Paris Saint-Germain 1-3 (3-3 on agg.) Manchester United
What sporting drama! What magic!
There are only a few occasions when it’s hard to know where to begin, yet this was one such night.
In the box seat after a first leg victory at Old Trafford and up against a depleted Manchester United, virtually all the Champions League 2019 betting odds favoured Pars St Germain.
This us writer did, too.
Yet somehow belief, commitment and youth prevailed, refusing to be overawed against stronger opponents at the Parc des Princes and producing an incredible comeback which will live long in the memory, even accounting for United’s illustrious history.
Yes, PSG will kick themselves for mistakes which led to all three of United’s goals.
But the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer effect reached a new level in Paris.
The moment when Marcus Rashford scored a nerveless injury-time penalty will be replayed among Champions League 2019 highlights for years to come as United became the first team in Champions League and European Cup history – at the 107th time of asking – to overcome a 2-0 or greater home first-leg deficit.
Highlights of the game
Only two minutes had elapsed when Romelu Lukaku latched onto a back pass from Thilo Kehrer, calmly rounded Gianluigi Buffon, and slid home the opener.
Surely, a Champions League shock wasn’t on the cards?
Kylian Mbappe went close to an immediate response but did play a part in his side’s leveller 10 minutes later when he sprang the offside trap and played an inviting ball into the path of Juan Bernat who made no mistake.
David de Gea then kept his countryman out to keep the tie alive and was rewarded when Buffon could not hold a Marcus Rashford shot, and the livewire Belgian pounced clinically on the half hour.
United’s injury woes took another blow before the break when centre-back Eric Bailly had to leave the fray, but they kept their shape with the tireless Scott McTominay in midfield among their youngsters displaying a never-say-die attitude.
Angel Di Maria saw a goal disallowed for offside early in the second half, and the Paris mood remained tense.
It was PSG’s turn to suffer an injury blow when Julian Draxler sustained a hamstring injury, and his replacement — Thomas Meunier — called De Gea into action as the match reached the closing stages.
Bernat then hit the woodwork as the visitors tired, but their spirit was unbowed. Knowing his side had to score to progress, interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave another youngster, Tahith Chong, his European debut.
Then another as 17-year-old Mason Greenwood entered the fray.
As the clock ticked over the 90, Diogo Dalot’s speculative shot struck Presnel Kimpembe on the arm, and Slovenian referee Damir Skomina consulted VAR.
After the awarding of a spot-kick and much provocation from home players, Rashford kept his composure and drilled the penalty into the roof of the net in the 94th minute.
De Gea saved a shot again as United held firm during nine minutes of stoppage time, and the home players fell to the floor in disbelief as the final whistle sounded. Meanwhile, United players sprinted across to the corner to celebrate an extraordinary victory with their fans.
It was quite a night.
Solskjær has won all nine of his away games as United manager.
Mason Greenwood became the youngest player to appear for United in the Champions League, aged 17 years and 156 days, breaking the record held by Gerard Pique (17y 310d).
Mbappe has four assists in this season’s Champions League – more than any other player.
PSG had not conceded two goals in the first half of a European tie since playing Bayern Munich in 1997.
This was Manchester United’s first away victory in a Champions League knockout tie since a semi-final victory over Schalke (2-0), in April 2011.
PSG have lost just two of their last 17 Champions League games at home, and that defeat came in the last 16 last season against Real Madrid (1-2).
PSG have scored 36 goals in their last 11 Champions League home games but haven’t kept a clean sheet in each of the last six.
Paris St Germain now have nearly a week to prepare for a visit to second-from-bottom Dijon in Ligue 1 – a side they defeated 8-0 last season and 3-0 in the French Cup last week.
It’s then Marseille at home on March 17 before a visit to Toulouse on March 31 following the international break.
Manchester United travel to Arsenal in the Premier League this weekend and then visit Wolves in the FA Cup quarter-finals to complete a trio of successive away matches.
Following the international break, they entertain Watford at Old Trafford on March 30.
The draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League will be held a week later on Friday (March 16) with no obvious clear favourites this time around.
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