Man City secures first place, PSG progresses to knockout stages despite defeat

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Paris Saint-Germain face a potentially dangerous draw in the Champions League round of 16 after Manchester City clinched top spot in Group A with a 2-1 win over the star-studded French side on Wednesday.

Kylian Mbappé put PSG in front against the streak of the game at the Etihad within five minutes of the second half.

But City pressure finally paid off when goals from Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus turned the game around for the English champions.

PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino had to answer questions in his pre-match press conference about whether he might be making a permanent move to Manchester to take over the vacant managerial position at United.

“The players know our situation very well. We are living in a business where there are rumors, sometimes positive, sometimes negative,” said Pochettino on whether the speculation had affected his team.

The Argentine’s first year in the French capital has been far from easy despite an 11-point lead at the top of Ligue 1.

The arrival of Lionel Messi to form a fearsome front three alongside Mbappé and Neymar has raised expectations for Pochettino to deliver a first Champions League crown to Paris.

But now they could face champions like Chelsea, Bayern Munich or Liverpool in the round of 16.

The blessing and curse of the talented trio of strikers at Pochettino’s disposal was in evidence, as the visitors were largely outclassed in midfield.

“We have to improve,” added Pochettino. “I’m happy in the process. Things are better than a month ago and much better than two months ago. Little by little the team is improving.”

Clash of styles

The City’s collective cohesion had the best of the clash of styles, but lacked the clinical advantage that PSG’s Galacticos offered.

Presnel Kimpembe cleared Rodri’s header off the line before Achraf Hakimi did the same to deflect Riyad Mahrez’s shot that was destined for the top corner over the crossbar.

Despite lacking the midfielder trio of Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, City continued to create opportunities at will as Messi, Neymar and Mbappé did little to help their teammates defend.

Ilkay Gundogan had the hosts’ best chance before the break, but his curling effort slammed into the post.

Mbappé showed the hosts how it should be done five minutes after the break as he punched through Ederson’s legs from a deflected Messi cross.

But the pattern of the game remained unchanged as City charged forward and finally found a way.

“We were 1-0 down and we had to continue,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “A big compliment and congratulations to the players.”

Kyle Walker’s cross slipped past Jesus, but he gently rolled for Sterling to score his fourth goal of the season at the back post.

Pochettino responded by introducing Ángel Di María to add to his attacking trident and gave Neymar a great opportunity to restore PSG’s lead, only for the Brazilian to open with only his international teammate Ederson to win.

Moments later, another skillful move from City’s team created a well deserved winner.

A Mahrez cross to the back post caught Bernardo Silva, who nonchalantly swung the ball into Jesus’ path for a calm fit.

“We have a lot of players who can help the team. They all want to give good balls to other players,” Jesus said, summarizing the difference between the sides. “Nobody is selfish.”

The victory gives City an impregnable four-point lead at the top of the section with just one game to play.

But RB Leipzig’s 5-0 win over Club Brugge means that PSG are also guaranteed to move to second place.

(AFP)