Lionel Messi's star-studded Paris side fell to a punishing Champions League defeat, proving once again that a team full of world beaters isn't always the answer
- Paris Saint-Germain possesses the most formidable attack in club soccer's recent history
- Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe are otherworldly talents, but they cannot hide PSG's failings.
- The French side was completely outplayed by Manchester City on Wednesday night.
Paris Saint-Germain's poor Champions League form continued on Wednesday night as it was put to the sword by a brilliant Manchester City side which emerged as 2-1 victors at the Etihad Stadium.
Kylian Mbappe had put the star-studded visitor in front just after half-time when he swept home Lionel Messi's deflected pass.
But Raheem Sterling soon equalized for the home side before Gabriel Jesus prodded home a well deserved winner in the 76th minute.
—Gabriel Jesus (@gabrieljesus9) November 24, 2021
The defeat for PSG means it has now won just two of its five Champions League matches this season, having already drawn with Belgian also-rans Club Brugge and Germany's RB Leipzig.
Despite its poor form, however, the Ligue 1 giant still qualified for the tournament's knockout stages on the night courtesy of Leipzig's 5-0 win against Brugge, which means Mauricio Pochettino's side can no longer be overtaken in second place in Group A.
"A bit disappointed but the qualification is there. We wanted to be first so yes disappointed about that," Pochettino said after the match.
Captain Marquinhos added: "The second place is assured and it's true that we wanted first place for the advantages that follow.
"But it doesn't change much, the Champions League it's that, you've got to know how to play against the big teams and no matter the opposition it'll be a hard game."
City show the power of the collective in victory
PSG has long been the dominant force in French soccer, winning eight of the last 10 Ligue 1 titles, but it has yet to translate that domestic success onto the European stage.
After reaching the semifinals last season, the Qatari-owned club went on a summer signing spree in the hope of going the whole way this season.
On top of signings of Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Nuno Mendes, PSG also secured arguably the biggest transfer of all-time – acquiring Lionel Messi from FC Barcelona.
Messi was expected to form part of the most terrifying front three in modern soccer history, starting alongside Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.
However, for all its individual power, PSG was no match for Pep Guardiola's superbly coherent Manchester City team.
For long periods of the match City wreaked havoc on PSG's defense, creating horde of chances, which were either spurned or saved by goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
At the other end of the pitch, PSG's attacking stars were mostly ambling around, waiting for their moment to pounce and steal the headlines.
—Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) November 24, 2021
At times, the trio of Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe were scintillating – most notably for the opening goal when all three combined.
Those few and far between moments of brilliance counted for little, however, when the rest of the match they were acting as a separate entity from the rest of the team.
Pochettino, who has been linked with the vacant managerial job at Manchester United, will be expected to win the Champions League this year by PSG's owners, especially given the summer's hefty investments.
Getting Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe to put in a shift defensively on top of dazzling in the final third will be key if that's to happen, but based on Wednesday's performance, it's unlikely.
After the match, France legend Thierry Henry said on CBS Sports: "If you want to win the Champions League, you cannot defend with seven players.
"It is impossible, I don't care who you are."