Paris: Manchester City is in a strong position to reach the Champions League semifinal for the first time after Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho's scrappy goal earned a valuable 2-2 draw away to Paris Saint-Germain in an error-strewn quarterfinal first leg on Wednesday.
It was a disappointing result for PSG, which has fallen at the quarterfinal stage in the past three seasons, and coach Laurent Blanc was left to rue his side's sloppy defending and wasteful finishing.
Poor concentration cost both sides, but Fernandinho gave City the edge ahead of next week's second leg, bundling the ball home after a mix-up between right back Serge Aurier and center half Thiago Silva in the 72nd minute.
"What really cost us is that we made mistakes we don't normally make," Blanc said. "We should have taken the lead, but instead they scored against the run of play."
Blanc expects the return leg to be equally open. "I can't see City sitting back and protecting the result," said Blanc, who will be without center half David Luiz and midfielder Blaise Matuidi through suspension.
City struck against the run of play in the 38th minute through Belgium winger Kevin de Bruyne, but a huge mistake from midfielder Fernando gifted PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic an equalizer three minutes later. PSG took the lead when midfielder Adrien Rabiot tapped home in the 59th minute after goalkeeper Joe Hart saved Edison Cavani's glancing header off Angel Di Maria's corner.
"It's absolutely open and we need to have a very good game in Manchester because PSG play at home and away in the same way," City coach Manuel Pellegrini said. "We made important mistakes that we can't do if we want to win the Champions League."
And although Fernando will want to quickly forget his gaffe, Hart was partly to blame by rolling a goal kick to him on the edge the box when he could have played it to one of his fullbacks or kicked it long. It was all far too casual, and Fernando's first touch was too heavy and, as he tried to retrieve the ball, he gifted Ibrahimovic his 39th goal of the season. "It was a terrible first goal to concede," Hart said.
City is playing in its first Champions League quarterfinal, while PSG reached the semifinal once before, back in 1995. "We are making history for this club," Hart said. "Two away goals is great, hopefully we make them count."
The match could perhaps have been billed as a "Gulf Derby" between immensely rich clubs. City is bankrolled by Abu Dhabi investor Sheikh Mansour, a member of the ruling family, while PSG has funding from Qatar Sports Investments. According to Deloitte, the combined revenue of the clubs is nearly one billion euros.
Injury-hit City was missing key defender Vincent Kompany, goal-scoring midfielder Yaya Toure and winger Raheem Sterling, while PSG was without central midfielder Marco Verratti.
With both sides edgy, there were plenty of scrappy fouls, with Luiz shown a yellow card inside first minute for bringing down striker Sergio Aguero. PSG had a penalty claim waved away as center half Eliaquim Mangala came across to steal the ball off Matuidi. But referee Milorad Mazic pointed to the spot in the 12th when right back Bacary Sagna was adjudged to have tripped Luiz. Up stepped the imperiously confident Ibrahimovic, who put four goals past Hart when Sweden beat England 4-2 four years ago. But Hart earned a modicum of payback, refusing to commit early and anticipating Ibrahimovic's spot-kick as he leapt to his right.
After saving Ibrahimovic's tame header moments later, Hart watched with relief as Ibrahimovic missed a great chance. Played clean through by Thiago Motta's superb pass, Ibrahimovic had time to pick his spot from just inside the area but his ambitious curling shot flew over. "(Ibrahimovic) missed a penalty and a great chance so perhaps he can think that it wasn't his night — or ours," Blanc said.
City punished the miss, as PSG midfielder Rabiot failed to control Matuidi's pass and midfielder Fernandinho took the ball off him. Surging forward, he played a pass beyond Luiz and into the path of the fleet-footed de Bruyne, who hit a powerful shot under the body of goalie Kevin Trapp.
PSG deservedly took the lead after dominating the opening 15 minutes of the second half, but may rue not scoring another, with Ibrahimovic heading against the crossbar and Cavani blazing over from the rebound. City took full advantage. Sagna crossed from the right, Aurier poked the ball haplessly toward Silva, who was off-balance and could not clear his lines, allowing the lurking Fernandinho to scuff a priceless goal into the bottom left corner.
First Published On : Apr 7, 2016 09:49 IST