They weren’t going to. Not this season. After winning their Champions League group, aided by a tactical, intense and disciplined display in their victory against Liverpool, Paris St. Germain surely wouldn’t bow out of the competition at the first knockout stage this season.
Especially when the draw was made, pitting them against a fractured Manchester United side. Especially after they won the first leg, with a confident and controlled display at the home of the Red Devils. They surely wouldn’t go home early once more.
Not even when they were 2-1 down late in the second leg, they weren’t in any serious threat of elimination, even if they weren’t over the hills. But somehow, disaster found its way in, chaos struck. A Diogo Dalot shot hit Presnel Kimpembe on the arm, referee Damir Skomina decided, after been called by VAR, to check it, and then awarded the penalty.
Marcus Rashford took it, Gigi Buffon was beaten, and PSG were out. ‘All that, for that?’ The French champions had crumbled in Europe again.
Or at least that’s the primary fallout from this game, another bottling job from PSG, whose collapse at the Nou Camp in 2017 is still far from forgotten. That’s the black and white nature of it all, that Le Parisiens, for all their disgusting money and sports-washing tactics (according to many), they are merely sheep in Europe, Plastic Galacticos as the Guardian’s Barney Ronay dubbed them.
But look at the grey area and no it’s not that way, or at least it shouldn’t be. For most of this tie, these 180+ minutes, PSG were the better team. Not just shading it, or just about being the better side, they were absolutely the better team in this tie.
They’ve been there before. In that 2017 elimination to Barcelona, they were the better team in the first leg, dominant and unyielding in that 4-0 win. And they certainly would have gone through if they hadn’t been defensive and cautious in the second leg at the Nou Camp. In last season’s exit at the hands of Real Madrid, they were the better side in the first half of the first leg, before collapsing.
But this time was different. This time there was collapse, or palpable defensive caution as a result of feeling inferior. Even when they were 2-1 down on the night, as a result of two goals conceded via errors, there was no panic. PSG controlled this game, however we choose to ignore that. They had possession and more shots, and weren’t really threatened. Put it this way, United’s only shots in the game were: Romelu Lukaku’s first goal, Rashford’s shot which was spilled by Buffon, Dalot’s shot which led to the penalty, and the spot-kick itself.
The only flaw in this PSG performance was their inability to kill off this tie. This was a game they should have finished off, and avoided this catastrophe. But that’s really the label they should have gotten, an inability to put a tie to bed coming back to haunt them in the cruellest way.
This was by no means a pathetic performance, a show without intensity, or a cowering display from a side whose domestic league offers them minimum competition. Far from it; an inch or two more and Juan Bernat, who scored their only goal on the night, could have killed things before Rashford’s penalty.
But he didn’t, and they’re out, and in the most black and white of views, this will be seen as another cock-up from Thomas Tuchel’s side.
The German manager began his Champions League campaign this season by claiming his side’s loss to Liverpool on Matchday One was an undeserved result, which was wrong, he ended by pointing this out to be another baffling outcome, of which he has a point.
That’s all PSG can do now, be baffled and be labelled as failures once more. As Marquinhos put it, they can only ‘eat our s**t now’.