PARIS, France – Neymar got what proved to be the winner as Paris Saint-Germain breathed life into their Champions League campaign with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool on Wednesday, November 28, that leaves last season’s runners-up dangerously close to an early exit.
Juan Bernat and Neymar scored to put PSG in control in the first half in the French capital, but a James Milner penalty on the stroke of half-time ensured this pivotal game remained in the balance until the death.
PSG knew a defeat here coupled with an unfavorable result in the night’s other Group C game could see the ambitious Qatar-owned club eliminated already, which would amount to little short of a catastrophe for them.
But instead it is Liverpool – beaten in each of their last 5 games away from Anfield in the Champions League – who now seem the more likely to miss out on the last 16.
“When you saw their lineup, the approach they chose was full risk, especially in the beginning, to try everything as long as your legs carry you. The quality they have meant it was obviously quite intense to deal with,” admitted Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
He acknowledged that his team had not been good enough, even if he was unhappy at Polish referee Szymon Marciniak for his decision not to send off Marco Verratti for a dangerous challenge on Joe Gomez in the first half.
Elsewhere Napoli beat Red Star Belgrade 3-1, and Liverpool must now win either 1-0 or by two clear goals at home to the Italians in a fortnight if they are to progress.
Such a regression in Europe would be a big blow to Liverpool, even if it could conceivably help Klopp’s side in the Premier League.
Meanwhile, PSG head to Belgrade for their last game still needing to win to be certain of advancing, but at least they have their fate in their hands.
“It was our last chance to show that we are capable of competing with a team like Liverpool, a team with an incredible mentality,” said PSG coach Thomas Tuchel.
“Everyone was ready to suffer for each other. That was necessary against Liverpool and it was a big step forward for us.”
PSG had only won one of their previous 7 games in the competition. However, Jurgen Klopp’s side were completely overrun in the opening stages at the Parc des Princes.
Angel di Maria had forced a fine save from Alisson with a speculative, dipping volley before Paris went in front in the 13th minute.
Kylian Mbappe tried to square for Edinson Cavani, but the ball broke to Bernat, and the Spaniard swept home his second goal in this season’s competition.
Verratti then crucially escaped with a yellow – one of 8 on the night – for a high tackle on Gomez midway through the first half.
“For me it’s a red card,” said Klopp. “I look like a bad loser, but I don’t care. I had a very good view of it and for sure it was not the same color as the 500 other yellow cards.”
PSG went on from that to double their lead thanks to a clearly wound up Neymar. He had been drawing fouls from opponents and whipping up a fervent home crowd before he burst down the left in the 37th minute, combining with Mbappe.
The France star crossed low for Cavani, whose attempt was saved by Alisson, but Neymar converted the rebound.
That should have ensured a comfortable cushion for the hosts at the break, but Liverpool were gifted a route back into the game in first-half stoppage time.
Di Maria brought down Sadio Mane just inside the area. The referee did not initially give a penalty but then changed his mind, and Milner beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards.
Understandably given the high stakes, PSG sat back more and more in the second half, although they still came closest to scoring again from a Marquinhos header, and their win was fully deserved. – Rappler.com