The Gazprom was really pumping through the Champions League’s circulatory system on Wednesday night as Manchester United overturned a first-leg defeat to knock out PSG in extraordinary fashion.
United went into the match with a considerable foothill to climb, having lost 0-2 at Old Trafford a fortnight ago. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rejuvenated side afforded themselves the best possible start when Romelu Lukaku pulled one back within two minutes of kick-off.
The Belgian striker capitalised on a limp back-pass from Thilo Kehrer, skipped around the advancing Gianluigi Buffon and slipped the ball into an empty net…
However, PSG’s response was instant as the pressure was immediately piled on United.
Indeed, for the prevailing 15/20 minutes, the Ligue 1 side dominated possession and regularly managed to breach United’s defence using the exact same approach – Juan Bernat overlapping Angel Di Maria again and again as Eric Bailly and Ashley Young continually failed to keep track of their men.
Sure enough, Bernat soon equalised for PSG after overlapping Di Maria on the left, slipping free of Bailly and tapping home a low cross from Kylian Mbappe at the far post.
Bailly was substituted for Diogo Dalot shortly thereafter after being stricken with a phantom psychosomatic muscle injury. Obvious the pride bone’s connected to the calf bone.
Despite being reduced to spectators for large swathes of the first half, United then scored again on the half-an-hour mark when Lukaku completed his third brace in his last three games by pouncing on a Buffon handling error…
As the rain teemed down in Paris, the second half saw United sit deep and try to soak up pressure as Mbappe and several of his cohorts saw good chances go begging.
Knowing they needed one more goal to go through, Solskjaer decided to go for broke as the game entered its latter stages, sending on a couple of inexperienced academy graduates – Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood – to help enliven the team.
Impetuous mistakes were made, but the gamble eventually paid off (in extremely fortunate circumstances) in the 90th minute when a Dalot pot-shot struck Presnel Kimpembe on the arm inside the area.
The decision went to VAR, which adjudged that Kimpembe’s inability to both A) react faster than is humanly possible and, B) retract his dangling arm into some sort of internal storage cavity warranted a penalty being awarded against him.
It was a complete nonsense, of course, but Rashford’s subsequent ice-cold 94th-minute conversion was a thing of true, stoic beauty.
The final whistle was greeted with a number of PSG players collapsing to the sodden pitch in disbelief as United celebrated maniacally with their travelling fans over in the corner of the stadium.
The OGS revival continues, even if it did take a massive injection of daft fortune and a handball review that made a total mockery of VAR and the fundamental rules of the game, once again.
Oh well, like it or lump it, this is Champions League football now – we suggest you get used to it.