Man City leave PSG with advantage after mistakes dictate UCL quarterfinal
PARIS -- Three quick thoughts from the 2-2 draw between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City in their Champions League quarterfinal first leg at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.
1. Mistakes dictate outcome
Advantage Manchester City, but only after they took advantage of the last of an enjoyably chaotic game's many errors. Fernandinho capitalised on poor PSG defending to score a 72nd-minute equaliser and claim a 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes; that means the French side must score at the Etihad to go through.
More than one goal in that game looks likely, because another series of errors looks likely too. It was the remarkable thing about this match. After all the pregame buildup surrounding all the oil money these two teams have, how they've spent that money and how one of them will finally move onto a new level by reaching the Champions League semifinals for the first time under new regimes, the actual level of the match was very low given the stage we're at.
That made for great entertainment, but entertainment characterised by errors more than excellence. The indication right now is that neither of these sides will win the Champions League this season.
Here, almost every goal scorer and key contributor, bar the excellent Kevin De Bruyne, also made a key mistake. Just follow the thread of the game; the errors come like punches.
David Luiz was booked after 14 seconds to put himself out of the second leg but then won a 14th-minute penalty through his guile. Zlatan Ibrahimovic stepped up to take it, only for Joe Hart to step up and save it.
Luiz and Blaise Matuidi then got themselves in a mess to allow De Bruyne to score a supreme angled finish on 38 minutes. That came from the fine work of Fernando, only for the Brazilian to commit the match's worst error by sluggishly taking Hart's goal kick, ignoring the goalkeeper's instructions to play it to the right, and allowing Ibrahimovic to atone for his errors with the easiest goal he'll ever score.
Hart could have moved quicker himself, but it was lamentable how quickly City had given up the initiative ... only for PSG to then do the same. Adrien Rabiot finally put the French side ahead after poor marking in the City box, before Laurent Blanc's team made the same error to let Fernandinho scuff the ball in to the net.
It was that kind of game. It is that kind of tie. It is likely to be more of the same in the second leg, and that makes it hard to predict.
The only thing we know now is that PSG must score. Both teams need to stop making such mistakes.
2. PSG will need more from Ibrahimovic to reach semis
For most of the first half, Ibrahimovic didn't do too much that he'd want to put on his Instagram feed. Yet, after an initial performance that would have brought far more testing questions than that which he asked himself in a humorous pregame interview, he at least offered the ideal response.
Ibrahimovic scored the equaliser that also ensured PSG at least weren't beaten. Granted, it came from two of the few mistakes in the match that had been worse than his series of errors prior to then.
It had not been his finest performance up to that point, and that seemed all the more symbolic and significant given that Les Parisiens are on the brink of the Champions League semifinal they have so long craved.
First off, Ibrahimovic hit a penalty that wasn't terrible but was easy to read, allowing Hart to so impressively get down to save. He then missed a one-on-one that was arguably worse than that, as he appeared to size the goalkeeper up before ploughing the ball badly over the bar with the kind of errant effort that you just wouldn't associate with the Swede.
The fact that he tried an ambitious through-ball to no one in between those two misses seemed to reflect a player trying to overcompensate for his first big error -- and thereby trying to be too elaborate.
It was oddly fitting, then, that his eventual goal came from one of the most basic occurrences in football. He put pressure on his man to take advantage of Hart's sloppy distribution and Fernando's nonchalance in front of his own goal.
Thereafter, Ibrahimovic looked someway close to his best. He was turning City defenders this way and that and offering good touches again, as well as more of the reasons why Manchester United are said to want him.
Ultimately, for all his errors, it wasn't his fault that PSG will go to the Etihad needing a goal to go through. All of that probably sums up two factors.
First of all, Ibrahimovic probably isn't as good as he talks himself up to be and his Champions League history remains unfulfilling, but he still remains a genuinely world-class player. Secondly, there is a reason he still dominates so much of PSG's identity. This overall performance showed they are still lacking in so many areas.
They'll need more from him in the return as a consequence.
3. De Bruyne breathes life into Man City
For all the pregame talk of the superiority of PSG's project over City's and how the Manchester club have not spent wisely in the past few windows, one of the most influential players on the pitch -- and one of the very few not to make any errors -- was also Manuel Pellegrini's most recent signing: the exceptional De Bruyne.
The Belgian gave a 90-minute case study in what his club have been missing for the past three months. One of the reasons that City have looked so sluggish and flat for so long is because they've been missing the player they expressly signed to give them some explosiveness and directness through injury.
Those qualities were seen in abundance in that supreme first goal. De Bruyne pounced on an opportunity and finished with a precision and suddenness that no one in the City side, other than Sergio Aguero, has been able to of late.
That is really what Pellegrini has been missing. That has been as much of a factor in their recent slump as the news that Pep Guardiola will be replacing the Chilean in the summer.
City lacked sufficient players to transform a moment, and a match, in an instant. This is what De Bruyne offers. He also offers an outlet that allowed City's counterattacking game, in spite of some poor defending, to just about work. He is also a big reason why they have come away with the advantage in Paris.
With De Bruyne in the XI, City are a different side to the outfit whose form brought so many downbeat predictions before this game.
Miguel Delaney covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MiguelDelaney.