Lionel Messi blew up the Parc des Princes on Tuesday with a unanimous shout. The concrete shook under the vibration of the crowd that filled the old stadium in Paris, finally surrendered to the ten, who scored his first goal for Paris Saint-Germain, the final goal of the game that everyone expected as irrefutable proof that the most outrageous project of the decade was working. The 2-0 victory over Manchester City was not the triumph of possession, nor of perfect harmony, it was not even a resounding success for Messi against a courageous opponent. The figure of the best PSG game so far this season was Verratti, manager of the two goals for his team and central figure in Messi’s celebration, who after scoring ran to hug him as if pointing out to the fans and sheikhs that he was there his great accomplice.
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“I’m in love with Verratti,” Guardiola proclaimed in the conference room at the end of the day. “Under pressure he always has one more touch if he needs to find his free partner. I like his character. He is not a long pass player but when building the game you can always count on him. In the second half Kevin [de Bruyne] He has controlled it, but in the first one it has been a bit soft ”.
Like reagents that reveal the presence of otherwise invisible chemicals, Marco Verratti lifted the veil and the PSG fans discovered the splendor of Neymar, Mbappé and Messi, suddenly illuminated by the clean pass of the small Italian midfielder. Injured since September 5, Verratti reappeared on the most important night and the team was transformed at his command. This Tuesday against City in the Parque de los Príncipes as in March against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, the process was similar.
It is no unfathomable secret. The formula refers to the oldest laws of the game. No team has been great without a great midfielder. This PSG marked by peculiarities and designed by distant princes who dream of lambrettas nor can it evade the weight of the norm. As much as it is inhabited by a collection of the best attackers imaginable, the machine never worked well without the simple intervention of this little footballer who does not score, dribble, or integrate the beloved catalog of icons whose image multinational manufacturers of goods yearn for. of consumption.
Verratti has been no stranger to worldly distractions. He is responsible for having led an irregular race. Injuries have done the rest. But he has talent to spare. The City players knew it, who jumped onto the grass in Paris encouraged by the daring orders that Guardiola usually gives them in the Premier. They all advanced like a phalanx to harass their opponents until they got them into their area based on effort, tenacity, and discipline. The accordion moved uniformly from band to band and line to line, struck by a splendid Rodri. Put out playing with the intention of not wasting the ball, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Herrera and Gueye were drowned by the hand-to-hand assault of their opponents Sterling, Silva, Mahrez or Grealish, depending on who occupied the area. The duels happened with great frequency at the beginning of the meeting, when everyone had more energy. Against their custom, enthusiastic about the significance of the poster, even Neymar, Messi and Mbappé were generously involved in maintenance tasks. The midfield was overcrowded.
Pochettino had demanded courage from his players. Courage to avoid the easy exit of the long ball and to look for a partner with careful passes, because that way, if they managed to break the first pressure ring, they would find gaps in the second to advance with more slack. The theory would have been impractical if Verratti had not appeared. His duel with De Bruyne had a final loser. Every time the Belgian was half a second late to pressure him, Verratti hid the ball from him and whoever it was. Nobody gave City more problems, forced with each of his groundbreaking passes to retreat more than he wanted.
When he got the ball, Verratti protected it with a repertoire of spins that made him undetectable. His delivery to Mbappé before ten minutes revealed for the striker a range of possibilities in the right sector, where his combinations with Hakimi were too fast for Rodri and Cancelo. The center went to Neymar, who fooled Dias with a high heel on the penalty spot. From behind came Gueye, an unexpected finisher on a night that rewarded the flyers.
Manchester City rebelled against the 1-0 reflected on the scoreboard by repeating their program. Thrown into the siege for 80 minutes without respite, Guardiola’s team took the game to the throat of the rival area. Until then he had the field and time to handle all the procedures that lead to the goal, except the last one. Because except for two consecutive shots to the stick by Sterling and Silva, this army of midfielders lacked a finisher who hit one of the 17 shots he produced on the net, taking advantage of the fact that Verratti ran out of fuel, just like Messi, who He gave the impression of being late to all the plays, without form or rhythm, until at the most uncertain point of the night, when PSG put themselves in the hands of the distribution ordered by Donnaruma, the midfielder and his new partner caused a backlash.
Verratti, Messi, Mbappé on the heel and Messi, traced the sequence in the trajectory of the ball. The last touch, a twisted left foot, sent the projectile away from the goalkeeper. The goal made the crowd tremble, thunderous in their “Meeeeesiiii, Meeeesiiii, Meeeesiiiiii…!”.
Pochettino: “I have celebrated this goal”
Messi raised his fist in the direction of the most boisterous sector of the fans, stationed in the Auteuil Curve, as a sign of correspondence. The party was total. When the referee whistled for the end he made one of his laconic statements. “We have won an important game against a great rival,” he said. “Now we must continue to grow.”
In the band Pochettino shouted 2-0 as when he was a player. “I am not to celebrate goals,” said the Argentine, “but today I celebrated. I have spent many years watching Messi score goals on the opposite sidewalk. The first one on our side had to celebrate ”.
Pochettino acknowledged that he liked the game for the solidarity shown by his players less than for the development of the game. “We like to dominate the opponent and have control of the ball,” he said, “but against City it is difficult because they have automated systems worked on for years under Pep’s orders. This has left me unsatisfied. But, while we manage to create our own automatisms, it is important to know how to win in another way ”.