Manchester City edged closer to the Champion’s League semi-finals on Tuesday night with a 2-2 draw away at PSG. City, playing in the quarter finals for the first time, rode their luck at times, but will be delighted to come away from the game with the tie all square in a game which will be remembered more for the performance of match referee Milorad Mazic than that of the two teams. Manuel Pellegrini was again without Yaya Touré, Raheem Sterling and Vincent Kompany, although Joe Hart returned after picking up an injury against Manchester United a few weeks ago. The returning Kevin De Bruyne was also handed his 2nd start in 4 days, while Bacary Sagna came in for Pablo Zabaleta at right-back. The Chilean was also able to welcome back Fabian Delph, who was named on the bench, although fellow midfielder Samir Nasri missed out as he is ineligible for the competition.
Mazic took just 1 minute to make a mark, booking former Chelsea defender David Luiz for a foul on Sergio Agüero. De Bruyne and Fernandinho then went close as City began the brighter. Controversy then reigned as PSG then felt they should have had a penalty. City were cut open and Mangala was forced to race back and try to tackle fellow French international Matuidi. Although Mangala got no contact on the ball, replays suggest that Matuidi was already going down before Mangala interjected, suggesting the referee may just have got the decision right, although few could have argued had a penalty been given. Minutes later the referee was again in on the action, producing his 2nd card of the night when booking City defender Gael Clichy for a needless foul on Serge Aurier.
12 minutes in the ref was pointing to the spot, as David Luiz went down in the box. The chance came after Hart punched the ball away when catching it was the better option, allowing PSG to whip it back into the danger area where Luiz went over. If City got lucky with the first decision, you could argue they were unlucky with this one, as the former Chelsea man appeared to deliberately go looking for the foul, hooking his leg over that of Sagna to win his team the spot kick. Foolish from Sagna no doubt to leave a leg dangling in the box, but definitely a display of gamesmanship from the Brazilian international in my opinion. Ibrahimović stepped up to take but England Number 1 Joe Hart was more than equal to it, pushing the penalty away to make amends for his initial error. The save is Hart’s 2nd penalty save in the competition this season, and his 3rd in the last four he has faced.
David Silva then went close with a header after a great cross from Navas, but the little Spaniard, not renowned for his aerial ability, pulled his shot wide of the target. PSG should then have taken the lead themselves when Otamendi went roaming and lost the ball. The hosts were quick to exploit the space, but Ibrahimović was unable to find the target despite being clean through. There was no doubt the home side were dominating possession, with City content to try and absorb the pressure and hit the Parisians on the counter attack. 10 minutes before the break Fernando became the 3rd name into the book, after a foul on Brazilian team mate Luiz, although replays suggest the PSG man was again looking for the foul.
2 minutes later the deadlock was broken, and it was City who took the lead. Fernando broke up the play in the middle, releasing fellow Brazilian Fernandinho, who carried the ball before slipping it out wide to De Bruyne. The Belgian took a touch before producing an emphatic finish beyond Trapp for a vital away goal. The lead proved to be short lived however, as Fernando, instrumental in the City goal, made a horrific error in gifting Ibrahimović an equaliser. Hart slid the ball out to the midfielder, and with Ibrahimović closing in and Hart instructing the former Porto man to go left, he instead tried to turn right only to see the ball cannon off the Swede and beyond a hapless Hart to give PSG an easy leveler.
It remained all square at the break, and just after Matuidi picked up a booking for a foul on Otamendi, a caution that will see him miss the return leg in Manchester. Cavani then found himself on the end of a cross from Maxwell, but his resulting header failed to trouble Hart. At the other end, Fernandinho dragged an effort wide after again being set through by Fernando. PSG began to dominate, although in a rare moment of brilliance David Silva lost his marker and tried to bend the ball in, but the rather tame right footed effort proved easy for Trapp. Minutes later, PSG took the lead from the corner. Former United man Di Maria whipped the ball in, and Cavani saw his effort denied with a fine save from Hart, only for former City academy player Adrien Rabiot to tap home from close range. It was almost 3-1 soon after when Ibrahimović beat Sagna to the ball, only to see his header come back off the crossbar.
City then began to probe in search of an equaliser, Jesús Navas smashing an effort wide when he perhaps had better options available. The visitors were eventually handed a lifeline after some terrible defending from PSG. Sagna whipped the ball in from a tight angle, and with the entire back four slow to react, Fernandinho found himself completely unmarked to fire home, the ball taking an almighty deflection off Thiago Silva to spin beyond the outstretched arm of Kevin Trapp. Sensing blood, City threw on Delph for De Bruyne, in an attempt to inject fresh impetus into midfield, while PSG made a couple of substitutions themselves. Mangala was next to find himself in the referee’s book when he raced out and felled Matuidi from behind, while Navas joined him soon after for kicking the ball away after City conceded a free kick. With the game drawing to a stalemate, Silva tried to pick out Agüero, but Luiz somehow managed to turn the ball away from the Argentine with a fantastic piece of defending. It proved to be the last real chance of note, although City were definitely in the ascendancy in the closing stages.
Both sides will feel they had chances to win the game, with PSG definitely wasting some great opportunities. There is no doubt City, the sole remaining English team in the competition, will be the happier with the result. The card happy action of the referee on the night also means Matuidi and Luiz will miss the return leg, while with the vital away goals will also give City an added advantage at the Etihad. City skipper Joe Hart certainly wasn’t counting his chickens however, saying “It was a crazy game that we were involved with. It was a special night. 2-2 is a result. We’ll wait and see if it’s a good result”
“The away goals are important and hopefully we’ll make them count. We were dangerous all game and so were PSG. Both teams were always going to have chances but we did well tonight. We picked ourselves up after a terrible first goal. We made mistakes tonight and so did they. We’re making history for this club and we don’t want it to end.”
“I thought the defence was fantastic tonight, Gael, Bacs, Manga and Nico – we had a tough game against Bournemouth on Saturday, don’t forget. I’m proud of our team” he added. City now face West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad at the weekend, before welcoming PSG for the return fixture on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see if Pellegrini opts to rest players with one eye on the return leg of the Champion’s League, or picks his strongest team at the weekend given the precarious league position of City in relation to qualifying for next season’s competition. One thing is for sure though, the much maligned manager can be happy with the result which gives his side a great chance of reaching the semi-finals in less than a weeks’ time.
MOTM: Fernandinho – the Brazilian midfielder was pivotal for City in both defence and attack, running himself into the ground at the heart of the engine room, while also turning provider for City’s first and grabbing that all important equaliser himself.
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