Kylian Mbappe steals the show against a lacklustre Madrid side

February 16, 2022

When we even imagine fixtures like these where there would be stars everywhere on the pitch we would always expect a clear night sky with twinkling stars above as if the galaxy was ready to witness the greatness that would be exhibited on the field of play. On the contrary, the city of Paris welcomed the knockout stages of the Champions League as Paris Saint Germain played host to Real Madrid, with a rainy cold evening. When the curtain rose in the Parc des Princes which gave away the activities of the match, it was not what any of the Madrid supporters had expected. With Champions League eliminating the away goal rule in this part of the competition, Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti adhered to the plan of ‘get them back to the Bernabeu’ by keeping Paris Saint Germain at bay and at least fetch a point from this fixture and head to Madrid to design the master plan of defeating them in the second leg of this fixture. To his disappointment, Kylian Mbappe (Madrid’s potential signing for the next summer transfer window) stroke an injury-time winner for PSG which came as a cathartic experience for the football fans, and sent Mr. Ancelotti’s side home with nothing to gain from those 90 minutes.

The moment of relief for Mbappe after scoring the goal

This fixture was significant from too many aspects. But the most important and talked about point was that of Lionel Messi coming up against his old rivals from Spain and why not after Casemiro’s public display of admiration for the 34-year-old PSG striker. These two South-American rivals were at each other neck for the entirety of the match but some things did not quite add up for Messi last night. As he went up to take the penalty which his side won for Dani Carvajal’s challenge on Kylian Mbappe inside the penalty box, Leo Messi’s low shot was swiftly denied by the los blancos keeper, Thibaut Courtois.

Courtois celebrating with his teammates after saving Messi’s penalty

Paris looked sharp and intent with their high press from the moment the whistle went off. They were comfortable with the possession and as Mbappe teased Carvajal with a couple of twists on his way to the byline. Di Maria received his low cut-back cross inside the penalty area and scooped a strike comfortably over the crossbar within 5 minutes of play. The home side controlled most of the midfield action as Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes both stepped up to the occasion and neutralized the bare amount of effort while on the attacking peddle. For the opening 20 minutes or so Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, the midfield engine of Madrid was nowhere to be seen building up the play as they were busy reacting to PSG’s plethora of attacks. Lionel Messi played as a pivot and swapped positions with his midfielders to open spaces in between Madrid’s midfielders, thus creating a menace for the men in white. The only moment in the first half that Real came close to scoring was when Casemiro’s shot missed the target in the added time.

Verratti Vs Modric

The evidence from the first 45 minutes was clear- Benzema had not been much involved in the movements which showed that he was not fully fit and Ancellotti was not yet ready to explore his other striking options. The second half commenced with the first attack being set up by Achraf Hakimi for Mbappe but Courtois’s reflex saved them again. The visitors started gaining momentum within the opening stages of the second period as Toni Kroos’ shot whistled over the crossbar of Gianluigi Donnarumma’s goal post around the 54th minute. Mauricio Pochettino, the PSG manager took no chance and substituted Di Maria for Neymar, and to the best of his judgment, the Brazilian gave their full-throttled attacking pressure a direction.

It is within three minutes of Neymar’s arrival onto the field of play David Alaba made a glaring error of tackling Neymar the wrong way and Paris gained an advantage at the edge of the penalty area. Messi took the free-kick but his terrific technique could not match the optimum level of accuracy that was needed to curl the shot in at the back of the net. Madrid switched their defensive formation a bit when without the possession from 4-5-1 to 5-3-2-1 as three central defenders would form the defensive wall and the left and right back would transform into two wing-backs just activating the wing play.

Messi in action

Mbappe and Neymar both missed the target a couple of times but the home side kept their composure in the defensive as well as attacking thirds and did not let Benzema, Vinicius Jr., or later on Rodrygo sniff a goal. Ancellotti hoped for a more charged-up performance from the upfront as he brought on Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard but the last call had to be made by none other than Kylian Mbappe.

Neymar back-heeled the ball back into Mbappe’s path as he made the two defenders look static and slipped between Eder Militao and Lucas Vasquez inside the penalty box to allow himself space to fire the shot beyond Thibaut Courtois reach.

The move that led to the goal

The Parc des Princes was rocking with fans singing and rejoicing to Mbappe’s name as the world of football was left in awe of the intensity of his attacking prowess. The goal was dazzling and in the blip of second Madrid was grounded with the excellence and finesse of this PSG side. According to the UEFA Technical Observer who decides the Player of the Match said- “It only takes a bit of magic to win the game and Mbappé provided it when Paris needed it most”. With that Carlo Ancellotti has a huge job in his hands now to overturn this result in the reverse fixture. All in all, it was a game filled with tactical cleverness from both sides and we wait for matches like these to savour the flavour of intelligent football mixed with a whole lot of magic.

Team News:

Paris Saint Germain: Donnarumma; Hakimi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Nuno Mendes; Danilo (Gueye 87), Paredes, Verratti; Di María (Neymar 72), Messi, Mbappé

Real Madrid CF: Courtois; Carvajal (Lucas Vázquez 72), Éder Militão, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modrić (Valverde 82); Asensio (Rodrygo 72), Benzema (Bale 87), Vinícius Júnior (Hazard 82)

Player of the Match: Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe with the award