Sunday, August 1, 2021

UCL: PSG, Chelsea book semi-final spots

Paris Saint-Germain knocked holders Bayern Munich out of the Champions League on Tuesday despite Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scoring against his old club as a 1-0 defeat in the second leg at the Parc des Princes could not prevent the French giants from winning a tremendous quarter-final tie on away goals.

Neymar twice hit the woodwork for PSG in the first half and Choupo-Moting then put Bayern in front five minutes before the break.

But the reigning European champions could not get the second goal they needed after losing 3-2 at home in the first leg last week.

Hansi Flick’s team are out, and PSG have revenge following their 1-0 defeat in last season’s final in Lisbon.

The dream of winning a first European Cup remains alive for the Qatar-owned club and Mauricio Pochettino’s team, who had already eliminated Barcelona in the last 16, can now look forward to a semi-final showdown with Manchester City or Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern will have to console themselves with trying to win a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title, and will wonder what might have been had the prolific Robert Lewandowski, or Serge Gnabry, been available for the two legs of this tie.

The future of Flick will come back into focus, too, given his frosty relationship with the club’s sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic.

Yet Bayern more than played their part in an epic tie that will live long in the memory and that deserved to be played before a full house both in Munich and here.

•PHOTO: From L; Paris Saint-Germain’s French defender Presnel Kimpembe, Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian midfielder Leandro Paredes, Paris Saint-Germain’s Senegalese midfielder Idrissa Gueye and Paris Saint-Germain’s German midfielder Julian Draxler celebrate after winning the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and FC Bayern Munich at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on April 13, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

They were also without influential midfielder Leon Goretzka for this second leg, and they had next to no Champions League experience on their bench either.

Their starting line-up was still impressive, and with Thomas Mueller leading from the front and co-ordinating their suffocating press, Bayern took the game to their hosts throughout.

That suited PSG, who have produced their best performances this season away from home and could look to hit the Germans on the break with the devastating pace of Kylian Mbappe.

UCL: Chelsea Book Semi-Final Spot Despite Late Scare; PSG Knock Out Bayern

Elsewhere on the night, Chelsea reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2014 despite a 1-0 defeat against Porto in the quarter-final second leg in Seville.

Thomas Tuchel’s side will play Real Madrid or Liverpool for a place in the final after producing a masterclass in game management to win 2-1 on aggregate.

Real travel to Anfield on Wednesday looking to protect a 3-1 lead from the first leg.

They could do worse than copy Tuchel’s tactics as Chelsea smothered Porto with an intelligent defensive approach until Mehdi Taremi’s stunning bicycle kick in the last minute of stoppage-time.

That sublime strike was out of character with the rest of Porto’s display as they laboured to overturn the 2-0 first-leg deficit.

Chelsea have lost only once in 18 matches since Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard in January and this was another feather in the German’s cap.

Tuchel had admitted this week was a make or break period for Chelsea.

They passed the first test with ease and can now focus on Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Premier League leaders Manchester City at Wembley.

The Blues are fifth in the Premier League as they chase a top-four finish, meaning they might need to win the Champions League for the first time since 2012 if they are to qualify for next season’s competition.

Led by the astute Tuchel, who took Paris Saint-Germain to the Champions League final last season, that lofty ambition can’t be ruled out.

Tuchel this week said he wouldn’t want to fight Antonio Rudiger or Cesar Azpilicueta, such is the ferocious will to win coursing through Chelsea’s most vocal players.

Both defenders lived up to Tuchel’s billing as they fought tooth and nail to keep Porto at bay in a niggly clash.

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