Riyad Mahrez scored while Idrissa Gueye was sent off as Manchester City secured a 2-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg semi-final of Wednesday’s Champions League game.
Mahrez has been in fine form for the Citizens this season and against the French champions, he was handed a starting role and helped his side move closer to reaching the final of the top European competition.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team were in control at half-time. A goal ahead, much the better side.
They surrendered two goals in seven minutes to calamitous errors, then had key central midfielder Idrissa Gueye sent off for a horrible challenge on Ilkay Gundogan. This was a great night for Manchester City — but what the hell happened to PSG?
It is not over yet, of course. Not when Pochettino can lean on the forward triumvirate of Neymar, Angel di Maria and Kylian Mbappe. Yet, make no mistake, this was a huge win.
At the halfway point, City appeared to have met their match. Neymar was on fire, Mbappe ferocious, Di Maria was putting in corners that should have been greeted by air raid warnings.
And then it fell apart. City came out a different team and PSG did not know how to handle them.
Neymar and Mbappe stopped getting service, PSG lost their rhythm and their confidence at the back. What a good team City are, the way they can flip the script like this.
Suddenly brimming with confidence, in the 61st minute Kevin De Bruyne came close with a flamboyant overhead kick.
City worked it around the perimeter of the area until it found De Bruyne, top left. He then delivered a cross so smart it left a goalkeeper with the experience of Keylor Navas bamboozled.
PSG couldn’t get out of their half and, as the intensity grew, they cracked.
Leandro Paredes fouled Phil Foden outside the area and De Bruyne stood over the ball, perfectly positioned for his shot.
That’s certainly what PSG expected. They had the prone guard in place and four men to block.
One of the strengths of Mauricio Pochettino’s team is that they have so many routes to goal.
Unlike the modern Tottenham, so reliant on Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, this is not just about Mbappe and Neymar, not even about the front three with Di Maria.
Marquinhos is one of the most prolific goalscoring defenders in Europe, and he broke the deadlock here.
Yet when Riyad Mahrez surprised everyone by taking it instead, the four flinched and left the gap which the shot found. Navas was nowhere again; and PSG fell further apart.
Pep Guardiola’s grimace on the touchline told its own story.