Man City recover from early second-half setback to take deserved victory
Sterling scores his 23rd Champions League goal while Gabriel Jesus steps off bench for winner
Messi, Neymar and Mbappe combine for goal but Mauricio Pochettino's PSG once again look like a disjointed side
We came to marvel at whether the brilliant individuality of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar would prevail but again left praising the beautiful synchronicity of Manchester City’s football.
The “three kings” of PSG had their moments – Mbappe scored and somehow Neymar failed to – but it is City who claimed the crown and with it their Champions League group for the fifth consecutive season.
With RB Leipzig hammering Club Brugge – it was all over by half-time - in the other group game this was about who would finish first, as both clubs were through to the last-16 in any case, and at one stage it looked like Mauricio Pochettino would be leading PSG to achieving just that and claiming a famous double over Pep Guardiola.
Whether Pochettino is still the PSG head coach when the knock-out phases of this competition start in February remains to be seen given his eagerness to return to Manchester - albeit in charge of Manchester United - although the likelihood is he will have to wait until the end of the season to fulfil his desire to work once more in England. That is if United ultimately want him - although surely this (win, lose or draw) was not some kind of job audition?
Having beaten City in Paris earlier in this group then winning here would nevertheless have continued to help persuade them but, instead, PSG looked like a disjointed side who, at times, rely more on individual talent while City have that but also the kind of glorious combinations that the very best football teams can achieve.
However there was an individual moment worth recognition in City’s performance with Raheem Sterling, the scorer of the equaliser, claiming his 23rd goal in the Champions League which draws him level with Frank Lampard’s total and means that only two Englishmen – Paul Scholes (24) and Wayne Rooney (30) – have scored more. And both of them have retired while Sterling is still just 26.
Logically, he will comfortably beat Rooney’s record although whether he does so at City remains to be seen given he has appeared on the periphery at times this season and probably only warrants his place because Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish were ruled out. Even so it is also three goals in three games for Sterling and that is a fine response and it summed up City’s reaction to falling behind.
They will wonder how that happened after a first half in which they were only denied by some superb, last-ditch defending from PSG and some wayward finishing as they went after the French giants as if to make a statement.
They hogged the ball, they pushed them back and dominated possession and they almost took an early lead when Rodri met a free-kick only for his header to be cleared off the line by Presnel Kimpembe. Still the ball dropped to Riyad Mahrez who, from a tight angle, forced a star-fish save from Keylor Navas at his near post.
In response, PSG tried to go toe-to-toe but it was tough. As wave after wave of City attack hit them, their captain Marquinhos finally snapped and implored Messi, Neymar and Mbappe to track back rather than watch the eight other players try and stem the tide. Messi obliged but, still, there was another desperate clearance with Achraf Hakimi heading Mahrez’s shot over before it could beat Navas.
The third important block came from Marquinhos as he diverted Oleksandr Zinchenko’s goal-bound snap-shot; City’s interplay, with Bernardo Silva outstanding as a ‘false nine’, was irrepressible. Soon after, Mahrez found a way through, only for Navas to make a sprawling save and City were thwarted again.
But this is PSG. Yes, they are far from perfect but they can score against anyone and they served warning when John Stones dithered on halfway, trying to bring the ball under control, only for Neymar to steal it away from him and quickly release Mbappe. Instead of taking it in his stride and going for goal he waited and tried to arc a shot high beyond Ederson, clearing the cross-bar.
The warning went unheeded. Into the second half and Mbappe was unerring. Messi made it. He started the move and as the pace quickened there was a one-two with Ander Herrera and a fine dummy by Neymar with Messi suddenly in the City area. Alarm bells rang and he cut the ball back with it flicking off Kyle Walker and running to Mbappe who steadied himself and drove his shot low between Ederson’s legs. The feted triumvirate, open to criticism until that point, had emphatically shown the difference they can make and PSG were in front.
The response from City was to their immense credit. It showed why they, and not PSG, are stronger candidates to win the Champions League and they drew level with Rodri sumptuously picking out Walker with a floated pass over the PSG defence and he acrobatically volleyed the ball back across goal. Substitute Gabriel Jesus challenged, it fell to Sterling and he stabbed it home at full-stretch off the post.
