Real mess as PSG make a point

Argentinian midfielder Angel di Maria showing his love after scoring Paris Saint-Germain's first goal in the Champions League tie against Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday night. He added the second and defender Thomas Meunier wrapped
Argentinian midfielder Angel di Maria showing his love after scoring Paris Saint-Germain's first goal in the Champions League tie against Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday night. He added the second and defender Thomas Meunier wrapped up the 3-0 rout. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Di Maria nets brace against former side, Zidane admits rivals better in every way

PARIS • No Neymar. No Kylian Mbappe. No problem for Paris Saint-Germain.

The problems were all Real Madrid's, as the French champions overran them in a 3-0 Champions League win in surely the most coherent and powerful performance of Thomas Tuchel's time in charge.

It felt like a humiliation at times at a balmy Parc des Princes on Wednesday night.

As the seconds ran out there was even the unexpected sight of the PSG full-backs Juan Bernat and Thomas Meunier bearing down on their goal, the midfield crumbling away like a sheet of mille-feuille pastry and the defence drowning in all that space.

Bernat took the ball from Meunier. Meunier got it back and might have paused in a most unexpected moment in his own career, but instead steered the ball into the corner of the net with a brusque, merciful haste to complete the victory.

It was no surprise that Real coach Zinedine Zidane fumed at his team's lack of intensity, after the 13-time European champions were uncharacteristically overwhelmed and failed to even muster a single shot on target in the Group A clash.

"Clearly they were better than us in every department - in the way they played, in midfield," the Frenchman said.

"What upset me is that we did not put enough intensity in the game and at that level of competition, it's not possible."

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    Real Madrid failed to have a shot on target for the first time in 578 games.

With their midfielders totally suffocated by the PSG duo of Idrissa Gueye and Marco Verratti, Real struggled to bring the ball forward.

"Failing to create proper chances with the players we have up front - Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard - is a weird feeling," added Zidane.

"You can play badly but if you have the intensity, if you fight for the ball, you're in the game."

The Colombian James Rodriguez, who is back from Bayern Munich after a two-year loan, was particularly ineffective.

Hazard, signed from Chelsea, looked ring-rusty as he makes his way back from injury.

A trademark dribble in the PSG area in the second half ended with him tripping over himself and landing on his backside.

Real just looked like a mess; a galacticos vehicle that has, for now, run out of miles to travel.

PSG's attacking stars such as Neymar, Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Julian Draxler were all either injured or suspended.

Instead it was the vigour and drive of their midfield that had Real looking ragged, with Verratti a brilliantly spiky little playmaker, and Gueye gleefully relentless in his pressing and covering.

But the night eventually belonged to Angel di Maria. He scored twice against his former club and was hailed as "exceptional" by Tuchel, who added: "We can't be too surprised, he has been showing for more than a year now that he is capable of performances like that."

On his touchline, the coach applauded furiously at times during the match. He will be rightly proud of his team's drive and certainty.

He knows, however, that they still have plenty to prove.

"Before anyone asks a question... If someone asks me if we're going to win the Champions League, I'm out of here," he said at his post-match conference, knowing too well that PSG have exited at the last 16 for three consecutive seasons.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2019, with the headline 'Real mess as PSG make a point'. Print Edition | Subscribe