PSG exorcise old ghosts as Mbappe keeps CL dream alive

Published April 18, 2024
DORTMUND: Borussia Dortmund’s Marcel Sabitzer shoots to score during the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Atletico Madrid at Signal Iduna Park.—Reuters
DORTMUND: Borussia Dortmund’s Marcel Sabitzer shoots to score during the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Atletico Madrid at Signal Iduna Park.—Reuters

BARCELONA: Paris St Germ­ain’s emphatic victory over Barcelona keeps alive the French club’s dream of ending the Kylian Mbappe era by lifting the Champions League trophy at Wembley in June.

Their hopes of going all the way in Europe’s elite club competition for the first time hung in the balance after they lost 3-2 at home to Barca in the first leg of their quarter-final last week.

They had never previously won a Champions League knockout tie after losing the first leg at home, and their prospects of doing so this time appeared slim after they conceded the opening goal on the night when Raphinha turned in Lamine Yamal’s cross in the 12th minute.

Another disappointing exit threatened for the Qatar-owned club who had gone out in the last 16 in five of the previous seven seasons.

But they seized the opportunity given to them in Catalonia after Ronald Araujo’s red card for a foul on Bradley Barcola left Barca to play over an hour with 10 men, allowing Luis Enrique’s team to go on and win 4-1 on the night and 6-4 on aggregate.

PSG were rampant with the extra player, as Ousmane Dembele again stood out against his old team by scoring the equaliser on the night and winning a penalty which Mbappe converted to put PSG ahead in the tie.

In between, the outstanding Vitinha — who had already scored in the first leg — netted with a brilliant strike from outside the box, and Mbappe made sure of the win late on to spark wild celebrations in the away contingent at Montjuic.

“It is a magnificent, historic moment for the club. It is not easy to win here, but I was confident. I told the coach we were going to win and qualify,” PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi proudly told broadcaster Canal Plus.

The final scoreline was identical to that on their last visit to Barcelona in February 2021, when Mbappe hit a hat-trick in the first leg of a last-16 tie they eventually won 5-2 on aggregate.

But the manner of this victory surely finally exorcises the ghost of their humiliating collapse in Barcelona in 2017, when they won 4-0 at home in the first leg only to lose 6-1 in the return in a stunning implosion.

BARCELONA: Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen fails to save a shot by Paris St Germain’s Ousmane Dembele during their match at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.—Reuters
BARCELONA: Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen fails to save a shot by Paris St Germain’s Ousmane Dembele during their match at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.—Reuters

Seven years ago, Barcelona went into the 88th minute of the second leg needing to score three times and duly did so.

This time it was PSG who produced the turnaround, and they now have a glorious opportunity to reach a second Champions League final in five seasons.

“This means a lot,” Dembele told Canal Plus. “We are crossing our fingers that we can get to Wembley.”

PSG’s reward will be a meeting with another of Dembele’s former sides, Borussia Dortmund, who overcame Atletico Madrid 5-4 on aggregate after winning 4-2 at home Tuesday.

“It was a great effort. Everyone was exceptional throughout the whole game. I saw that Borussia Dortmund got through and there’s another club I played for,” said Dembele.

Mbappe, who is set to leave PSG in the summer with Real Madrid as the biggest favourite to sign him, said that helping his hometown club to finally win their first Champions League title is a matter of pride for him.

The closest PSG have come to winning the Champions League trophy with Mbappe came in the 2020 final loss to Bayern Munich, behind closed doors in Lisbon during the pandemic.

It really would feel like a waste for them if they do not manage to win it with such a generational talent in their ranks.

“I have the dream of winning the Champions League for Paris,” Mbappe told reporters. “I’m proud to be at PSG since the first day. It’s not because there are good times and bad times that my pride takes a hit. The pride of playing for this club, of representing the club of the capital of my country, it’s something special for me who grew up there.

“To experience an evening like this one as a Parisian, it’s great. We have one more step to go bef­ore we reach the final in Wembley, so we need to stay calm.”

DORTMUND READY FOR REMATCH

Dortmund, meanwhile, are relishing a re-match with PSG after knocking out Atletico in a thrilling tie to set up a meeting with the French side they played in the group stage.

The two sides emerged from this season’s ‘group of death’, which also featured Italian giants AC Milan, who made last season’s final four and ambitious Newcastle United.

Dortmund coach Edin Terzic feels his side, who won the Champions League in 1997, are now better prepared to face the French champions, after the Germans lost away and drew at home in the group stage.

“Our first game against them wasn’t good. In the second game, we adjusted to them better and were closer to victory. I think we’re a better team today than we were against them in the group stage,” Terzic said following the win over Atletico.

Midfielder Julian Brandt, who opened the scoring in the first half for Dortmund, could scarcely believe that his side had made it through to the last four after taking a two goal-lead, conceding two goals, and then scoring twice more.

“It was a crazy game for the fans and for us. A great game for us, for our fans and for all football fans around the world,” he said after receiving his man-of-the-match award.

“It’s going to be very serious now against Paris. We played well against them at home in the group stage, but not well away. We want to do better now and, of course, reach the final.”

After Brandt put Dortmund ahead in the 34th minute, Ian Maatsen increased their lead just five minutes later.

But Atletico pulled one back four minutes into the second half — and thanks to Dortmund defe­nder Mats Hummels, who defl­ected the ball into his own goal.

The equaliser came in the 64th with Angel Correa, but Niclas Fuellkrug’s brilliant second-half header brought Dortmund level in the tie, just three minutes before Marcel Sabitzer scored the hosts’ decisive fourth goal.

“We’ve got one goal: Wembley,” said Fuellkrug.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2024

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