Saturday 14 December 2019

Mbappe inspires PSG's great escape with late counter-punch

Real Madrid 2 Paris Saint-Germain 2

Paris St Germain's Kylian Mbappe. Photo: Susana Vera/Reuters
Paris St Germain's Kylian Mbappe. Photo: Susana Vera/Reuters

Jason Burt

In the first half Zinedine Zidane wrapped his arms around Kylian Mbappe as the forward ran into the technical area.

Having already spoken of how he "loves" the Paris Saint-Germain forward, and clearly wants to bring the 20-year-old to the Bernabeu, the Real Madrid coach will have wished he had not let go as Mbappe inspired the most unlikely of comebacks after his side had been utterly dominated.

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Two Karim Benzema goals - and a superb performance from Eden Hazard, his best since joining Real from Chelsea in the summer - were cancelled out as Mbappe struck his 70th goal in only 100 appearances for PSG to give the French champions hope when there was none.

Three minutes later they were level and had won their Champions League group with Mbappe then striking the side-netting in injury time. Even after that Real substitute Gareth Bale struck the post with an excellent free-kick.

Before the chaotic finish it had all been about Hazard and Benzema and also a brilliant performance by goalkeeper Keylor Navas to deny his former side as they were at their best since winning the Champions League against Liverpool in the summer of 2017. PSG will believe they should have won with Real's Thibaut Courtois shown a red card after appearing to concede a first-half penalty with both decisions controversially overturned by the video assistant referee.

Both were through to the last-16 before kick-off, because of the dramatic draw in the other group game, so this was about making a statement. And it was Real who delivered first - with a superb, flowing move instigated by Hazard who held off two challenges, even nutmegged the referee Artur Dias, switching the play and allowing Federico Valverde to exchange passes with Dani Carvajal and cross.

PSG's Neymar, right, runs with ball past Real Madrid's Casemiro. Photo: Manu Fernandez/AP Photo
PSG's Neymar, right, runs with ball past Real Madrid's Casemiro. Photo: Manu Fernandez/AP Photo

Isco, a surprise inclusion given he had apparently been frozen out by Zidane and is available for transfer in January, met it, with his shot rebounding back off the post for Karim Benzema to calmly side-foot into the net.

It was the first goal PSG had conceded in the Champions League this season. Suddenly Real - and Hazard in particular - were alive and it was PSG goalkeeper Navas versus his former side. He denied Benzema twice and Toni Kroos, also, on two occasions.

Navas carried on. He turned away a fierce first-time shot by Carvajal before thwarting Marcelo. Out of the blue it appeared to change with PSG breaking and Courtois hurtling from goal, bringing down Mauro Icardi.

The penalty was given with the goalkeeper shown a red card but the Portuguese referee checked the pitchside monitor and reversed both decisions, deciding there had been a foul by Idrissa Gueye in the build-up.

PSG's Kylian Mbappe, right, scores his side's first goal. Photo: Manu Fernandez/AP
PSG's Kylian Mbappe, right, scores his side's first goal. Photo: Manu Fernandez/AP

PSG reacted by bringing on Neymar, but it was Navas again heavily involved as he blocked Benzema from close range with his legs. It meant PSG had Icardi, Mbappe and Angel Di Maria with Neymar in midfield behind them.

No one could accuse Thomas Tuchel of not going for it but it also left them vulnerable - Neymar inevitably did not track back. Real struck again and again it was Benzema who claimed it with Marcelo crossing from the left and the striker allowed to rise unchallenged to power a header into the turf and past Navas.

Was it over? As Real celebrated, PSG struck back as Meunier crossed and there was a mix-up between Courtois and Raphael Varane allowing Mbappe to bundle the ball home. Remarkably PSG drew level with Mbappe again involved, as was Neymar, with both allowing a Juan Bernat cross to run to substitute Pablo Sarabia whose shot flew high into the top corner. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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