PSG’s Neymar, Navas, and Mbappe win in Munich
In a snowy Allianz Arena, Neymar’s two assists, Kylian Mbappe’s two goals, and Keylor Navas’ 10 saves were too much for Bayern Munich to overcome and PSG walked away with a 3-2 away win in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinals tie.
The Parisians started fast with Mbappe scoring off of Neymar’s perfectly weighted pass on a counterattack that saw the young French striker slot the ball between Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s legs for the first score at the third minute.
Another brilliant Neymar pass, at the 28th minute, found Marquinhos all alone in the box with but a trap and shot to take in front of goal and the Brazilian defender struck the ball deftly, as if a striker, placing it by the post beyond Neuer’s reach.
Bayern came back slowly despite having the majority of possession and outshooting PSG 31-6 (12-4 on goal). Jean-Eric Choupo-Moting at the 37th minute, and much later, Thomas Muller at the 60th, evened things up. All along, Navas was making life miserable for the Munich side as he was consistently brilliant in goal throughout the match. But as the game progressed, Mbappe was not done and on a brilliant breakaway, he took on the entire Bayern defense and slotted the ball into the lower left of the goal, leaving Neuer frozen unable to do anything but simply watch the ball hit the net.
The match was played in a snowstorm, but Allianz Arena was stellar and kept the snow mostly at bay allowing the players and not the weather to dictate play on the pitch. Similarly, the superb refereeing job by Antonio Mateu Lahoz, made what could have been an ugly, testy affair, mostly a well-played, sportsmanlike match.
Bayern, as expected, dominated play and PSG defended deep in its own half, a tactic their coach, Pochettino might want to revisit given the multiple scoring opportunities the Germans had and the ten saves keeper, Navas, was called upon to produce. But in the end, the result was a devastating display of what Neymar and Mbappe can do together when they are on top of their games and the referees don’t allow them to be bullied.
A draw, win, or 0-1 loss at home will see the Parisians moving on in this quirky Champions League quarterfinals.
Manchester City 2—1 Borussia Dortmund
Man City pulled out a home win at the 90th minute thanks to a Philip Foden goal. In a match that could have gone either way, Marco Reus drew Dortmund even at the 84th when Kevin De Bruyne had given City the early lead at the nineteenth minute.
With their away goal tucked away, courtesy of an Erling Haaland assist, Dortmund must like the idea that a 1-0 home win could have them progress. It will be up to Pep Guardiola to ensure his troops have a game plan that puts Man City’s true colors on display because another performance like this one at Westfalenstadion will not suffice.
Chelsea 2—0 Porto
Playing on neutral ground, given Covid restrictions, Chelsea put an exclamation mark on their intentions to progress in this Champions League with a 2-0 “away” win to Porto at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Sevilla. Mason Mount at the 32nd and Benjamin Chilwell at the 85th provided the measure of victory. The game was even-handed if tipping toward the visitors, but it is the way Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel has his team believing in themselves that seemed the difference.
Hardly an offensive powerhouse, Porto will have to hope they can produce another goal-scoring performance like the one they put together to eliminate Juventus. The second leg, Porto’s away match, will also be played in Spain.
Real Madrid 3—1 Liverpool
Taking a page out of some distant past, Real Madrid defeated a befuddled Liverpool 3-1 at Alfredo Di Stefano stadium in Madrid. Scoring a magnificent first goal at the 27th Vinicius Jr. finally put in a performance worthy of his minders’ confidence in him. His second goal, a gimmie from close range off a Luka Moric assist, followed a magnificent bit of skill by Marco Asensio who must wonder if he will finally be given his chance to shine after consecutive stellar outings.
It would be tempting to give Madrid coach, Zinedine Zidane, credit for the win, but frankly, he fielded the team he could given the number of injuries on the squad. It was Toni Kroos’ magnificent long-range aerial assist on Vinicius’ first goal and Modric’s pinpoint assist on the second, together with a great poach by Asensio, that turned the tables on Jurgen Klopp and his lads.
With an away goal in hand, though, Liverpool should have a chance at home where a 2-0 win would seem them through.