Manchester City are in pole position to reach the Champions League final after coming from behind to beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 away in the first leg of their blockbuster semi-final on Wednesday, with Riyad Mahrez curling in the winner from a free-kick.
Marquinhos had powered in a header to give PSG an early lead and the deserved advantage at half-time at the Parc des Princes.
However, City skipper Kevin De Bruyne’s cross dropped in to pull City level just after the hour and Mahrez beat Keylor Navas from a 71st-minute free-kick to complete the turnaround, giving Pep Guardiola’s side the advantage going into next Tuesday’s return in Manchester.
“The last 10 minutes of the first half was good and the second half was excellent in every department. We scored two goals away which is so important, but we have a hard job to do in six days,” Guardiola told BT Sport.
“In general, so satisfied for the performance but it is halfway. We still have 90 more minutes to beat them and PSG is a team where anything can happen.”
After starting so well, PSG lost their way after half-time and had Idrissa Gana Gueye sent off in the 77th minute as a shocking tackle on Ilkay Gundogan earned the midfielder a straight red card.
Having already failed to win at home to Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern in this season’s Champions League, the Parisians face an uphill struggle in England if they are to reach the final for the second year running.
It is, then, first blood to Emirati-backed City against Qatar-owned PSG in a tie that is also a battle of competing Gulf nations.
“We conceded two stupid goals,” Marquinhos admitted to broadcaster RMC Sport. Of the return leg, he added: “There is no point in us going there if we don’t believe we can turn it around.”
After all the money pumped in by their owners from Abu Dhai, City are eyeing a first ever Champions League final, and this was their first appearance in the semi-finals since 2016, when they defeated PSG in the last eight.
However, PSG can still be optimistic about their prospects after sensational away performances against Barcelona and Bayern in the last two rounds.
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino is hoping to once again get the better of Guardiola, just as he did when his Tottenham Hotspur side beat City in the quarter-finals in 2019.
Game of two halves
The first leg started well for the French club, with Neymar in the mood and Angel Di Maria and Gueye especially impressive. They went ahead in the 15th minute as Marquinhos headed in Di Maria’s right-wing corner at the near post.
The PSG captain was making his first appearance since coming off in the first leg of their quarter-final defeat of Bayern, a game in which he also scored.
Indeed the Brazilian defender has now scored in both the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Champions League in back-to-back seasons.
It was not until the 42nd minute that the visitors really had a chance, Bernardo Silva teeing up Phil Foden for the shot that Navas saved.
PSG could have doubled their lead early in the second half, but Marco Verratti was unable to connect with Mbappe’s low ball across goal.
By then the pendulum was swinging towards City, as De Bruyne sent a powerful overhead kick just over the bar.
The equaliser arrived in the 64th minute when De Bruyne, in line with the left edge of the box, bent in a cross which missed everyone including Navas, and nestled in the far corner.
The visitors had the momentum and won a free-kick 25 metres out with 20 minutes left when Gueye fouled Foden.
Mahrez, born and brought up in the Paris suburbs, sent a low strike from 25 metres through the wall and beyond Navas.
Things got worse for the home side as Gueye was dismissed by German referee Felix Brych for a nasty challenge that caught Gundogan on the Achilles, and City saw out the game against the 10 men.
A first Champions League final is in sight for Guardiola’s side, who could also seal the Premier League title this weekend.
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