Paris Saint-Germain made it to the Champions League final for the first time in the club’s history with a 3-0 win over German side RB Leipzig in Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz on Tuesday night.
Winning the Champions League has been PSG’s goal since the sovereign funds of Qatar were pumped into the Parisian club close to a decade back.
They have dominated French football since then but the Champions League has remained elusive. They have suffered repeated heartbreaks in the competition.
However, they finally have the opportunity to attain their Holy Grail on Sunday when they take the pitch in the Estadio da Luz in the final where they will face one of Bayern Munich or fellow Ligue 1 outfit Lyon.
#1 PSG finally show some maturity on the big stage
PSG needed two late goals and an unlikely hero in Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to beat Atalanta in the quarter-finals. But the French champions were in complete control from the first minute against their plucky opponents in RB Leipzig.
The early goal from defender Marquinhos settled PSG down and allowed them to play their football while keeping Leipzig at bay. The German side rarely threatened and PSG dominated proceedings and kept a firm grip on the match.
A second goal just before half-time more or less killed the game and made the second half a stroll for the French champions. After the break, RB Leipzig threatened for a while but the third goal from Bernard nipped any semblance of a comeback from the German side in the bud.
It was a performance of a side who are matured and assured about their quality, far away from the PSG teams who regularly bottled big games in the Champions League in the last few years.
#2 Angel di Maria stepped up in a big game
Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are the superstars of the PSG side and the team are built on getting the best out of the duo. But Angel Di Maria is the one who stepped up to the plate when PSG needed one of their creative players to dominate proceedings against Leipzig in Lisbon last night.
His wonderful free-kick found Marquinhos’ head for the first goal and his goal just before half-time deflated RB Leipzig and helped PSG to go into the break 2-0 ahead.
The Argentine was again at hand to produce a brilliant cross from the right flank to find Bernard, who netted PSG’s third in the second half.
Di Maria has often been accused of going missing in big games at PSG but the Argentine stood up on Tuesday night and produced a performance that got his team to the Champions League final.
#3 RB Leipzig and Julian Nagelsmann showed their inexperience
RB Leipzig did well to make it to the semi-finals of the Champions League under their young manager Julian Nagelsmann this season. But on the big stage, their inexperience came to the fore.
Nagelsmann likes his teams to play out from the back but there were early signs that it was a dangerous play against a PSG side who liked to press high and had players in good positions if the German side lost the ball in their half.
An early Kylian Mbappe goal was ruled due to handball on Neymar. Leipzig tried to play out from the back and Peter Gulacsi was closed down by the Brazilian.
It was an early reprieve for Leipzig but the German side didn’t learn. PSG’s second goal was the direct result of RB Leipzig again trying to play out of their defence and Gulacsi’s stray pass was intercepted and two passes later Mbappe found the back of the net.
#4 RB Leipzig missed Timo Werner up front
Timo Werner scored 34 goals in 45 appearances for RB Leipzig this season, including four in eight Champions League games. But he was sold to Chelsea in the middle of their European campaign.
The forward’s absence was felt on the big stage against PSG when Leipzig needed someone up front to keep the Parisian defence honest. Yussuf Poulsen is a lot of things but he is not a number 9 or has the qualities that Werner brought to the team.
The Dane missed a glaring opportunity in one of the very few chances RB Leipzig created in the first half when PSG were still just 1-0 ahead. If his shot had found the back of the net, the game could have been different.
No one could blame Leipzig fans to ponder what could have been had Werner been leading their front line against PSG on Tuesday night.
#5 PSG’s tryst with destiny
The investment into PSG over the last decade has all been about winning the Champions League. They are aware that they could win Ligue 1 playing on the second gear given the gap that exists between them and the rest of the league in terms of resources and quality of squads.
But winning the Champions League has been the ultimate dream. All the money spent, the transfer records broken to sign Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are driven towards one goal – lifting the most cherished trophy in club football.
The shocking loss to Barcelona after winning the first leg 4-0 at home and the daylight mugging by Manchester United last season at the Parc des Princes were wounds that cut deep at PSG.
But they have eventually made it to the Champions League final and they are now 90 minutes (or 120 minutes and a penalty shootout) away from achieving something that the club owners believe has been their destiny since they transformed the club nearly a decade back.
Can PSG show their bottle in the final? The answer will be provided on Sunday.
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