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Turning it around
Manchester City are a step away from the final of the Champions League, after beating PSG 2-1 in the opening leg in Paris.
After a tentative first-half with the Citizens seeming overwhelmed by the defending French champions, Pep Guardiola’s side came out a determined team in the second half.
Goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez cancelled out the opening goal from Marquinhos to give the Sky Blues a valuable away win.
In a match full of superstars and game-breakers on both sides, the Parisians created the first opportunity.
Two minutes in, Angel Di Maria closed in quickly on Rodri, giving PSG the chance to counter as he played it out to Kylian Mbappe.
The Frenchman found his Brazilian teammate Neymar, but Kyle Walker did well to close him down and cut off his shooting angle as his effort was straight at Ederson.
The Parisians kept pressing and forced a great save from Ederson on 13 minutes.
A short corner came to Neymar, who played a lovely one-two with Marco Verratti on the left of the box before going around John Stones.
His shot deflected off Ruben Dias but Ederson was alert and tipped over the bar.
The pressure eventually paid off as PSG went ahead two minutes later.
A corner from Di Maria at the near post was met perfectly by Marquinhos as his glancing header found the bottom corner beyond the reach of Ederson.
It took Pep Guardiola’s side 21 minutes to create their first opportunity.
A lovely cross from Joao Cancelo picked out Bernardo Silva at the far post as the Portuguese pulled away from Marquinhos.
Silva was able to get his effort towards the goal at full stretch, but Kaylor Navas was there to push it away.
City began to come into the game late in the half and had their best chance to equalise in the 42nd minute.
Ilkay Gundogan latched onto a ball in the box, squaring it off to Phil Foden.
The hero from the quarter-final took one touch before firing a powerful drive that Navas parried away.
In the second half, City began to grow in confidence, creating more space.
In the 61st minute, Riyad Mahrez curled a lovely cross into the box.
It was only partially cleared by Presnel Kimpembe with his head.
It went to Kevin De Bruyne, whose overhead kick sailed over the bar.
De Bruyne made amends just a few minutes later.
The Belgian picked up the ball on the edge of the box, firing a curling cross towards the six-yard area.
Navas anticipated a header or deflection, which didn’t come as it bounced off the turf and beyond the PSG keeper, putting City level.
With less than 20 minutes remaining, the Sky Blues took the lead.
Riyad Mahrez surprised everyone by taking the dangerous free-kick instead of De Bruyne.
A significant gap opened up as the Algerian’s shot went through the wall.
Navas didn’t see it until very late, and it squirted underneath him to give City another valuable away goal.
The Parisians started to become unravelled and were soon down to 10-men.
An awful challenge from behind by Idrissa Gueye in the back of Gundogan caught the German on the ankle.
The Senegalese was sent off with a straight red card, and PSG were a man short.
The Sky Blues held on to claim a valuable victory and two away goals heading into next week’s deciding match.
Man of the Match
Riyad Mahrez was instrumental in turning around their deficit in the quarter-finals against Dortmund, and he did it again tonight.
The Algerian made some crucial blocks and did a great job slowing down the Paris attack.
His winning goal could prove decisive as it gives City a considerable advantage heading home with two away goals.
Down but never out
One thing the Citizens have done effectively lately is come back when trailing.
They’ve conceded the opening goal in four of their last five matches in all competitions; however, they’ve come back to win on three occasions.
It may be the top competition in Europe, but lately, Brazilians have put their stamp on the Champions League.
The goal from PSG’s Marquinhos marked the fifth consecutive season in which a Brazilian has scored in the Champions League semi-finals.
Thriving on the road
City appear to be right at home when they are on the road.
Since drawing 0-0 at Old Trafford with Manchester United in December, the Sky Blues have won their last 18 away matches in all competitions, outscoring their opponents 46-9 in that span.
Lightning Striking Twice
A couple of PSG players earned dubious distinctions, one for the better and one for the worse.
Marquinhos became only the third player in the history of this tournament to score in the quarter-final and semi-final in consecutive seasons.
The only others to do so were Cristiano Ronaldo (2011-12- 2013-14) and Antoine Griezmann (2015-16- 2016-17).
Idrissa Gueye became the first player to be red-carded twice in a single Champions League campaign since Real Madrid’s Alvaro Arbeloa was twice dismissed in the 2012-13 season.
What it means
It is a precious victory for Man City heading into the return leg next week at the Etihad.
Any two-goal victory for Mauricio Pochettino’s side would put them through to the final.
A 2-1 result for PSG would force extra time.
Pep Guardiola knows that a win, draw, or a 1-0 defeat would put City through.
A victory in the opening leg away from home historically spells good things for an English team.
In the Champions League, an English side has won the opening leg of a cup tie 47 times on the road.
On each of those ocassions the winning side have gone on to advance.
After the match, City boss Pep Guardiola said his team responded well after going behind.
“We started really well, and after we conceded, we felt the pressure. But that’s normal, for a lot of us it’s the first time in semi-final but the last ten minutes of the first half was good and the second was excellent in every department. We scored two goals away, that is so important, but we have a hard job to do in six days.”
City return to Premier League action on Sunday when they face Crystal Palace.
The kickoff from Selhurst Park is at 12:30 pm.
The second leg of this semi-final goes next Tuesday at the Etihad at 8 pm. (JSL).