This was how Paris Saint-Germain fared at the Santiago Bernabeu last night, the home of the great Real Madrid. We had 59% possession, 16 attempts on goal, three that were on target, completed 623 passes compared to Madrid’s 379 and yet we still lost the game 1-0! To put in a performance like that in one of football’s grand old theatres and have nothing to show for is gut wrenching. Nevertheless, PSG proved that they belong at places like the Bernabeu on a regular basis and even though the result was disappointing, so much pride can be taken from the performance.
In the end it was a mistake by goalkeeper Kevin Trapp that was the difference. The German’s calamity was reminiscent of his two howlers against Bordeaux earlier on in the season. Had it not been for that we may have been talking about a different result but PSG had a number of chances to score but failed to do. Some were plain unlucky. Others were inexcusable.
The team put out by Laurent Blanc was his strongest. David Luiz started his first game in a Parisian shirt for nearly a month after recovering from a knee injury he picked up on international duty with Brazil. The likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani of course started after sitting out last Friday’s 1-0 win away to Rennes.
10 of the players who started for Real at the Parc des Princes two weeks ago did so again with Luka Modric coming in for Lucas Vazquez being the only change.
We were certainly not overawed by the occasion. However, we were dealt a major blow when Marco Verratti had to come off early on with an injury he picked up during a challenge with Cristiano Ronaldo. Adrien Rabiot who excelled on the night replaced him. He hit the post with a cracking effort after we went 1-0 down and followed it up with an equally impressive volley that had Keylor Navas in the Madrid goal scrambling.
Maxwell was the star for Les Parisiens. His link-up play along with the deliveries he was providing were exemplary. There was one ball he played for Cavani that was scintillating but the Uruguayan missed the header when he should have connected and scored. This was when we were 1-0 down.
The Los Blancos goal was an absolute gift. Kevin Trapp completely misjudged a deflected shot which was seemingly heading out of play but the German rushed out, stumbled, and there was Nacho to finish on the volley with aplomb. The fullback should never have been given the opportunity to do so and the goalkeeper was completely at fault. Had he judged the situation better, PSG may very well have been heading back to Paris with a point – perhaps more. He did pull of a number of key saves from Isco but this instance turned out to be the most pivotal.
Angel di Maria played his part on his return to the Bernabeu. The former Madrid man produced arguably the pass of the match to split his former employers in halve and pick out Cavani. He only needed to sweep the ball home but instead got the ball stuck under his feet and his finish was awful! El Matador looked a foregone conclusion to make it 1-1 before the break. Instead he fluffed his lines! It was a key moment in the game.
We still played some terrific stuff after the interval and when Di Maria smashed the crossbar with a freekick late on, you just knew it was not going to be PSG’s day.
How we are leaving Spain without anything to show for it is an absolute mystery. This PSG side can be proud though! We are not far from the finished article but this performance illustrates the progress made this season. We can be disappointed that despite being up against the 10-time winners of the competition, we have come up short. They were missing key personnel (Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez; for most of the two games) so the chance was there. It means they will more than likely finish top of the group and we will go through as runners-up, just like last season.
It may be our first defeat of the season but it should not have been. Paris Saint-Germain as a club can hold its head up high because not many teams this season, if any, will show that level of dominance against Real in their own backyard.