champions league semi final second leg, may 4 2021
Mahrez (11, 63)
Manchester City reached their first ever Champions League final after two goals from Riyad Mahrez gave them a convincing 4-1 aggregate victory over Paris Saint-Germain. They will meet Chelsea or Real Madrid in the final. Mahrez struck relatively early in each half, and in the 69th minute, any hopes PSG may have had of making a comeback were ended when Ángel Di María was sent off for stamping on Fernandinho. "They put a lot of players in the middle and we struggled a lot in the first half to high press and we changed at half-time," Pep Guardiola said. "We recovered the ball better in the second half and we were much better in the way we played." His opposite number, Mauricio Pochettino, said: "We played well. We feel disappointed because sometimes you need that percentage of luck to win the game, but the team put in incredible effort and I feel so proud."
SHOTS / ON TARGET
ATTACKS INTO AREA
EXPECTED GOALS (XG)
Manchester City were organised by their manager Pep Guardiola into a 4-3-3 formation that, via their left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko advancing, also often involved them building with a back three. Their opponents, Paris Saint-Germain, pressed with a 4-3-3.
Zinchenko and Riyad Mahrez provided City's attacking width, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva formed their narrow front three, and Ilkay Gündogan withdrew to alongside Fernandinho at the base of City's midfield. PSG's high press involved risking leaving spaces behind them, and a superb pass from Ederson over their structure found Zinchenko – after De Bruyne's effort was blocked, Mahrez gave them the lead from the rebound.
PSG regardless continued to press with that same shape, which was led by a narrow front three, so Gündogan and Fernandinho moved deeper to provide passing options between that front three. With PSG's full-backs aggressively pressing City's, City used the inside channels and disguised passes into Foden and Silva to bypass PSG's press.
When the visitors defended with a mid-block, their full-backs alternated pressing to preserve their defensive line, so their central midfielders increasingly pressed to support their front three's efforts to defend from advanced territory. City, in turn, focused on wider combinations and progressing possession around PSG's pressure via Zinchenko and Mahrez, who were often supported by their front three – who contributed to overloads in the areas around the ball and quick combinations that took possession infield.
PSG struggled to track the rotations and movements City offered between the lines. Gündogan also advanced to attack. It was only in behind where City's attacking threat was relatively limited, and largely because PSG defended the central spaces around the penalty area particularly well.
City's lead was doubled, superbly, on the counter. De Bruyne and Foden combined to progress possession towards the left, from where the latter's cross found Mahrez at the far post, inviting him to finish from close range.
Paris Saint-Germain used a 4-3-3 led by the narrow front three of Mauro Icardi, and Neymar and Ángel Di María, who operated as narrow forwards. Manchester City pressed Mauricio Pochettino's team with a 4-4-2.
The narrow positions adopted by Neymar and Di María invited Alessandro Florenzi and Abdou Diallo to advance from full-back and provide overlaps. Leandro Paredes withdrew from mdifield into central defence, Marco Verratti sought to operate between the lines as possession progressed into their attacking half, and Ander Herrera retained a withdrawn position to provide defensive cover as those full-backs advanced.
City's 4-4-2 meant that PSG had an overload in central midfield with which they could patiently build from the back. City's front two screened access into PSG's defensive midfielders, but combinations through the inside channels and through the wide areas gave PSG a route forwards; the lengthy periods of possession they experienced invited them to transition into their preferred attacking shape in which Neymar and Di María remained central for longer, and their full-backs moved into even more advanced territory.
Pep Guardiola's team, in turn, concentrated on limiting the spaces between the lines, where PSG strugged to progress possession unless moving the ball particularly wide. The willingness of Neymar and Di María to withdraw into deeper positions contributed to their lengthy periods of possession, and increased the overload that existed against Fernandinho and Ilkay Gündogan; one of the two also worked to support Icardi in restricting City's back four. It was as City adopted a deeper defensive block that PSG struggled to continue to take possession into the attacking third and create goalscoring chances.
When that defensive block also became more narrow, Neymar and Di María found themselves under increased, and consistent, pressure. PSG's full-backs had increased spaces to attack into and cross from, but City comfortably defended against those crosses. Even when PSG progressed through the first two lines of City's structure, they continued to struggle to progress beyond the last. City made effective recoveries, and regularly blocked shots.
Their struggles increased when City's wide midfielders pressed infield to take Paredes and Herrera. Diallo and Florenzi received under increased pressure, and became less effective at attacking, so PSG offered minimal attacking threat from wide positions. That change in press also increased City's ability to counter; Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kyle Walker pressing from further forwards contributed to more regains in midfield, and more attacks at moments of transition.
Neymar and Di María continued to withdraw into deeper positions, so PSG continued to lack a penetrative threat in behind City's defence. Di María's red card then further reduced their attacking options and their ability to press.
Author: Tony Hodson