Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 Borussia Dortmund (3-2 agg): Neymar helps book QF spot at empty Parc des Princes

By Sports Desk March 11, 2020

Paris Saint-Germain did not let a lack of support derail their performance as they defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-0 to seal a 3-2 aggregate win en route to the Champions League quarter-finals.

With Wednesday's clash at Parc des Princes played behind closed doors amid fears over the spread of coronavirus, PSG overturned a 2-1 opening-leg deficit to progress to the last eight for the first time since 2016.

Neymar got Thomas Tuchel's side started in the 28th minute, capping an impressive display with a diving header from point-blank range, before Juan Bernat doubled PSG's tally.

And with Dortmund toiling to claw their way back into proceedings, their frustrations were compounded in the closing stages – Emre Can seeing red for becoming embroiled in an off-field scuffle as Lucien Favre's side dropped out with a whimper.

With thousands of fans making their voices heard outside Parc des Princes, it was Dortmund who went close to a breakthrough against the run of play – Erling Haaland inches away from connecting with Achraf Hakimi's cross.

It was PSG's turn to rue a glorious chance in the 25th minute – Edinson Cavani racing through on goal only for Roman Burki to make a superb save with his right foot.

But Burki was beaten three minutes later, Neymar left unmarked in the six-yard box to head in from Angel Di Maria's corner.

Jadon Sancho tested Keylor Navas as Dortmund looked to respond, yet PSG turned the tie further in their favour on the stroke of half-time when Bernat diverted home.

Di Maria's long-range free-kick had Burki lunging to his right nine minutes after the restart, before Tuchel introduced Kylian Mbappe, who had been a doubt due to a throat infection.

Dortmund substitute Julian Brandt had more of an impact, though his deflected strike onto the roof of the net was the closest the visitors came to keeping themselves in the competition before Can's red card for violent conduct all but ended their slim hopes.

 

What does it mean? PSG end last-16 hoodoo

It has been four years since the Ligue 1 giants made it into the quarters of the Champions League, having succumbed to turnaround defeats to Barcelona and Manchester United in two of the last three campaigns. 

However, now they have completed a comeback of their own, perhaps they are finally ready to launch a real onslaught on the competition.

Neymar's time finally set to come?

With Mbappe only passed fit enough to start on the bench, Neymar – who has suffered untimely injuries at this time in each of his previous two seasons at PSG – came to the fore in style on Wednesday, inspiring the French champions with his header and running the play in general for the home side.

Haaland kept under wraps

There was no doubt that, with his two goals, Haaland was the star of the first leg. However, he was nowhere near as effective this time around, with Dortmund unable to provide their front man with any service as his extraordinary run in the Champions League came to an end.

What's next?

PSG will face Nice in Ligue 1 on Sunday, though of course no fans will be in attendance. Likewise, there will be no crowd at Signal Iduna Park for Saturday's Revierderby between Dortmund and Schalke.

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    City endured a tough start to the campaign but have since won 11 games in succession in all competitions, most recently blowing the struggling Baggies away with four first-half goals on Tuesday.

    That victory was enough to take Guardiola's team to the top of the table, although Manchester United could reclaim first place by beating Sheffield United on Wednesday. City would then have a game in hand.

    This back-and-forth does not yet concern Guardiola at the season's midway stage, however.

    "The last thing I'm thinking about is the table," said the City manager. "Now I want to come back home safe, have a few days off and then Sheffield United. That's my only concern.

    "Today just finished the first leg – we have still 19 games, an incredible marathon. We are going to drop points, we are going to lose games.

    "What is important is, whatever happens, be calm – like we were when we were 12th in the table.

    "We have to understand why we didn't win a game and immediately win the next one. This is my only concern."

    City are the ninth different team to end a day top of the pile this term, a statistic that prompted Guardiola to respond: "This is the Premier League. Welcome, this is the Premier League.

    "It's so tough. You see the teams up front, then look at West Ham and the incredible season they're doing, Leicester look unbeatable, and the other teams.

    "It's so tough, so tough for everyone, and every game is complicated.

    "It's important we have a good run and say, 'Okay, this is the reason why we are here, now the next one'."

    City moved ahead of United despite missing Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero at West Brom, with Ilkay Gundogan taking centre stage with a brace before the break.

    The midfielder has scored seven league goals since December 15, making this the most productive season of his career.

