told his players to hold on to the ball more in the half-time, which paid off after the break. The English outfit dominated the ball and allowed the Parisian side only 30 percent ball possession.
De Bruyne scored the equalizer when he attempted to find a teammate with a cross from outside the box, but the ball went curling beyond Navas and into the net.
“The first half, we were too rushed, this is not the way we’re set up as a team,” the Belgium playmaker said. “In the second half, we tried to find space more patiently. Obviously, the way the first goal was lucky, but I think we played great football in the second half.”
Five minutes after De Bruyne’s goal, Foden was taken down by Idrissa Gueye just outside the penalty area which gifted City a good free-kick chance. Algerian winger Mahrez stepped up and sent the ball through the PSG wall and beyond Navas to secure City’s victory.
However, Mahrez confessed after the match that the ball did not go where he intended.
“I wanted to go around the wall, to be honest, and I missed it, it went between the two players, and fortunately it was in,” said the Algeria international.
PSG suffered another blow in the 76th minute as Gueye was sent off with a straight red card for a shocking tackle on Ilkay Gundogan.
The return leg will be played at City’s Etihad Stadium on May 4.