MATCH CENTRE

PSG 2-1 Liverpool: Another Look

Liverpool took on Paris Saint-Germain in the formidable Parc des Princes. With Joe Gomez returning to the side as well as James Milner. This 4-3-3 formation meant that the fans favourite, Shaqiri was back on the substitutes bench alongside Alex Alexander-Arnold who scored a wonder goal free kick against Watford last Saturday.

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Liverpool were going into this game knowing a win would possibly suffice as long as Napoli didn’t lose to FK Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade).

PSG have looked quite strong at home in the domestic league with 27 goals in just six games at home. Their form in the Champions League, however has been more erratic and has put pressure on manager, Thomas Tuchel. The 46 year old German was the man who replaced Jürgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, before eventually making his way to  after PSG in May this year. For all their complete dominance in the French Liege 1 under various managers like, Laurent Blanc and Unai Emery, PSG have yet to win the Champions League. Despite bringing in Emery, a manager who won the Europa League three times in a row as manager with Sevilla. With the likes of 25 year old Neymar and 19 year old world superstar, Kylian Mbappé in the side at a combined transfer cost of £365 million the onus is certainty on Tuchel to deliver European football’s ‘Holy Grail’, the Champions League. PSG have only ever won the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1996 and the Intertoto Cup in 2001, in their forays in Europe.

Although there was double concern in the PSG camp about the availability of both stars  for tonight’s game, both Neymar and Mbappé were passed fit to play.

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The game started with Paris Saint-Germain looking the more lively of the two teams. Former Real Madrid player, Angel Di Maria’s 30 yard shot was palmed away by Alisson for a corner. This was followed by another point blank save from a diving header by Thiago Silva, which was ruled offside. James Milner made his presence felt with a crunching tackle on Di Maria early in the game. With PSG creating all the early pressure on the Liverpool back four the deadlock was broken in the 13th minute with a goal by Juan Bernat  as Virgil van Dijk failed to clear properly a ball into the box. PSG continued to pile in the pressure with both Neymar and Mbappé leading the attack. In the 24th minute Marco Verratti committed a bad foul on Joe Gomez and was lucky to get only a yellow. Gomez had a couple of long throws into the box in the first half but none fall kindly to a Liverpool player. On the half hour mark Liverpool are gradually were finding their way into the game and with Firmino playing a deeper role in a 4-3-3 formation, Salah and Mané attacked further up. With PSG playing a 4-4-2 formation Mbappé and Neymar were running freely at the Liverpool defence. Liverpool in fairness were doing very little wrong however, Neymar made it 2:0 on the 37th minute as PSG attacked again up the wing, with Liverpool struggling with the pace of Mbappé and Neymar. Edinson Cavani’s point blank shot was saved by Alisson but Neymar was there to put away the rebound. His fourth goal in five Champions League games this season.

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Some hope was given to Liverpool on the 45th minute as Mané was fouled inside the box by Di Maria. The Polish Referee originally gave it as a corner until corrected by the linesman and the penalty was duly given. James Milner dispatching it with ease to make it 2:1 to end the first half in Paris. His second Champions League goal of this campaign.

The second half was the same with PSG playing with confidence, with a Marquinhos goal ruled out for offside. Liverpool continued to chase the game with some good play but nothing to really troubling Gianluigi Buffon, Liverpool only having three shots on target all evening. Firmino had a header go just wide on the hour mark as Naby Keïta came on for Wijnaldum five minutes later and Choupo-Moting & Dani Alves comes on for PSG in place of Cavaini and Di Maria respectively. I think Shaqiri should have had come on instead and in place of James Milner. In the 70th minute Alisson made another point blank save from a header by Marquinhos. Daniel Sturridge comes on for Firmino as Liverpool look for that equaliser. Finally on the 77th minute, looked on by Mick Jagger in the crowds, fan favourite, Shaqiri makes an entrance in place of Milner.

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It’s a substitution that came too late to have any great effect on the game. Virgil van Dijk made a brilliant tackle in the 81st to stop Neymar in the box as the game neared the end. Mbappé continued his runs at the goal again but Andy Robertson matched him for pace and forced the Frenchman to shoot wide. He eventually went off on the 85th minute to be replaced by Adrien Rabiot. One of the final acts of the match involved Salah being manhandled to the ground. The resulting free kick is taken by Shaqiri but a foul was given by the ref as Thiago Silva dives to the ground, untouched by anyone. With five minutes added on Alisson saves a Neymar free kick and Keïta gets a yellow for a foul, Liverpool’s 6th card of the match. As the ref blows the whistle thoughts turn to what Liverpool must do in the final game at home to Napoli. At least their destiny is in their own hands, but with a third defeat in this Champions League group for Liverpool a huge improvement is needed from the players at Anfield on December 11th.

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