PSG mount stunning late comeback to beat Atalanta and book Champions League semi-final spot
Paris Saint-Germain pulled themselves back from the brink of Champions League elimination with two late goals to beat Italian underdogs Atalanta 2-1 in a thrilling quarterfinal in Lisbon.
PSG looked destined for yet more disappointment in Europe as they trailed from a first-half Mario Pasalic goal heading into injury time, but a 90th-minute deflected finish from Marquinhos and a goal deep into added time from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting saved the French champions.
PSG had looked like fluffing their lines on Europe’s biggest stage yet again with Brazilian star Neymar guilty of missing several golden chances, but they ultimately managed to dig themselves out of a hole to reach a first Champions League final since 1995.
It was agony for Gian Piero Gasperin’s brave Atalanta team, who appearing in a maiden Champions League campaign appeared set to defy the odds once more until PSG’s late, late show broke their resolve.
𝘿𝙍𝘼𝙈𝘼! 😱😱😱🇫🇷 Stoppage time goals from Marquinhos & Choupo-Moting send Paris into the semis! #UCL
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 12, 2020
Ahead of the one-off knockout tie in Lisbon – part of the new format brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic – much had been made of the mammoth financial imbalance between the two teams, with Neymar’s annual salary accounting for that of the entire Atalanta wage bill.
But Atalanta were not daunted by the occasion; a team consistently defying the odds domestically, they are gritty but bold and attack-minded – and they are thoroughly enjoying taking their show on its European tour.
It was the Italians who were to draw first blood in the 26th minute, a loose ball deflecting to former Chelsea man Mario Pasalic just inside the box, with the midfielder guiding a shot past Navas and into the top corner.
PSG were frustrated throughout the first half, with Neymar alternating between flashes of brilliance but also woeful finishing.
The Brazilian raced through from the half-way line but somehow side-footing well wide of the goal when one on one with Marco Sportiello, later blasting a shot well wide time when gifted a chance through a wayward backpass.
The first half in Lisbon saw the good, the bad and the ugly from the Brazilian, and as PSG boss Thomas Tuchel hobbled off on crutches at half-time – the victim of a broken foot in a freak recent training accident – he must have feared it would be another one of those nights that his team tripped up in Europe.
Five minutes into the second half and Neymar blasted a 30-yard free-kick into an Atalanta body as PSG’s fortunes didn’t improve.
The Brazilian played a delightful raking pass and a nutmeg just moments later – yet more evidence of the Jekyll-and-Hyde night the Brazilian was having.
Neymar was dropping deep, increasingly desperate the make things happen but getting little help from his teammates.
Tuchel introduced Kylian Mbappe just before the hour mark in place of Sarabia as Atalanta lost influential captain Papu Gomez through injury.
PSG’s own problems mounted when goalkeeper Navas went down injured with 20 minutes to play, leading to substitute Sergio Rico being called into action.
Atalanta stopper Sportiello was tested by Mbappe and Neymar not long after, but saved comfortably from both before a another good chance for Mbappe was foiled when he was well-placed.
It seemed Atalanta would hold on for a famous victory, but they were dealt a cruel hand when PSG leveled in the 90th minute when Neymar found Marquinhos,whose shot from close range went in off Atalanta defender Mattia Caldara.
The heartache for Atalanta was not done there though, as a slick PSG move saw Neymar feed Mbappe, whose square ball was tapped in by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to send his team into the last four.
PSG’s European hopes are alive – just – but they know they will likely need to improve against either RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid in the last four.