    Guardiola previously described Gundogan as "one of Europe's best players" and insists the Germany international is still performing at the same level, even if his goal rush is garnering greater attention.

    "Sometimes you have to score goals to get the recognition as a football player that he was all the time," Guardiola said of his number eight, who also created a single chance, made a tackle and an interception and won all five of his duels.

    "He's an exceptional human being, first of all – I know his parents, I understand why – and he's my neighbour, so we have a connection. And he's an outstanding player.

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    Gundogan has never started more than 23 games in a Premier League campaign but has always retained Guardiola's backing.

    "I would say improvement is not the case," he said.

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    Pep Guardiola could understand West Brom's frustration after Manchester City benefited from a marginal offside call in their 5-0 win at The Hawthorns on Tuesday.

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    "I can understand [West Brom being unhappy]," the City manager told BT Sport. "Now with VAR, in these situations, you have to follow the actions until the end.

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    West Brom were outclassed regardless of that call and have now conceded 29 home league goals this season, the most in Europe's top five leagues.

    Of those, 22 have come in their past five matches at The Hawthorns, with Aston Villa in December 1935 the last team to ship as many over a five-game home stretch in England's top flight.

    This was despite City playing without key men Kevin De Bruyne – out for up to six weeks – and Sergio Aguero, who is recovering from coronavirus.

    After Gundogan's brace and Cancelo's controversial strike secured a three-goal lead inside half an hour, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling added to City's advantage either side of half-time.

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    "If you play good and everybody's involved in attack and defence and everybody can arrive and everybody can be in the position, everybody is able to score," he said.

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    Pep Guardiola's side stretched their winning run to 11 straight matches in all competitions on Tuesday, a sequence that has again seen City emerge at the forefront of the title picture after a rocky start to the campaign.

    West Brom, then under Slaven Bilic, had been the last team to stop City winning when these teams met in mid-December, but Sam Allardyce's side were completely outclassed at The Hawthorns despite the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, the injured PFA Players' Player of the Year winner.

    Joao Cancelo's first Premier League goal separated a first-half Gundogan double, which Riyad Mahrez and stand-in captain Raheem Sterling added to either side of the break.

    West Brom's best spell came in the opening two minutes as City were penned in under an aerial barrage before countering through Phil Foden, whose low deflected shot was touched onto the post by Sam Johnstone.

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    The goalkeeper was then left awfully exposed for the second as West Brom defenders appeared to stop playing when Bernardo Silva was flagged offside. Cancelo had time and space to pick out the top-left corner with a gorgeous finish and the offside decision was overturned following a VAR review, meaning the goal stood.

    Gundogan pinched the ball from Romaine Sawyers and slid a left-footed effort beyond Johnstone before the half-hour mark, and it was 4-0 heading into half-time as Mahrez moved inside from the right and lashed past the keeper.

    The same pattern of play continued following the restart and, although Rodri's blast clipped the crossbar, City only had to wait until the 57th minute for Sterling to turn in Mahrez's first-time cross, finally then easing up slightly to spare their struggling hosts further punishment.


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    In leapfrogging rivals Manchester United, who play Sheffield United on Wednesday but will grant City a game in hand, Guardiola's men became the ninth team to lead the table at the end of a day this season.

    If City can maintain this high standard, though, the run-in might be a little more predictable. Even without De Bruyne, the four-time Premier League winners look back to their very best.

    Ilkay in top form

    City will surely miss De Bruyne as he faces up to six weeks out, but they have now won both of their league matches without their talisman this season, scoring six and conceding none.

    His absence on Tuesday allowed those stars who have made up the supporting cast in recent weeks to come to the fore, including Gundogan.

    The Germany midfielder now has seven league goals this term - the first of which came in the previous West Brom clash, kickstarting a superb spell - to make this his best ever scoring season.

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    Neither the officials nor the West Brom defenders came out of City's second goal well.

    Sian Massey-Ellis correctly initially kept her flag down despite believing Silva was offside but then inexplicably indicated for the decision when City were still on the attack inside the area.

    But the whistle did not blow until the ball hit the net and there was little excuse for West Brom's static defending, their porous back line now having conceded 29 home goals - more than any other team in Europe's 'top five' leagues - after the five here.

    What's next?

    City will hope to run up another handsome total at home to basement side Sheffield United on Saturday. West Brom have a huge clash with Fulham, where they will aim to end a five-game losing run at home.

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