And yet PSG should have restored their lead. Once more Messi was involved but it was Neymar who made the chance and should have converted as he deftly controlled substitute Angel Di Maria’s awkward pass back to him, beat Ruben Dias to the ball and, with only Ederson in front of him, somehow side-footed wide. He looked on in disbelief. Everyone looked on in disbelief.
It proved costly. City would not be denied and they countered with Mahrez crossing deep, beyond the far post where Bernardo smartly cushioned the ball into the path of Jesus who steered it beyond Navas. And so City were, finally and deservedly, in front and they gleefully celebrated the win.
Manchester City 2 PSG 1: How match unfolded
1 - Manchester City’s victory ensures they will finish top of their Champions League group for the fifth consecutive season – just the second English side to do so in the current format of the competition after Manchester United between 2006-07 and 2010-11. Dominant.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 24, 2021
FT Manchester City 2 PSG 1
That, indeed, is it as Manchester City come from behind to complete a very impressive - and deserved - victory over PSG at the Etihad. Both teams are through to the last 16 but it is Pep Guardiola's City who go through as group leaders. That was a very strong performance all round from Manchester City.
90+3 mins Manchester City 2 PSG 1
PSG take it quickly, Di Maria floats the ball into the box but Ederson takes charge and falls on the ball. That should be it...
90+2 mins Manchester City 2 PSG 1
One minute to go. PSG on the attack and Neymar draws a foul from Jesus midway through the City half...
90+1 mins Manchester City 2 PSG 1
Sarcastic cheers from the crowd as Neymar's punt forward is too long for Di Maria. Ederson duly takes his time with the goalkick.
90 mins Manchester City 2 PSG 1
Just the three minutes added on time for City to get through now to make it another successful Champions League night. But it's the visitors who currently have the ball...
89 mins Manchester City 2 PSG 1
PSG's press crumbles when Kimpembe commits the foul midway into City's half. More keep ball time for City.
88 mins Manchester City 2 PSG 1
Game management mode for City as they shove every man back behind the ball with PSG probing away. Cancelo then steps in to intercept, amid cheers from the home fans.
84 mins Manchester City 2 PSG 1
Cancelo with a beauty of a pass to split the PSG pass but Jesus cannot get his feet right and he is eventually crowded out in the box.
83 mins Manchester City 2 PSG 1
What have the visitors got left in their locker? Currently it is the men in sky blue on the ball.
80 mins Manchester City 2 PSG 1
That was also Jesus's 19th Champions League goal for City, at an average of one every 101 minutes. Cancelo. meanwhile, goes into the book after a mistimed tackle.
79 mins Manchester City 2 PSG 1
The Etihad absolutely exploded with that goal. They know that when Jesus scores that usually means good news for their team when it comes to the final result.
76 mins Manchester City 2 PSG 1
The substitute has done exactly what he was brought on to do.
Bernardo Silva, lurking at the back post, cushions Mahrez's cross from the left deftly into the path for Jesus to convert from six yards.
Manchester City 2 (Jesus 76 mins) PSG 1
75 mins Manchester City 1 PSG 1
This game is very finely poised now. PSG look a different side on the ball to the one from the first half. And Di Maria seems to have added a touch of calm to matters.
74 mins Manchester City 1 PSG 1
CHANCE! PSG should be ahead, no doubt.
PSG, after a period of possession, work their way up the pitch. Messi and Neymar exchange passes and the latter slaloms through the box before shooting wide of the post. Messi's look for frustration tells you everything.
70 mins Manchester City 1 PSG 1
City are searching for the killer blow, this time it's substitute Jesus who tries his luck on the angle.
67 mins Manchester City 1 PSG 1
Before the corner, the visitors make a double switch. Gueye is replaced by ex-Manchester United attacker Angel Di Maria while Nuno Mendes walks gingerly off and Dina Ebimbe comes on.
City's corner, meanwhile, fizzles out when they again try the short ball tactic.
