The first round-up from this week’s Champions League matches including Paris St Germain beating Manchester United at Old Trafford, and Roma beating Porto at the Stadio Olimpico.
Football is as fickle as a flamingo living in Frome.
We saw how fickle at Old Trafford, last night.
When Manchester United drew Paris St Germain (PSG) in the Round of 16 of the Champions League, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the then boss of Molde, watched the draw at home with his son.
Fast forward a few months, and Solskjaer took charge of that match, full of confidence after HIS team had gone on an 11-match unbeaten run of which ten were wins.
On that form, Man Utd was more than capable of inflicting damage upon the Parisian princes, and that’s before you factor in the loss of Neymar Jr and Edinson Cavani through injury.
The crowd were expectant.
Old Trafford, so often a cesspool under Jose Mourinho, turned into a cauldron, helped by the topless partisan Parisiens lighting fireworks in a fervent corner of the ground.
Most people in the media called what happened next ‘a reality check.’ Gianluigi Buffon, who so that old, neither Marcus Rashford nor Kylian Mbappe were born when he played his first Champions League game, could have played with his eyes closed.
At the other end, Thomas Tuchel’s side made United look like a petty obstacle, bearing down on goal at will with United old boy Angel Di Maria the architect of much of the threat.
PSG should have gone into the half time break a goal up after Julian Draxler found Mbappe six yards from goal with a peach of a pass, but the 20-year-old shot wide with David De Gea closing down his options.
Then a blow for United as both Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial limped off through injury. Juan Mata and Alexis Sanchez replaced them, and ‘ineffective’ is too weak a word to describe either player’s contribution. Sanchez was incredibly weak, and as the United faithful threw beer bottles and coins at Di Maria (for his lack of effort while at the club), the Chilean seems destined to receive the same frustrated lobs when he inevitably returns as an opponent some time soon.
Eight minutes after half time, and Di Maria, fuelled by the hate he was getting from the fans, curled in a cracking corner, and Presnel Kimpembe sneaked in far too easily at the far stick to volley home from close range.
PSG had scored an away goal.
Seven minutes later; they had two.
Once again Di Maria was the man loading the bullets as he made Ashley Young look like a tortoise down the left before crossing for an onrushing Mbappe arriving before Eric Bailly or Victor Lindelof to finish with aplomb.
PSG controlled the game from that point onward.
United looked short on ideas both on and off the pitch with Solskjaer waiting until the 82nd minute before introducing Romelu Lukaku, and even then it was too replace Rashford.
Then as time was running out, a frustrated Paul Pogba caught Dani Alves with a high challenge, and the referee sent him off for his second bookable place. The Frenchman will now miss the second leg.
So what next?
Solksjaer believes United still have a chance.
“If we can get to half time a goal up who knows?”
Without Pogba, and with PSG playing this good, it’s a tall order.
Too tall for this side.
In the night’s other game, Roma beat Porto 2-1 with Nicolo Zaniolo scoring twice in six minutes late in the second half. Adrian Lopez gave Porto hope with a vital away goal.
Roma 2 v 1 Porto
Man Utd 0 v 2 PSG
To Be Played
Spurs v Dortmund
Ajax v Real Madrid
Lyon v Barcelona
Liverpool v Bayern Munich
Atlético Madrid v Juventus
Schalke v Man City