Here’s what happened on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League, in case you missed it…
READ ALL ABOUT IT
THE MAIN STORY
PSG bursts Man United’s bubble
Manchester United entered Tuesday’s first-leg clash against PSG in their Round-of-16 series with a world of confidence. The Red Devils have undergone a major renaissance under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, having gone undefeated in 11 previous matches in all competitions and climbing to fourth in the Premier League since the Norwegian took over from Jose Mourinho in December.
What’s more, PSG made the trip to England without the dynamic duo of Edinson Cavani and Neymar, both ruled out through injuries. No team from France had previously won away to Manchester United in European competition, with French clubs losing eight of 10 Champions League visits to Old Trafford. So, everything appeared to be lining up in Man United’s favour.
PSG, though, had other ideas. Man United might be in better domestic form at the moment, but even with the loss of Neymar and Cavani, the advantage in experience titled heavily in the favour of the reigning French champions. PSG’s starting 11 combined for 589 Champions League appearances, compared to just 255 for Man United’s starters.
Ultimately, that was the difference. PSG overcame a slow start and an uneven first half to dominate proceedings after the halftime break. The home side could not contain the brilliance of Angel Di Maria, a former Red Devil, who tallied both assists on goals by Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe. Marquinhos, working in conjunction with the back line, shut down United’s potent attack led by Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford. Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was barely troubled on the night.
Manchester United now has it all to do in the return match in Paris on March 6. Not only will the Red Devils be without the suspended Pogba (he picked up two yellow cards on Tuesday), but history is not on their side. None of the previous 34 teams that lost the first leg of a Champions League knockout match at home by two or more goals went on to advance to the next round.
The breakthrough at Stadio Olimpcico came in the 70th minute when Bryan Cristante fed a pass to AS Roma teammate Eden Dzeko. The Bosnian quickly turned inside the box and teed up Nicolo Zaniolo, who beat Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas with a low shot from in close.
A minute of silence was held prior to kickoff at Old Trafford in Manchester and Rome’s Stadio Olimpico to honour Emiliano Sala.
THE GAME WITHIN THE GAME
Marco Verratti was an unheralded hero for PSG at Old Trafford, putting in a shift at both ends of the pitch.
“It’s obvious he’ll become a great champion.” – AS Roma captain Daniele De Rossi on teenaged teammate Nicolo Zaniolo, who bagged a brace against Porto on Tuesday.
SIX PACK OF STATS
• PSG’s Gianluigi Buffon is the fourth player to play in the Champions League aged 41 or older, joining Marco Ballotta, Mark Schwarzer and Oleksandr Shovkovskiy.
• AS Roma’s starting lineup on Tuesday featured seven Italian players. The last time a team started a Champions League match with seven Italians was Juventus in September 2013 vs. Copenhagen.
• Presnel Kimpembe is the eighth different player to score for PSG in this season’s Champions League. No other team has had more (excluding own goals).
• Porto have now lost seven of their eight away games against Italian clubs in the Champions League. The exception was a 3-2 win over AC Milan in September 1996.
• PSG’s Kylian Mbappe is the third player to score in his first three away Champions League appearances in England, joining Luis Enrique and Edin Dzeko.
• Tuesday marked the first time that Manchester United lost by a margin of more than one goal at Old Trafford in European competition in club history.
Stats courtesy of Opta
1) Nicolo Zaniolo, AS Roma: At 19 years and 225 days, the Italian teenager became the youngest Italian to ever score two goals in the Champions League match.
2) Angel Di Maria, PSG: The Argentine was sensational against his former club, pulling the strings in midfield and tallying a pair of assists.
3) Marquinhos, PSG: Playing in central midfield, the Brazilian defender did an excellent job of shadowing Paul Pogba, and was tidy in possession.