Here’s what happened on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League, in case you missed it…
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THE MAIN STORY
It’s Groundhog Day (again) for PSG
Manchester United appeared to be dead to the world ahead of Wednesday’s tilt vs. Paris Saint-Germain. PSG held a 2-0 advantage from its win at Old Trafford last month, and no club had ever progressed to the next round of the Champions League after losing the first leg of a knockout match at home by two or more goals. What’s more, United was decimated by 10 absent players for this match – nine through injury and one via suspension (Paul Pogba). Realistically, what chance did they have?
But never underestimate PSG’s ability to somehow snatch a loss from the jaws of victory. For a side that spares no expense on players and has great ambitions to win this tournament in order to rank among Europe’s elite, PSG has a funny way of beating itself at the absolute worst possible moments. Three years ago, the French outfit looked destined for the quarterfinals following a 4-0 home win at Barcelona, only to lose the return match 6-1 in Spain and spectacularly wash out of the competition at the hands of the Catalans. The players and managers may change, but the song remains the same for PSG – it can’t win when it matters most, which is usually when they’re finally on the cusp of greatness. It’s that last step that they can’t make.
This is not to take anything from Manchester United and what they achieved on Wednesday. The Red Devils played with belief and commitment in the French capital, showing great composure with so many players missing, and not being overawed by the occasion. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has conjured the spirit of the great Manchester United teams that played under Alex Ferguson, and his team is deservedly through to the quarterfinals. As full-back Diogo Dalot said after the game, “If we don’t believe, no one will believe for us.”
But United had no business winning this match by two goals on the road. Had it been any other opponent – and not one such as PSG, with a proven track record of turning sure wins into losses – you can’t help but feel that United would be returning home to England empty handed. Instead, PSG gifted them two goals in the opening half hour off defensive miscues, and then threw them another life line by conceding a penalty deep into second-half injury time. Typical PSG.
After Romelu Lukaku gave Manchester United an early lead, PSG responded in style with a wonderfully worked goal. Kylian Mbappe used his speed to beat the offside trap and latch onto a killer pass from Dani Alves. Mbappe slid a first-time pass across the box for Juan Bernat to slot home and level the score in the 12th minute.
In a one-on-one battle of legendary veterans, Roma captain Daniele De Rossi held his nerve from the penalty spot in the 37th minute, using a stutter step run-up to drive a shot into the bottom left-hand corner past Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Unavailable through injury, Jesse Lingard goes wild after watching his Manchester United teammates pull of an amazing comeback.
THE GAME WITHIN THE GAME
Attacking domination by PSG in every statistic that counts, except the one that matters the most: goals.
SIX PACK OF STATS
• AS Roma is the first team in Champions League history to concede at least one goal in 31 consecutive road games
• Romelu Lukaku’s goal after one minute and 51 seconds is Manchester United’s fastest in a Champions League knockout match since Wayne Rooney scored after 63 seconds in 2010 vs. Bayern Munich.
• Moussa Marega is the first FC Porto player to score in six consecutive Champions League games. Mario Jardel scored in five in a row in 1999.
• The last time PSG conceded two goals in the first 30 minutes of a Champions League game was in 1997 vs. Bayern Munich.
• AS Roma has lost each of its last eight Champions League knockout stage matches away from home, a streak that dates back to beating Real Madrid in 2008.
• Manchester United have scored in 21 consecutive away matches in all competitions, tying the club record established between November 1956 and September 1957 under Matt Busby.
Stats courtesy of Opta
1) Marcus Rashford, Manchester United: Set up Romelu Lukaku’s second goal, and then kept his nerve from the penalty spot in scoring the goal that sent the Red Devils through to the quarterfinals.
2) Moussa Marega, FC Porto: Set up Porto’s first goal, and then found the back of the net himself for the sixth straight game in the Champions League.
3) Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United: Scored two goals inside the opening 30 minutes to give the Red Devils some hope going into second half.