PSG 1 Manchester United 3 [3-3 on aggregate, United win on away goals]
What a week for the Champions League! Twenty-four hours after Ajax pulled off a miracle in Madrid, it was the turn of Manchester United to produce another one with a pearler of a performance on the road.
The Red Devils overturned a 2-0 deficit from the first leg to beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in the French capital. A sensational 94th-minute penalty by Marcus Rashford saw them progress on away goals as the French champions endured another hellish night of Champions League football.
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One can have a little sympathy for PSG, who yet again collapsed when the going got tough in Europe. They may be 17 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 but their domestic league just doesn’t condition them for the knockout phase of the Champions League.
Not so United, who long ago gave up dreams of winning the Premier League title this season, but who under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have harnessed the mental fortitude that comes with playing in the world’s most competitive domestic league.
It took them two minutes to reduce PSG’s first leg lead as Romelu Lukaku ran on to Thilo Kehrer’s careless back-pass to fire home from a tight angle. PSG recovered to level (and go 3-1 ahead on aggregate) when Juan Bernat tapped in Kylian Mbappe’s cross, but a howler from PSG keeper Gianluigi Buffon gifted a second goal to Lukaku before the break, when he spilled a routine shot from Rashford into the striker’s path.
That’s how the score stayed until stoppage time when Diogo Dalot’s strike hit the arm of Presnel Kimpembe in the PSG area. Penalty, adjudged referee Damir Skomina eventually, after consulting his pitchside monitor. And as the Parc des Princes shook to the sound of 50,000 whistling Parisians, Rashford smashed the perfect spot-kick above the reach of the despairing Buffon. It was the first penalty that the 21-year-old has taken in a competitive match for United.
For United, restricted to just 27.6% possession, the result will be remembered as one of the greatest nights in their long and proud history. The victory is the first time in Champions League and European Cup history that a side has overcome a 2-0 or greater home first-leg deficit, and United achieved the feat with ten first-team players sidelined through injury or suspension.
So shorn of players were United that 17-year-old Mason Greenwood appeared late on to make his first-team debut while 19-year-old Tahith Chong also came off the bench for his first Champions League appearance. The pair won’t forget 6 March 2019 in a hurry.
Nor will the PSG players, who slumped to the ground stunned at the final whistle, devastated by yet another Champions League deja vu.
How they reacted to the United comeback
Neymar: “How can it be a handball when it hits his back. This is a disgrace, they put four people that know nothing about football in charge of looking at the replay for VAR. There is no penalty.”
Front page of L’Equipe: The Nightmare
Rio Ferdinand: “Ole has brought belief back to this team. People were doubting Lukaku - he’s one of many who has been given a new lease of life.”
Eric Cantona: “I love it. I am so happy. I am so happy.”
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