Little to offer by way of defence

Joe Hart palming away a penalty taken by PSG's Zlatan Ibrahimovic. That 14th-minute save by the Man City 'keeper was big, as it kept the scoreline 0-0.
Joe Hart palming away a penalty taken by PSG's Zlatan Ibrahimovic. That 14th-minute save by the Man City 'keeper was big, as it kept the scoreline 0-0.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Muddled PSG show at the back allows City to fight back and take advantage of away goals

PARIS • Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have seen their fortunes and ambitions transformed by the arrival of Middle Eastern wealth, but one thing money cannot buy is a watertight defence.

Wednesday was a night of breathless football rarely seen in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. When the dust settled, the balance of the tie swung in City's favour.

A 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes - complete with two away goals - was all the more impressive considering that City were without Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure, two pillars of City's emergence under Sheikh Mansour's ownership.

In a game that swung this way and that, there were two constant themes: erratic defending and the vigour with which Kevin de Bruyne and Fernandinho broke forward for City.

Within the first 25 minutes, Bacary Sagna had given away a penalty, Eliaquim Mangala was fortunate not to have done so, Nicolas Otamendi had lost the ball in a dangerous position, leading to a clear chance for PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Gael Clichy had been booked for a careless challenge on Angel di Maria.

It was chaotic at times in the City defence, but the same could certainly be said of PSG.

  • 3
    Paris Saint-Germain were eliminated on each of the three occasions they drew their first leg 2-2 at home.

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    Manchester City have progressed on the two occasions they drew their first leg 2-2 away.

Every time City managed to get the ball forward to David Silva, Sergio Aguero and de Bruyne, there was the feeling that they could inflict some damage on the opposition.

It was de Bruyne who opened the scoring for City late in the first half, after goalkeeper Joe Hart had saved a penalty from Ibrahimovic.

City's lead lasted just three minutes, though, as a comedy of errors saw Hart and Fernando combine to allow Ibrahimovic to equalise.

PSG turned the screw in the second half, taking the lead on the hour when former City youngster Adrien Rabiot followed up Edinson Cavani's header.

But Fernandinho's deflected goal on 72 minutes - after Sagna's cross was not dealt with adequately by a combination of Serge Aurier and Thiago Silva - was a reward for the spirit Manuel Pellegrini's team showed throughout.

Both clubs will feel that Tuesday's second leg offers a great chance of progression to the semi-finals, but it would be stretching it to suggest that either looked like European champions-in-waiting on Wednesday.

In Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Otamendi and Mangala, the two teams had the four most expensive centre-backs in football history, bought for a combined total in excess of £150 million (S$285 million). But both managers admitted their backlines was found wanting.

"In the first half we made an important mistake that we cannot continue to do if we want to stay in the competition," said Pellegrini.

PSG were knocked out at the quarter-final stage in each of the last three seasons and manager Laurent Blanc hopes that City will leave enough spaces for his team to get the goals needed to finally make it through to the last four this time.

"Two mistakes allowed Man City to score goals that are, as you know, very important away from home. That's our biggest regret," he said.

"But we have shown that we can score goals away from home. I think if we can do better defensively we can create chances and score goals in Manchester."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2016, with the headline 'LITTLE TO OFFER BY WAY OF DEFENCE'. Print Edition | Subscribe