66 mins Manchester City 1 PSG 1
Heady times for the City fans who had thought all their team's hard work had gone down the gurgler. City win another corner...
63 mins Manchester City 1 PSG 1
A deserved equaliser for City.
Rodri, in the middle outside the box, delightfully finds the onrushing Walker down the right near the byline. Walker acrobatically controls the aerial pass and puts the ball back into the mixer. Jesus can't get a decisive touch but it eventually falls to Sterling who squeezes the ball home between post and keeper.
Manchester City 1 (Sterling 63 mins) PSG 1
60 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 1
A halt from the frantic action as Herrera has to go off with what looks like a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Danilo.
City have a corner. Mahrez plays it short to Gundogan before the former eventually gets the ball back in the box and forces a save out of Navas at his near post.
58 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 1
Rodri loses the ball on the edge of PSG's box. It's three on three, as Messi, Neymar and Mbappé flood forward all the way towards City's box. Only a crucal block from Dias halts proceedings.
PSG's front three involved for the opening goal
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 24, 2021
55 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 1
We have our first yellow card of the night as Rodri stops Paredes in his tracks, albeit illegally.
54 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 1
It's as if a switch has been flicked and the confidence has immediately flowed back into the PSG team.
Guardiola has reacted almost immediately too, bringing on Gabriel Jesus for Zinchenko to introduce more in attack. Jesus heads straight into the middle to play as a No 9.
50 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 1
And just like that, PSG lead. Smash and grab. All that first half from City undone in the blink of an eye.
It's Mbappe that fires the decisive strike through the legs of Ederson from 10 yards out but Messi had his own part to play with a cutback inside the area.
Manchester City 0 PSG 1 (Mbappé 50 mins)
49 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
A reminder that with RB Leipzig currently 4-0 against Club Brugge, both these teams are through to the last 16
46 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Back underway at the Etihad. Will we get a goal (or a couple of goals) tonight?
City hit the post
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 24, 2021
Not Messi's night so far
HT Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Just the 21 seconds of added in time before the half-time whistle blows.
Manchester City pretty much did everything right but score the vital goal. PSG's attacking trio were largely kept quiet, Mahrez led the way in attack, and the width of a post stopped Gundogan from putting City ahead.
44 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
And that... is where PSG can be so dangerous. Stones gets caught doing keep-uppy on the half-way line trying to control the ball, and its three versus three on the break.
Messi feeds the ball to Mbappe on the left of the box. He dips his shoulder and tries to find the far top corner first time, but it's high and wide.
Off target but a warning shot all the same.
43 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
No where to go for the visitors as Herrera gives the ball away cheaply inside his own half.
40 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Boos ring out after Messi goes down on the far touchline after looking like he was caught by Cancelo. Replays show it might have been a trailing arm, perhaps the City man leaving his mark on his opponent after being nutmegged by the South American. After a short while on the floor, Messi pulls himself to his feet.
38 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Ten attempts for City compared to PSG's two. City are very much on top.
Very little about the famed PSG front three of Messi, Neymar and Mbappé to write about so far.
36 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Now even the quick bypassing of the City press isn't working for the visitors as they give the ball away. The home fans are roaring on their team, shouts of 'City, City, City' ring around the Etihad.
35 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Now it's Sterling down the left of the box cutting back to Gundogan, and it's yet another block from a defender in a dark blue shirt. City are stepping through the gears... but will the end result be a goal?
33 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
OFF THE POST! Panic stations in the PSG defence as the ball lands at the feet of an unmarked Gundogan inside the ball. He opens his body up and tries to find the bottom right corner but the ball smacks the upright instead.
31 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Another good passage of play from City. Mahrez is involved again, slipping in Bernardo Silva down the left channel but Navas gathers the low cross after a lucky deflection off his team-mate.
30 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Half an hour played. Regardless of the result at 90 minutes, both teams are qualifying for the last 16 as things stand as RB Leipzig are now 3-0 up against Club Brugge.
28 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
At the other end, Sterling cuts the ball back to Zinchenko but Marquinhos throws his body in the way to block the half-volley from 12 yards. Zinchenko must have thought it was time to start celebrating the way he caught his shot.
