Wednesday 05 May 2021
Wild kicks against Man City
The ugly side of Paris St. Germain
By Tobias Nordmann
Manchester City are in the Champions League final for the first time. The return leg is not only clearly going to the “Skyblues” in terms of the result, the team is also mercilessly superior to PSG, and the guests sometimes brutally compensate for their frustration.
The end of that soccer game was ugly. Really ugly. Although the semi-final of Paris St. Germain in the Champions League was about to be officially announced – only something bigger than a miracle could have prevented the hard knockout at Manchester City – the players of the sheikh club rushed mercilessly, sometimes brutally in theirs Opponent. That should surprise you twice. First of all, the players on Mauricio Pochettino’s team are not known for loving duels, especially not the rustic one. And secondly, the tough attacks by Presnel Kimpembe and Danilo Pereira shortly before the final whistle could not be explained by the fact that everything was at stake in a dramatic final phase (the final).
No, when Kimpembe deliberately flexed his opponent Gabriel Jesus from the side in the 87th minute at the Etihad Stadium, the total of the first and second leg was already 4: 1 (2: 0 in the current game) for the hosts . The French would have needed three goals in the few remaining minutes to advance. Sure, that can work, but it’s not particularly likely. Especially not for a team that (a) had to do without their second big superstar alongside Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, and thus their biggest offensive weapon and (b) were mercilessly inferior up to this 87th minute. She, who went astray without a discernible plan, had been tactically demonstrated. Just a few seconds after the Kimpembe attack, Danilo Pereira took care of Gabriel Jesus. He kicked the Brazilian in the thigh no less brutally.
But these two scenes were by no means the first in which the Parisians had proven that they have outstanding footballers in their line-up, but also those whose fuse is extremely short when frustrated. It may not even exist. This is what happened in the 67th minute with Angel di Maria Puff, who was often so brilliant in the upper room, after a scramble over a throw-in with Fernandinho, the Argentine kicked his opponent deliberately and then violently in the ankle. So the balance of the evening: One expulsion and twice luck, because both Kimpembe and Danilo Pereira only received yellow. You can certainly see it differently. The star ensemble had already weakened itself in the first leg after the strong Idrissa Gueye stepped on the left Achilles tendon of the international İlkay Gündoğan with an open sole.
By the way, referee Björn Kuipers is said to have contributed to the enormous frustration of the uninhibited Parisians. The Dutchman attacked Marco Verratti with a “fuck you”. Claims Verratti. “If I say ‘fuck you’ I’ll be banned for ten games.” Teammate Ander Herrera also wants insulting words – in the direction of Leandro Paredes. “The referee said to Paredes: ‘Fuck off!’. We’re talking about respect, but if we say that, it’s a three or four game ban.”
Finally the great liberation
As incomprehensible as the physical attacks of the French were, City’s entry into the final was deserved. The first in the club’s history. And the first for coach Josep Guardiola after ten years. So in the fifth attempt together they made it. In recent years, the luxury team had repeatedly failed against smaller clubs such as Olympique Lyon, Tottenham Hotspur or AS Monaco. The Catalan perfectionist was also eliminated in the semi-finals during his time as coach of FC Bayern. Often he had made fatal experiments in the choice of tactics or setup.
Against Paris, he renounced those experiments in both the first and second leg and let his team do what they do best: combine and wear down the opponent with long possession. On the right side, Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva and double goal scorer Riyad Mahrez, whose future at the club is still open, formed an impressive triangle that effortlessly evaded any pressure from the opponent with quick short passes. Although the pressure from the opponents was not always that problematic, because the Parisians’ pressing did not work too often. Again and again a player did not participate. Gündoğan, Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden worked even more impressively than the trio on the right. Presumably this group is currently the smartest and best in European football.
And how flexible this team can play, which is said to be afraid of the long ball option so as not to frustrate their coach, was shown before the 1-0. The footballing outstanding goalkeeper Ederson chipped a long ball over the center line and the high defense chain of the guests into the run of the perfectly started Oleksandr Zinchenko. The full-back went to the baseline and put back exactly for de Bruyne, who was ready to finish. Such a moment of switching could hardly be played more perfectly. The only thing missing for the absolute perfection of the attack was the goal that Mahrez finally scored. He pushed the rebound ball from the Belgian effortlessly into the far corner.
No less impressive, the 2-0: Foden drives the counter-attack on the half-left and plays a one-two with de Bruyne that lets him appear on the left side of the sixteen. He then plays the ball flat and hard in front of the goal at the height of the six-yard box. In front of the long post, Mahrez completes a sprint with his left inner instep in the upper right corner. Well, and Paris? Well, they could actually have made it 1-0 early on. But di Maria, who had won the ball against the inattentive Silva, curled the ball just past the goal. Ederson would have had no chance because he was not present. But that way only the ugly side of the French gets stuck.