Monday, May 20, 2024

Wasteful PSG go down to Borussia Dortmund but there’s reason for hope in Champions League final berth

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Paris Saint-Germain’s UEFA Champions League semifinal tie with Borussia Dortmund is going the same way that it did back in 2019-20 in the round of 16 which saw the Germans lead after the first leg at Signal Iduna Park only to be undone in the second. The Bundesliga outfit won 1-0 on Wednesday to secure a slender advantage ahead of the return leg at Parc des Princes next week but Edin Terzic’s side might feel that they should have done more with their chances which is exactly how Luis Enrique will feel about the French champions.

Dortmund emerged victorious but somehow should have won by more than a single goal yet can also feel fortunate not to have conceded to Paris at the same time after a game which was decided by Niclas Fullkrug’s burst of power and finishing. The Germans’ focal point in attack missed a couple of excellent chances over the course of the 90 minutes despite some stunning service from the likes of Jadon Sancho and Julian Brandt while there was also a second-half penalty shout which went begging.

Yet it was PSG who created and missed arguably the pick of the chances with Kylian Mbappe and Achraf Hakimi both hitting a post apiece within 30 second-half seconds of each other, Fabian Ruiz wasting one particularly good headed opportunity and Ousmane Dembele blazing over late on. Luis Enrique’s decision to move Mbappe back out wide after a more central starting role did the trick in terms of getting PSG’s star man more involved in the second half than he was in the first but it was not quite enough to conjure up the equalizer which would have arguably been deserved.

“We are two teams that like to get forward and get on the ball,” said PSG captain Marquinhos postgame. “We both like to press and want the ball. It was a physical test and we had a lot of chances given the score. We cannot miss those clear chances — especially the second-half ones. We must take our chances at home if we want to go to the final. At 1-0, we have already done it before and shown that we can do it with the energy of our supporters at home. It will be a different scenario. Our supporters at Parc des Princes give us hope and we know that we can do better than we did here.”

Going back to Parc des Princes with just one goal to make up in next week’s second leg will feel far from impossible for Les Parisiens given their comeback powers which were on full display against Barcelona in the quarterfinals but now it requires the reverse. Instead of a narrow home loss and a convincing away win, PSG need to follow up being edged out by Dortmund with a thorough and complete second leg at home in front of their own supporters.

Luis Enrique’s side silenced the Yellow Wall through nerves at times and that spoke volumes about how close the French outfit came to leveling things up over the course of the second 45 which left Dortmund feeling like they really needed a second goal to feel more confident. Lucas Hernandez’s forced substitution was a blow for Paris but defensive solidity will be needed less next week as PSG go for the jugular at home in a similar way to how the Barca tie got turned around.

Expect Luis Enrique to tweak his attacking approach slightly going into that one with Mbappe’s positioning and involvement much better in the second half and Dembele in need of a slightly more clinical edge in front of goal. Randal Kolo Muani’s cameo was interesting in terms of workrate but it might be Goncalo Ramos’ predatory touch which makes the difference next week depending on Paris’ approach to the scenario which still favors PSG — just about.

Gianluigi Donnarumma and Marquinhos made key saves, blocks and interventions while the midfield was functional and created enough even if some touches and passes were slightly off in the final third or when trying to keep hold of the ball and move it around. It was in attack where it feels some fine-tuning will be needed to turn this around and should that happen as expected, then it is still most likely to be Mappe and his teammates heading to Wembley for the final against Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. 

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