27 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Nuno Mendes decides to do things himself, driving forward past Walker into the box down the right and bringing a low, but very comfortable, save from Ederson down to his left.
25 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Slight heart in mouth moment for PSG keeper Navas as he miscontrols a simple back pass and has to quickly adjust to prevent a horror moment for his team.
23 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
City have had five shots so far to PSG's one. Will the hosts rue not making this start count?
Another warning side as the visitors outplay the City press again to burst out of their own half.
21 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Kimpembe has had a busy night so far in the PSG defence, and again he's called into action to block a shot from Zinchenko.
Meanwhile RB Leipzig are winning 2-0 at Club Brugge. If the result were to stay the same, both City and PSG would be through to the last 16.
18 mins Manchester City 0 PSG 0
CHANCE! Mahrez goes so close to giving City the lead. After clever play from City, Mahrez looks to curl one into the far top corner from inside the box but the smallest of deflections off the head of Hakimi means it goes over with Navas beaten in the PSG goal.
17 mins: Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Nuno Mendes plays in to the feet of Neymar on the edge of the box. He jinks his way to the box but the offside flag comes up.
13 mins: Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Mahrez throws himself to the floor in the corner of the box after a challenge from Nuno Mendes. He wants a penalty but that looked a very good interception to me.
10 mins: Manchester City 0 PSG 0
Hakimi steals the ball off the toes of Sterling just as the England man was about to pull the trigger in the box. Quick as flash the visitors are up the other end of the pitch. That's the danger City face with over-committing players forward.
A bit of welcome keep ball for PSG but the men in blue have managed to get numbers back now.
8 mins: Manchester City 0 PSG 0
PSG have just played themselves out of a strong City press inside their very own box, it was almost like a casual passing drill despite the obvious pressure being put on them.
6 mins: Manchester City 0 PSG 0
CHANCE! Good ball in from Mahrez, who won the free-kick. It's towards the back post where Rodri heads goalwards but Kimpembe is well placed to clear from just in front of his own goal line.
4 mins: Manchester City 0 PSG 0
All the action has pretty much been in PSG's half so far. Mahrez looks like he has run himself into trouble down the right, but does win a freekick when Neymar comes in too hot.
A good opportunity for a set-piece move...
3 mins: Manchester City 0 PSG 0
There's been plenty of early ball for City, who have Zinchenko in midfield. As Guardiola suggested pre-match, they're looking to be aggressive off the ball and duly force Tavares Mendes to miscontrol on the near touchline.
2 mins: Manchester City 0 PSG 0
PSG, in all dark blue playing from right to left, get us underway. City appear to have started with a back four.
Cancelo drifts a cross in from the left and Tavares Mendes fends off the danger.
Bring it on
On paper this should be a cracker. Star-studded line ups, a sell out Etihad stadium, Champions League knockout places up for grabs. Let's see what we get on the pitch...
Currently a fancy light show going on at the Etihad ahead of the players emerging from the tunnel. Moments away from kick-off now.
Guardiola's pre-match thoughts
Foden and Grealish missing
Jack was injured after the national team and Phil had a problem against Everton, yesterday he didn't feel good and that is why he is out.
Cancelo in line for a different role?
Er no. Play good with the ball, and help the team.
Thoughts on the PSG team
We worked [for different formations[ but the idea for them and for us is the same. We are going to try to be aggressive without the ball. They have a lot of quality.
Sold out Etihad
The Etihad is not known for filling up when it comes to Champions League matches but it is not every day that Lionel Messi and Co are in town...
Messi v Guardiola
It was against City that Messi got his first goal for new club PSG back in September. Since then he has added three more to his tally but he certainly has a liking for goals against Guardiola teams.... in five games, he has managed seven goals.
Spotlight on Messi
Lionel Messi still searching for lift off as his Paris St-Germain project splutters, writes Jason Burt.
He's been given the nod to start tonight alongside Mbappe and Neymar, and will no doubt relish the chance to rediscover his best form.
