Paris – Manchester City took a big step towards its first Champions League final Wednesday as goals by Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez helped deliver a 2-1 comeback win against Paris Saint-Germain in the semifinal first leg.
PSG went ahead courtesy of a Marquinhos header in the first half, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side lost control after the break — with De Bruyne and Mahrez finding the back of the net in the space of eight minutes to secure City’s 18th consecutive away win in all competitions.
PSG, last year’s runner-up, then found itself with a high mountain to climb after midfielder Idrissa Gueye picked up a straight red card in the 77th minute for a reckless challenge on Ilkay Gundogan.
“The second half was much better, the way the first goal went in was a little bit lucky but we played great football in the second half; we did well,” De Bruyne said.
Pochettino agreed the visitors were the better team after the interval.
“There were two different halves,” he said. “In the first half we did well, we created chances and deserved the lead. But in the second half they were better than us.
“The two goals were accidents, but they created more than us,” Pochettino added.
When the French champions travel to England for the second leg on Tuesday, they’ll need to show the same form that enabled them to beat Barcelona at Camp Nou and Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena in previous rounds if they hope to advance.
“At halftime, I told the players we needed to be ourselves,” said City manager Pep Guardiola. “We needed to be more aggressive and we didn’t let them breathe after the break.” City dominated the early possession but PSG was the more dangerous side, with Brazilian forward Neymar twice testing City ’keeper Ederson.
Marquinhos, returning to the team from an injury suffered in the quarterfinal first leg against Bayern, put the hosts in front when he headed home Angel Di Maria’s whipped corner in the 15th minute.
City, overly cautious for fear of being punished on the break, were again exposed on a set piece when Leandro Paredes headed Neymar’s corner just wide.
Guardiola’s side lacked its usual composure, with Joao Cancelo picking up a yellow card for a woeful challenge on Kylian Mbappe.
City’s first real chance came in the 42nd minute, when Phil Foden — played infield by Bernardo Silva — shot too close to PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
The visitors were more attack-minded in the second half. They equalized after 64 minutes when De Bruyne sent in a cross — from a pass by Oleksandr Zinchenko, who had just replaced Cancelo — and Navas failed to react as it curled into the far corner of the net.
Navas was beaten again seven minutes later when Mahrez’s free kick flew straight through a flimsy PSG wall and past the helpless keeper.
Gueye’s dismissal for a wild tackle on Gundogan made City’s task easier, and they will take a big advantage into the second leg in Manchester.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.