Paris Saint-Germain were held to a 2-2 draw by RB Leipzig in UEFA Champions League Group A on Wednesday with Gini Wijnaldum scoring twice at Red Bull Arena in a rather chaotic affair which also saw Christopher Nkunku and Dominik Szoboszlai tally.
It was a disastrous start for Mauricio Pochettino’s men as the German hosts flew out of the traps and led inside of 10 minutes through former Parisien Nkunku before assist provider Andre Silva saw a 12th minute penalty saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Wijnaldum turned that one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead by the break with two goals across an 18-minute spell laid on by Kylian Mbappe and then Marquinhos which looked for all the world when the 90-minute mark arrived as if they would be enough to score the win.
Enter Presnel Kimpembe, who gifted Leipzig a late penalty via VAR, which was converted by Szoboszlai to secure a late point and PSG’s individual brilliance once again was not enough to convince and earn a result in Europe.
“It was our fault to totally misfire at the start,” said Pochettino after the final whistle. “We did not start well, and we controlled the game better in the second. Statistics will show that we must do better in possession and that we must be more in control against teams who can play in transition like Leipzig. Losing top spot changes nothing. You have to want to beat Manchester City to qualify anyway.”
It was like the situation seen at the beginning of the group stage where Club Brugge managed to earn an unexpected point against the French giants and Stade Rennais as well as Olympique de Marseille have also benefitted domestically from this lack of killer instinct.
With two Wijnaldum goals having given them a flattering halftime lead, PSG appeared to think that they had done enough to win to the point where Neymar’s effort at pressing involved sticking out a leg while tying up his shoelace.
Leipzig exposed the individual nature of their visitors’ approach and were rewarded with a deserved point having lost away from home the fortnight before having arguably outplayed Pochettino’s men for most of the encounter.
“If you look at the end of the game, we lost some balls too early,” Wijnaldum said post-match. “We failed to take our chances. They deserved to draw. However, if we also look at our chances, I think that we deserved more. We were in control at times and created chances, but we did not bury them. We must better control certain moments on the ball and make them run more.”
Some will point to Lionel Messi’s absence but the real killer for PSG, once again, was the inability to call upon Marco Verratti in the midfield with the Italy international the difference between a team in control and a team hoping for its individual talent to count.
However, Pochettino and his players cannot allow themselves to live and die by Verratti’s fitness and availability as other incarnations have and must find a different way of playing as they have too much talent to remain this one-dimensional.
Group A is not over yet but PSG were minutes from being as good as guaranteed safe passage into the knockout phase to now needing to put in a strong performance away at City if they want to retake top spot in the remaining two games.