Poch a wanted man
It's never a quiet week where PSG are concerned. But the club and manager have had to fend off additional headlines over the last few days with Mauricio Pochettino linked to the now vacant post at Manchester United.
As James Ducker writes, however, the French club are determined their man will not be leaving before the end of the season - although they are open to a move at the end of the campaign. You can read more on that here
Recent head to head
Manchester City went unbeaten in their first five meetings with Paris Saint-Germain in European competition (W3 D2), but suffered a 2-0 defeat in their most recent meeting back in September. City, however, have won both of their games against the French side on home soil in the Champions League - 1-0 in April 2016 and 2-0 in May 2021.
Paris Saint-Germain have only won 20% of their meetings with Manchester City in the Champions League (1/5). Among teams they have faced at least five times in the competition, only against Real Madrid (17% - 1/6) do they have a lower win percentage.
Via Opta Stats
Messi, Neymar and Mbappe start
Meanwhile its Neymar, Messi and Mbappe up front for the visitors. Sergio Ramos, the four-time Champions League winner, is on the bench, and could make his debut tonight after leaving Real Madrid this summer.
PSG starting XI: Navas, Hakimi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Nuno Mendes, Paredes, Ander Herrera, Gueye, Messi, Mbappe-Lottin, Neymar
Subs: Sergio Ramos, Verratti, Icardi, Di Maria, Danilo Pereira, Dagba, Wijnaldum, Diallo, Kehrer, Ebimbe, Donnarumma, Franchi
No Grealish or Foden
Man City XI: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo, Rodri, Gundogan, Zinchenko, Mahrez, Silva, Sterling
Subs: Steffen, Carson, Ake, Jesus, Laporte, Fernandinho, Palmer, McAtee
Kevin De Bruyne was already a confirmed absentee due to Covid, and City will also be without Jack Grealish, who sat out training yesterday, and Phil Foden who is also not fully fit for the match tonight.
Early City team news
Your City XI to face PSG! 💪
XI | Ederson, Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo, Rodrigo, Gundogan (C), Zinchenko, Mahrez, Bernardo, Sterling
SUBS | Steffen, Carson, Ake, Jesus, Laporte, Fernandinho, Palmer, McAtee#ManCity pic.twitter.com/Hg7235LqbM
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 24, 2021
1st vs 2nd
So what's at stake on the pitch tonight?
Well, Man City and PSG currently occupy first and second place respectively in Group A. City are ahead by one point with two games left.
A point will guarantee Guardiola’s side a place in the last 16 but a victory over Mauricio Pochettino’s star-studded side would secure them first place with a game to spare.
Guardiola's invaluable support
By Mike McGrath
With all eyes on Mauricio Pochettino who is being considered for the Manchester United job and a return to the Premier League - and United’s structure behind the scenes scrutinised after their decline since Sir Alex Ferguson’s era - Pep Guardiola has underlined the importance of Man City director of football Txiki Begiristain in keeping him at the club.
“One of the reasons why I extended my contract two times is because Txiki is here,” said Guardiola. “He trusted me as a manager when I wasn't anyone in world football, training in the fourth division and he trusted me when he could choose many incredible managers at that time.
“We met each other when I was 19. Since then, we have been close friends and we work together incredibly well and when we are winning we try to analyse why and when we are losing we try to analyse why and no one judges the other one, good or bad.
“I'm never judged for results, (but) for our capacity, him and me. He never goes to the media. Always success is for the other ones, he is always behind the scenes and you don't find these type of people in this world because egos are also so so high.
“I can do my job completely free, accepting the good moments and bad moments. In the bad moments, he is closer than ever and in the good moments we celebrate with a glass of wine.”
Jack Grealish is poised to miss out with a muscular problem, while Kevin De Bruyne is out isolating with Covid-19.
“I think the biggest challenge is for both teams both managers know each other quite well,” said City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan. “Unfortunately he was able to beat us in the past quite regularly and also in the Tottenham games so that is not really an advantage for us but in the modern game all the teams started to know each other quite well, they have possibilities to scout each other so I don’t think there are much elements left.”