Dubai: With a mouth-watering front three of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe, you would be forgiven for thinking that Paris Saint-Germain plundered in the bulk of the 28 goals that were scored in Wednesday night’s Champions League fixtures. However, the world’s most lavishly-assembled strike force bagged exactly… none.
PSG were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Club Bruges on a night when Man City, who are in the same group, smashed 6 past RB Leipzig in Pep Guardiola’s 300th match in charge. There were loads of goals elsewhere too as Ajax scored 5 against Sporting Lisbon while Liverpool put 3 past AC Milan, so, what went wrong with the Ligue 1 giants?
Following the arrival of the former Barcelona ace, PSG are now expected to tear teams apart at will. People think they’ll wrack up cricket scores and that the titles will start flowing - but it doesn’t always work like that. With so many top class players to choose from, it will take time for PSG to get the balance right but you can expect the pressure to grow with every misplaced pass or tame effort at goal as was witnessed at the Jan Breydel Stadium.
The trio will need several more games to get up to speed with each other’s styles of play and I have no doubt that we will see flashes of brilliance from them. But last night, Messi – in his 150th Champions League game – struggled to make a serious impact and even found his way into the referee’s book for a foul. PSG took the lead through Herrera in a dull first 45 with the blockbuster cast misfiring and coach Pochettino split them up in the second period with the injured Mbappe replaced, but the closest Messi, six-time Ballon d’Or winner and scorer of 120 goals in this competition, came to rippling the net was when his effort came back off the crossbar. He’s won 4 European titles, 10 La Ligas and a Copa America but he couldn’t do anything to unlock the Bruges backline which dug deep and defended resolutely. Some felt it would be difficult for the 34-year to make an impact in Ligue 1 having given his all for his boyhood club in La Liga and on this evidence, that me be the case. But, as we know, class is permanent and form is temporary.
City hit six
Meanwhile, City sent out a defiant message 109 days after that painful defeat against Chelsea by roaring out of the blocks against Leipzig. Not only did they get six goals but they were scored by six different players too. Jack Grealish, the new £100 million man, got the best of the lot on his Champions League debut when he cut inside from the left before curling home and raise the roof at the Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool v AC Milan is the fixture that keeps on giving and the two just don’t know the meaning of a dull 0-0 when they meet. Nobody will forget that 2005 final when Liverpool roared back from 3 goals down to win the tournament on penalties before the Italians got their revenge in 2007 in another gripping final and on Wednesday, Anfield witnessed yet another classic. Jurgen Klopp’s side took the lead before missing a penalty and it got worse as they conceded two late first half goals. But they drew level early in the second period before Henderson’s fabulous half-volley sealed the win.
Former West Ham striker Sebastien Haller made an incredible Champions League debut by netting 4 of Ajax’s 5 goals while on the previous night we saw Bayern Munich thrash Barcelona 3-0 and Juventus also hit 3 against Malmo. Literally everyone but PSG did great and as a neutral, I want to see Messi, Neymar and Mbappe pick teams apart with their pace and skill. Although we didn’t get that in their first game together, I’m sure it won’t be long before they are firing on all cylinders.