Champions League: PSG avoids embarrassing exit after beating Liverpool

Paris Saint-Germain faced the possibility of an embarrassing exit in the Champions League but instead it is ...

Posted: Nov 29, 2018 8:29 AM
Updated: Nov 29, 2018 8:29 AM

Paris Saint-Germain faced the possibility of an embarrassing exit in the Champions League but instead it is last season's finalist Liverpool on the brink of elimination after a 2-1 defeat on a star-studded night in the French capital.

PSG has yet to bag European football's top club prize despite boasting the world's two most expensive players in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and spending more than $1 billion overall on transfers since being taken over by Qatari backers in 2011.

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The runaway Ligue 1 leaders, though, produced a fine display just when they needed to.

"It was tiring but most important, it's that we truly played like a team today," PSG captain Thiago Silva was quoted as saying by L'Equipe. "The atmosphere was fantastic. We worked to win this match as it would have been complicated if it wasn't the case.

"We are all happy with the win of course but the way we played was fantastic."

Besides the famous footballers on display, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and rocker Mick Jagger took in proceedings, too, at the Parc des Princes and the result ensured PSG avoided the fate of the Titanic.

It was Neymar who scored PSG's second in the 37th minute after the Brazilian initially sped away on a superb counter attack.

Read: Petrol bombs, flares thrown in AEK's stadium

Marco Verratti ran the show for the hosts in the opening stages and contributed to Juan Bernat's 13th minute opener which set PSG on its way.

When James Milner replied from the penalty spot in first-half injury time, Liverpool might have thought a comeback was on the cards. Such goals at the end of halves after all can often change the complexion.

Must win for Liverpool now

But it didn't happen and Liverpool must now beat Group C leaders Napoli 1-0 or by two clear goals on the final match day next month at home to progress to the knockout phase if PSG downs last-place Red Star Belgrade.

Napoli leads on nine points, with PSG on eight and Liverpool six.

"Now we have to use Anfield one more time," Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told BT Sport. "We are calling Anfield and we'll see what happens."

Perhaps the result shouldn't have come as a surprise. PSG hadn't lost at home all season while the Reds were winless away in the Champions League without even scoring a goal.

PSG came out flying, pinning Liverpool inside its own half for most of the first 20 minutes. Liverpool's potent front three of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino barely had a touch.

Verratti, meanwhile, enjoyed plenty of space in midfield, although the Italian could have seen red for a challenge on Joe Gomez in the 25th minute. Especially in that first half, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson struggled to cope.

"The start was like we expected, it was wild, it was intense, they took all the risks," said Klopp. "When a game starts like that it's quite difficult to gain confidence. We never got 100% to our game."

Mbappe played a part in both PSG goals, his runs on the left and low crosses causing havoc. He set up Edinson Cavani perfectly and when Alisson denied the Uruguayan, Neymar was there to put in the rebound.

Angel di Maria tripped a surging Mane in the box, allowing Milner to narrow the deficit.

PSG, however, stayed on the front foot despite an improvement from Liverpool in the second half.

More pressure from PSG

Defender Marquinhos saw a goal ruled out for offside from a free kick in the 47th minute and his thumping header from a corner kick was kept out by his fellow Brazilian Alisson in the 70th.

Ten minutes later Neymar's dazzling turn bamboozled Joe Gomez in the Liverpool box, only for Virgil van Dijk to finally stop the former Barcelona forward.

Read: Liverpool left red-faced by Red Star

Read: Was Ronaldo's bicycle kick greatest goal ever?

In the 90 minutes -- plus five minutes of added time -- Liverpool registered a mere seven shots and only one on target.

Klopp's side will need to rediscover their form in front of goal against Napoli -- which beat Red Star 3-1 -- to advance to the round of 16.

Only four places remain in the second round, with Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Porto and Schalke moving on Wednesday to join the already qualified Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Roma, Juventus and Manchester United.

Lionel Messi scored his 66th goal in his 66th group stage game as Barcelona edged PSV 2-1 away to win Group B. Second place is still on offer after Tottenham edged Inter Milan in London 1-0 thanks to a late Christian Eriksen strike.

Tottenham has pulled off two big wins in a matter of days -- outclassing Chelsea in the English Premier League last weekend -- with the North London derby on the horizon but faces a huge uphill task to qualify, bigger than Liverpool even.

Tottenham still in it

Tied with Inter on seven points, Tottenham travels to Barcelona while Inter hosts winless PSV on the final match day.

"We have big respect for Barcelona," Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino told reporters. "Barcelona is one of the best teams in Europe, and of course they have unbelievable players. It will be such a tough game. But we have belief that we can win."

Elsewhere, Koke scored Atletico Madrid's fastest ever Champions League goal -- within two minutes -- in a 2-0 win over slumping Monaco in Group A.

Atletico won the Europa League last season and will be hoping to bag the bigger European prize this campaign after suffering two heartbreaking final defeats to city rivals Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016.

Thierry Henry won his first game as Monaco manager last weekend but it was temporary respite as the 2004 finalist lost for the fifth time in eight matches under the Frenchman. Summing up Monaco's misery was Radamel Falcao's penalty miss against his former team.

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