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Champions League: Super-subs Mbappe, Choupo-Moting turn it PSG's way

By NORMA GODINHO
Last updated on: August 13, 2020 13:59 IST
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IMAGE: PSG's Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrates with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar after scoring the winner against Atalanta during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final match at Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica in Lisbon on Wednesday, August 12, 2020. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images
 

Just when it looked all but over for Paris St Germain against Atalanta on Wednesday night, out came super-subs Kylian Mbappe and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting adorning their invisible Superman capes, to take the French champions to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 1995.

Atalanta, who had a fairtytale run, making it to the quarter-finals of Europe's top club competition, were looking good to progress when Mario Pasalic scored the opening goal in the 26th minute to hand the Italians a one-goal lead until the 90th.

PSG star Neymar fluffed four good chances in front of goal in the first half.

But things turned in favour of the Parisians when Mbappe -- who had not started because of an ankle injury -- and Choupo-Moting walked on to the pitch.

"When I came on, I thought to myself, 'We can't lose, we can't go home like that.' I was confident in myself, confident in the team and then the rest is the history of Paris," said Choupo-Moting, who was originally left out of PSG’s squad for the Champions League knockout stages.

"It was a crazy game, a tough game and opponents. I think we showed till the last moment that we believed in ourselves. It wasn't easy because we had some good occasions that unfortunately we couldn't score," the Cameroon international added.

"We've already won four titles this season but the most important is this one. We really believe in ourselves and we did it today. Everybody knows we have top quality individuals, but we wanted to show it also as a team. It's a big step today against a very good opponent. Respect to Atalanta, but I'm very happy we did it."

Choupo-Moting's cross found Neymar and he touched the ball to Marquinhos for his fellow Brazilian to fire home from close range to strike the equaliser in the 90th.

Three minutes later, Neymar sent Mbappe down the left and his low cross was turned in by Choupo-Moting to send the club's dugout into delirium.

Gian Piero Gasperini's Atalanta barely managed a shot on target after Mbappe entered the game as they worked on staying back to take the game into extra time. But that was not to be and the coach was blunt in his assessment.

"The introduction of Mbappe was decisive," Gasperini said.

"There was not long to go and it seemed we had done it, but when you play against some of the strongest in the world at a technical and athletic level then it becomes tough."

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NORMA GODINHO / Rediff.com
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