finance

From chokers to contenders, PSG have buried Champions League ghosts


10/10

© Reuters. Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium is pictured in Tokyo

2/10

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) – Paris St Germain dismissed their reputation as Champions League chokers to reach the semi-finals of Europe’s premium club competition for the second year in a row by eliminating holders Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

The French champions, who had lost their composure when it mattered in recent years, have now eliminated Bayern and Barcelona in the quarter-finals and the last 16, showing ruthless efficiency and proving steady in stormy weather.

While they need to address their home form as Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat by Bayern showed, Mauricio Pochettino’s team can be clinical, having beaten the German champions 3-2 in the first leg despite suffering throughout the match.

In 2017, PSG lost 6-1 at Barca after winning their last-16 first leg 4-0, before choking again in a 3-1 home loss to Manchester United in 2019 after they had won the last-16 first leg 2-0 at Old Trafford.

There was none of that shaky attitude at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday despite the loss.

Pochettino’s makeshift defence, in the absence of captain Marquinhos, rose to the occasion in a nail-biting finale with the attacking trio of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria always looking dangerous on the break.

“PSG has grown. The club keeps growing day by day, year by year,” said centre back Presnel Kimpembe, who wore the captain’s armband on Tuesday.

“We bounced back (from previous failures). Tonight (Tuesday) was war, and we won that war.”

While Bayern were without Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry, PSG also had to do without Marquinhos and influential midfielder Marco Verratti, and the French champions managed the absence of key players better.

“We played as a team while attacking, and while defending. That’s what we wanted to do and that’s we managed to do,” said Pochettino.

“(Midfielder) Idrissa Gueye was a machine, I told him when he left the pitch.”

Up front, Mbappe’s speed proved a nightmare to handle for the Bayern midfield and defence, while Neymar, although he lacked efficiency, finding the woodwork twice, was a poison throughout.

The duo’s performance over the two legs was key and their contract extension is obviously the club’s priority as they look to win their maiden Champions League title after losing to Bayern in the final last year.

“We’re a great team,” said president Nasser al-Khelaifi.

“We have what it takes to win the Champions League but the job is not done yet. Kylian and Neymar now have no excuses to leave.”

Neymar said that his contract extension was ‘not a topic anymore’ and that he felt happy and ‘at home’ at PSG.

Both Mbappe and Neymar’s contracts expire at the end of next season.

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