“Well, PSG remain poor on home soil and better away – Pep knows this very well and he is well aware that they can turn things around in Eithad; but at the moment, he would relish but keep his feet on the ground, while thinking about the night in Paris – City has the upper hand at the moment”

 

The transformation of a setback into a comeback requires patience, composure, and tactical tweaks. Even though, the examples of a moment of individual brilliance exist; but without the above-mentioned criteria, it is quite hard to essay a comeback within 90 minutes.

It’s never too late for a comeback; rather, it is all about exploiting the right moments. This is what Pep Guardiola did in Paris and took the upper hand in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal.

Successive exists in the quarterfinal stages of the Champions League have roasted Guardiola and his tactical where he was heavily criticized for over-thinking in crucial matches and perhaps that is why he opted to keep things simple last night.

The center-backs of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) dropped deeper and stayed beside Keylor Navas that allowed the full-backs to push high up the pitch. The intention was to attack and dominate through the flanks but the attempt made the midfield of PSG stagnant.

During this phase, City switched to a 4-4-2 formation and pressed forward with Bernardo Silva and Kevin de Bruyne pairing up front – Silva pressed the center-backs while de Bruyne was tracking Leandro Paredes.

The wing-backs of City sat deeper and the advancement of City led by Silva and de Bruyne left spaces in between the center-backs and the two pivots – Ilkay Gundogan and Rodrigo. The center-backs were reluctant to push high because of the pace of Kylian Mbappe, meanwhile, Marquinhos exploited the pocket of space on the right and moved confidently through that route.

Those acres of space in between the backline and pivots allowed Neymar to wander freely and he was always a constant threat along with the experience and skill of Angel Di Maria.

Idrissa Gana Gueye checked Gundogan and Neymar dropped deeply to receive the ball and mobilize the stagnant midfield and form the connection with Di Maria and Marquinhos – the build was solid and PSG put City on the back foot.

Silva was often caught in his halfway position between pressing high and playing the role of a midfielder – Marco Veratti checked his movement.

When City was pressing, there was a warning sign – notably the chance Phil Foden drove straight at Keylor Navas – PSG probably should have been more than one up at half-time. City had rushed their moves for most of the first half, wanting to get forward too quickly – PSG had the upper hand.

Marquinhos struck gold when he rose unchallenged to head Di Maria’s corner inside the far post. The delivery was marvelous, flat, and quick and Marquinhos quickly outweighed Gundogan and City’s zonal marking and gave the home side the lead.

Neymar was at his best in the first half – he was a cocktail of balance, quick foot movement, and explosiveness.  He had a second-minute chance after Rodri was baffled and Mbappe released him only to shoot at Ederson while it was his shot that forced the corner that led to the breakthrough. Among Neymar’s many other moments before the interval was the corner that Leandro Paredes glanced narrowly wide at the near post.

After the break, pep set free his wing-backs and City started to regain control over the game.

They started to overload the flanks – especially the left region: Silva stayed narrow dragging Bakker, Veratti went in a narrower position with Joao Cancelo ready for the exploitation of the players upfront.

City did not play a striker and used de Bruyne as the false number 9 and he struggled against Mauricio Pochettino’s 4-4-1-1 compactness.

But when the wing-backs advanced and kept PSG occupied – de Bruyne and players like Riyad Mahrez had space to cash in.

City pinned the home side back inside their own half, which in turn panicked a settled defence and forced them into aimless balls that ensured Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were kept well away from Ederson’s goal.

Kevin de Bruyne reminded Neymar of Kazan – substitute Oleksandr Zinchenko passed the ball to the Belgian on the left-hand side of the PSG area which he bent at the far post, hoping that Ruben Dias or even the late-arriving John Stones could meet it – rather – it did more than enough – beat Navas and brought City back into the contest – of course, it should have put chills down the spine of Neymar because he experienced such three years ago and when de Bruyne is in a mood, it would certainly not be your night.

A few moments later, Mahrez took a snapshot from the free-kick spot: His effort flew straight at the wall and then straight through it! The wall was breached, Paredes and Kimpembe allowed the ball to whistle between them and into the bottom left – Navas had no time to react.

PSG panicked and it led to the red card of Gueye.

Well, PSG remain poor on home soil and better away – Pep knows this very well and he is well aware that they can turn things around in Eithad; but at the moment, he would relish but keep his feet on the ground, while thinking about the night in Paris – City has the upper hand at the moment.

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