Man City secure first place, PSG advance to round of 16 despite defeat

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Paris Saint-Germain face a potentially dangerous draw in the Champions League round of 16 after Manchester City secured first place in Group A with a 2-1 victory over the star-studded French side on Wednesday.

Kylian Mbappe put PSG in the lead against run of play at the Etihad five minutes into the second half.

But the pressure from City ended up paying off as goals from Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus were a game-changer for the England champions.

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino had to push back questions during his pre-match press conference as to whether he could move permanently to Manchester to take on the vacant management post at United.

“The players know our situation very well. We live in a company where the rumors are there, sometimes positive, sometimes negative,” Pochettino said of whether the speculation had affected his side.

The Argentine’s first year in the French capital is far from easy despite an 11-point lead at the top of Ligue 1.

The arrival of Lionel Messi to form a formidable front three alongside Mbappe and Neymar has increased the expectation of Pochettino to deliver a first Champions League crown in Paris.

But they could now face tenants like Chelsea, Bayern Munich or Liverpool in the round of 16.

The blessing and curse of the richly talented attacking trio at Pochettino’s disposal was evident as the visitors were largely overwhelmed in midfield.

“We have to improve,” Pochettino added. “I’m happy in the process. Things are better than a month ago and much better than two months ago. Little by little, the team will improve.”

The clash of styles

City’s collective cohesion got the better of the clash of styles, but lacked the clinical advantage offered by the PSG Galacticos.

Presnel Kimpembe cleared Rodri’s header on the line before Achraf Hakimi did the same to transform Riyad Mahrez’s shot that was intended for the top corner above the bar.

Despite the absence of the midfield trio of Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, City still created chances at will as Messi, Neymar and Mbappe did little to help their teammates defend themselves.

Ilkay Gundogan had the hosts’ best luck heading into the break, but his curling effort came crashing down on the post.

Mbappe showed the hosts how to proceed five minutes after the break as he pierced Ederson’s legs from Messi’s deflected cross.

But the scheme of the game remained unchanged as City charged forward and finally found a way through.

“We were down 1-0 and we had to continue,” said City boss Pep Guardiola. “A big compliment and congratulations to the players.”

Kyle Walker’s cross slipped away from Jesus, but kindly allowed Sterling to score his fourth goal of the season at the far post.

Pochettino responded by introducing Angel Di Maria to add to his attacking trident and he gave Neymar a big chance to restore PSG’s lead, only for the Brazilian to sneak in with just his international teammate Ederson to beat.

Moments later, another skillful team move from City created a deserved winner.

Mahrez’s cross at the back post chose Bernardo Silva, who casually returned the ball into the path of Jesus to calmly return home.

“We have a lot of players who can help the team. Everyone wants to give good balls to other players,” said Jesus, summing up the difference between the teams. “No one is selfish.”

The victory gives City an unassailable four-point lead at the top of the section with just one game to go.

But RB Leipzig’s 5-0 loss to Club Brugge means that PSGare are also guaranteed to move up to second place.

(AFP)

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