The UEFA Champions League is back after a long break. The competition was put on a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 keeping in mind the safety of the people and the players. But, now that phase is over and the competition is being held in Portugal, Lisbon. The Round of 16 ended on 9th August. Paris Saint Germain, Atalanta B.C., FC Barcelona, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Olympique Lyonnais, RB Leipzig, and Atletico Madrid were the teams who qualified for the quarter-finals. On 13th August, the first quarter-final was played between Paris Saint Germain (PSG) and Atalanta B.C.
The match was a direct knockout as it was announced that there is only going to be one leg from the quarter-finals. The team that wins the match makes it through to the semi-finals and the losing team will have to return home. PSG’s team was not in their best form as Marco Verratti and Layvin Kurzawa were injured whereas Angel Di Maria was suspended. Even the French superstar Kylian Mbappe was at injury risk and was not able to start against Atalanta. Josip Ilicic could not make it to the squad for Atalanta because of some personal reasons. PSG’s and their fans’ only hope was Neymar Jr. as he was the only playmaker left in the team.
PSG Match Summary:
The referee blew the start whistle and Atalanta started off playing their aggressive game. They kept the pressure on all the PSG players. At the 3rd minute of the game, Neymar got a very easy chance to give his team a lead but he missed it. It blew everyone’s mind that a player like him could miss such an easy chance. His attempt was not even on the target, that too from inside the box. Atalanta on the other hand had many attempts on goal which were wonderfully saved by Keylor Navas until the 26th minute. Mario Pasalic scored a wonderful goal shooting in the top left corner of the net out of Keylor Navas’ reach.
Now, Atalanta was in the lead with a goal. PSG’s defense was trying hard but they were not able to handle the pressure from Atalanta players. The best part about Atalanta was that even after scoring a goal against a team like PSG, they did not change their aggressive game and start defending. They still continued to put pressure on PSG. Even after missing such an easy goal at the early stage of the game, it did not affect Neymar’s confidence or his game. It seemed like only Neymar was the one who knew how to break the defense of Atalanta. He even ended up making sixteen successful dribbles. It is the most by a player in a single UCL match this season after Messi and Insigne with eleven.
Even though Neymar was able to handle the pressure from Atalanta and get past the players, he did not have anyone for support to complete the attack. Especially the former Inter-Milan striker, Mauro Icardi was nowhere to be seen in the match. Neymar got an easy chance once again in the 42nd minute of the match. Atalanta’s Hans Hateboer tried to pass the ball to the center back which was eventually intercepted by Neymar. But, lucky for Atalanta, Neymar ended up hitting the ball wide from his left foot. After the halftime, PSG started looking better as they were able to read Atalanta’s game but were still not able to score a goal.
The game totally changed after Mbappe was substituted in the 59th minute of the game. Mbappe was in a great form even after returning from an injury break. The best part about this substitution was that Neymar finally had a player to link up with. They are very compatible with each other and understand each other’s game. PSG started attacking more. At this point, Atalanta did not even attempt a single shot on goal. Even after creating an attack now, PSG was unable to find the back of the net. They did not have much time to score now and Atalanta’s main motive was to defend their goal.
But, the wonderful part about football is that the game can turn at any point. That is exactly what happened. When all hopes were down and everyone started to think that PSG will lose, they scored a goal in the 90th minute. The goal scorer was none other than Marquinhos and it was assisted by Neymar. The next goal for PSG came again, just 3 minutes later. Neymar played a beautiful through ball to Mbappe who further played it inside the box to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting for a simple tap in goal. PSG literally changed the whole game within 4 minutes. At this point, Atalanta had lost all their hopes as only a minute was left for the injury time to end.
After the final whistle, the score was 2-1 in PSG’s favor. Atalanta may have lost the game but they surely won everyone’s heart. PSG’s celebration was hilarious as Thomas Tuchel and Marco Verratti both were injured and limping but still started celebrating the win. Neymar was named the Man of the Match because of his wonderful and magical performance. He made 113 touches, 1 assist, 5 key passes, 7 shots from which 2 were on target, and 16 successful dribbles. Even after such a magical performance, he gave his Man of the Match award to Choupo-Moting. He said that Choupo-Moting deserves it for that last goal. Atalanta were in tears as they were so close to reaching the semi-finals. Their performance was totally magnificent and surely an example for all the underdog clubs.
In the post-match interview, Thomas Tuchel admitted that even he lost hope for a minute. But, he was happy that the club made it to the semi-finals. This is the first time that PSG has qualified for the semi-finals since 1995. They will now have to face the winner between Atletico Madrid and RB Leipzig. It was a magical night for all the PSG fans. The fans are mesmerized that PSG made it to the quarterfinals. Now, PSG will be back in its best form till the semi-finals. Verratti and Mbappe will be totally fit to start the game. Di Maria will also come out of his suspension. Although Keylor Navas did suffer from a hamstring and had to be sent off in between the game, it did not look that serious. We will keep you updated on all the UCL news. Until then stay tuned and stay safe.