PSG leave Liverpool hopes in the balance
Paris St Germain revived their Champions League campaign with a 2-1 win over Liverpool in Group C on Wednesday, leaving the English club’s hopes of reaching the last 16 hanging in the balance.
PSG set out like a team determined finally to prove their credentials on the big European stage, and went in front in the 13th minute through Juan Bernat, before Neymar made it 2-0 eight minutes before halftime after a lightning PSG counter-attack.
Yet with the French champions in cruise control, Angel Di Maria needlessly brought down Sadio Mane to concede a penalty, which James Milner converted in first-half stoppage time, to give Liverpool hope.
The visitors could not find an equaliser, though, slipping to a third away group defeat — the first time they have lost all three group matches away from Anfield in the Champions League.
The result sees PSG leapfrog last year’s finalists Liverpool, with eight points to Liverpool’s six, with Napoli top of the group on nine and everything still to play for in the final round of matches.
Liverpool head into the game against Napoli at Anfield needing to win 1-0 or by two goals or more to guarantee their spot in the knockout stages, while PSG will go through with a win over Red Star Belgrade.
“Now we have to use Anfield one more time,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp told BT Sport. “We will see what happens. 11th December (against Napoli) we have a proper final at Anfield.”
Desperate to make an impression on the European stage, having not reached a Champions League semi-final since 1995, PSG were handed a pre-match boost with both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe passed fit to play.
The duo caused the Liverpool backline plenty of problems from the start, with goalkeeper Alisson forced into a smart save to deny Di Maria and Mbappe then firing straight at the Brazilian.
Bernat then danced into the Liverpool box after pouncing on Virgil van Dijk’s poor clearance to break the deadlock.
After Mbappe and Neymar combined down the left, the Frenchman squared for Edinson Cavani, whose effort was saved only for Neymar to convert the rebound, becoming the top-scoring Brazilian in Champions League history in the process.
“The start was like we expected it to be, to be honest, very wild, very intense,” Klopp said. “The problem is when a game starts like that it is difficult to gain confidence, and we never got to 100 percent of our game.”
After Milner got Liverpool back into the game, the old PSG, who have suffered plenty of Champions League disappointments against high-calibre opposition, might have let the setback get into their heads.
Yet they stood firm as Liverpool pressed after the break and came closest to scoring again, when a bullet header from Marquinhos was brilliantly saved by Alisson.
More Messi magic seals Barcelona victory at PSV
Lionel Messi scored an excellent individual goal and laid on another as Barcelona beat PSV Eindhoven 2-1 to secure top spot in Group B of the Champions League on Wednesday.
Messi provided an assist for defender Gerard Pique to score the second for the Spanish side, who have 13 points from their five matches and an unassailable lead at the top of the pool. PSV will finish bottom.
Captain Luuk de Jong scored a late consolation for the home side as they matched Barcelona for much of the contest at the Philips Stadion, striking the woodwork three times in the first half alone and missing a number of other chances.
In a bright start, PSV forward Gaston Pereiro latched onto a poor pass from Ivan Rakitic but his low drive came back off the post, and minutes later he shot over the crossbar from five yards.
PSV had some good fortune, too, though, as Barca had two efforts cleared off the line within the space of a minute, with Arturo Vidal the unlucky player on both occasions.
His hooked effort from 12 yards was cleared by Pablo Rosario before Angelino blocked the Chilean’s goal-bound header from the resulting corner.
It was Barcelona thanking their lucky stars just before halftime, though, when De Jong’s header from a free-kick came off the crossbar and the follow-up from close-range by Denzel Dumfries struck the post.
The visitors took the lead just past the hour mark, thanks to a typical piece of Messi magic as he picked up the ball on the edge of the box and, with four defenders around him, managed to drive forward and provide a thunderous finish.
It was 2-0 with 20 minutes remaining when the Argentine’s free kick was guided into the PSV net by an unmarked Pique.
De Jong set up a frenetic finish with his headed goal but Barcelona were able to hold on under heavy home pressure.