In Project Paris’s third season, it was finally established for Neymar as the Champions League ball girl. It had to be his night. Yet few can hold back the tide that is Erling Haaland these days. Without transforming the team, the Norwegian significantly adjusted Borussia Dortmund’s fortunes and led them to an intoxicating victory over Thomas Tuchel’s Paris Saint-Germain, in classic teenage style, to get up late before injecting the night with a drama.
With many anticipating a game full of proud prouds, the opening stages were more a series of precise shots and considered between the only Bundesliga team still to lose at home this season and the visitors who arrived unbeaten in 23 games .
Neymar, who had only played one of the four Champions League knockout games his club had previously been involved in since his arrival in 2017, was largely anonymous and it was Kylian Mbappé who seemed most likely to open a team often porous.
In Mbappé’s previous visit here with Monaco en route to the semifinals in 2017, he scored twice in a game played in the shadow of the Dortmund team bus attack. The then teenage prodigy had celebrated on the home team’s high line, but Lucien Favre and his players seemed determined not to happen again.
Neymar had the first clear chance, curling a free kick in the 11th minute, but Dortmund’s plan was clear: to stifle the forward talent of the French champions in numbers and to fight at breakneck speed.
In the 14th minute it almost worked perfectly. After a corner of the PSG was cleared, Jadon Sancho made his way into the center but managed to drag a shot past Keylor Navas’ goal with options left and right. One of these, the mercury Achraf Hakimi – offered further freedom by the presence of Lukasz Piszczek on the right of the rear three – proved to be a popular outlet, sending a wave of excitement through the domestic support every time he moved along the side.
With Layvin Kurzawa almost at his own pace, Hakimi had to vary his runs and almost hit the gold when he beat Kurzawa and cut the ball to the advanced Emre Can, who wanted a penalty while stumbling under Marco’s challenge Verratti but it never seemed likely.
With Dortmund having the best of lean choices in front of the lens, Sancho cut in and forced Navas to put away his curler, with Hakimi’s follow-up effort loaded, but Dortmund’s growing confidence seemed that it could work. for visitors, with a hint of space behind those three notoriously unreliable ones that are starting to open for Mbappé.
Erling Haaland, whose incredible network of scorers has masked the rest of the world due to the fact that he is still dealing with his new teammates, had a weak first 45 minutes, shooting in the side net but struggling to get involved in the intelligent interaction of Sancho, Hakimi and Thorgan Hazard.
The Norwegian striker started the second period looking ready to make a difference and in a strangely irregular opening a few minutes in the middle, with both sides looking nervous and giving possession in half, he took one of these slides but he was robbed by Verratti while preparing to pull the trigger. Haaland then overtook Thiago Silva but the Marquinhos finish interrupted him.
With both sides on the edge, Neymar then found his place in the book for a foul on Axel Witsel. The Brazilian, who hadn’t played since February 1, looked frustrated, throwing his gloves on the floor, but then opened Dortmund, playing Mbappé to force a rare Roman Bürki save, although the assistant’s flag was raised.
Lucien Favre sent seventeen-year-old Gio Reyna, more and more trusted to the coach in 2020, for Hazard, completing a front three for teenagers and the turning point followed almost immediately. As Dortmund began to move more fluidly, Raphaël Guerreiro threw himself to the right and sent the ball down for Haaland who overtook Navas’ shot and went on the net on the second attempt.
All of Westfalen bounced around the Südtribune, its centerpiece, as they perceived a memorable night but Neymar, almost inevitably, snapped the ball as he climbed, touching the Mbappé cross in the empty net on the back and annoying the domestic crowd – and Bürki – with the his celebrations. Yet Haaland was not to be denied.
Reyna overtook a pair of defenders and fed his center forward, but it was nothing more than a suggestion of a possibility that he foolproofly threw himself on top of the net before most of the stadium realized that he had been shot. Mbappé hit the outside of the post, but none of the Parisian stars has been able to obscure Dortmund’s new love, in a season in which he is bending the Champions League to his will.