Paris Saint-Germain have put one foot into the quarter-finals of the Champions League courtesy of a 2-0 win over Manchester United in the first leg of their last-16 clash at Old Trafford this evening.
The Ligue 1 leaders switched gear in the second half as quickfire strikes from Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe gave the visitors two crucial away goals and a commanding advantage to take back to the Parc des Princes on March 6.
The result sees Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suffer his first defeat in his 12th match as United manager, and their misery was compounded late on when Paul Pogba was sent off to ensure that he will miss the return leg in Paris.
As can so often be the case in first legs, the match began in a cagey fashion and both sides struggled to create clear chances in a scrappy and at times heated opening 45 minutes.
PSG were without injured duo Neymar and Edinson Cavani, but Angel Di Maria was able to return to his former club and almost provided a perfect early response to the home fans’ jeers with curling 25-yard strike which drifted a couple of yards wide of the far post.
Gianluigi Buffon was called into action for the first time shortly afterwards when he turned Marcus Rashford‘s powerful shot from a tight angle around the post, and the veteran goalkeeper was needed again in the 16th minute when he cut out Pogba’s low cross from the right after the French midfielder had beaten Kimpembe far too easily down the right flank.
The best chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to the visitors just before the half-hour mark when Marco Verrattiand Julian Draxler combined to send Mbappe through inside the area, but the sliding winger could not squeeze his shot inside the near post.
Such goalscoring opportunities were a rarity before the break, though, and there ended up being five yellow cards in the first half compared to only six shots – the joint-fewest of any game in this season’s competition prior to this evening.
Di Maria had his blushes spared by the offside flag when he squandered a golden chance after rounding David de Gea, while the best either side could muster in the closing stages of the half were off-target long-range strikes from Victor Lindelof and Dani Alves.
Solskjaer was forced into two early changes as Jesse Lingard limped off just before half time and Anthony Martial was withdrawn during the interval, with Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata replacing them.
PSG failed to register a single shot on target in the first half of a Champions League game for the first time since April 2015, but that soon changed in the second half when Alves picked out Mbappe, whose low header needed to be turned around the post by De Gea.
The opening goal came from the resulting corner as De Gea and Nemanja Matic left Di Maria’s inswinging delivery for each other, allowing Kimpembe to steal in and volley the ball into the roof of the net from close range.
Suddenly PSG looked every bit the fearsome attacking outfit that had scored in every single game this season, and they almost added a second within three minutes when Alves’s first-time volley from outside the area deflected inches wide off the outstretched leg of Pogba.
Ander Herrera threatened an equaliser for the hosts with a volley of his own which bobbled narrowly wide, but just one minute later PSG had their second to take complete control of the tie.
Again Di Maria – the victim of incessant abuse from the home fans – was the creator with a perfectly-weighted low pass into the box for Mbappe, whose pace saw him get ahead of the defenders and composure allowed him to steer his finish into the bottom corner.
The PSG prodigy had the chance to effectively kill the tie off with more than 25 minutes remaining of the first leg when he raced through on goal again moments later, but this time De Gea was equal to his shot as he stayed big to collect the attempted chip.
De Gea was called upon again within 60 seconds as PSG began to open United up at will, with the Spaniard this time pushing Juan Bernat‘s powerful strike away from goal.
The waves of PSG attacks did relent towards the closing stages of the game as the visitors comfortably saw out the win and clean sheet, with the closest United came to pulling a goal back coming when Buffon watched Herrera’s curler float over the crossbar.
The second leg in Paris already looked to be a mountain to climb for United, and they have to do it without Pogba too after he was shown a deserved late second yellow card for a late and high studs-up challenge on Alves.
The defeat ends Solskjaer’s unbeaten start to life as interim United boss – having won 10 and drawn one of his opening 11 matches – while it is also the first time United have lost at home to a French club and the first time that they have lost by a margin of more than one goal at Old Trafford in European competition.
Solskjaer must now turn his attention to upcoming matches against Chelsea and Liverpool before trying to overturn this two-goal deficit – something no team has ever done in the Champions League having lost a home first leg by such a margin.
MAN UTD (4-3-3): De Gea; Young, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard (Sanchez 45′), Rashford (Lukaku 84′), Martial (Mata 46′)
PSG (3-4-3): Buffon; Kehrer, Silva, Kimpembe; Alves, Marquinhos, Verratti (Paredes 75′), Bernat; Draxler, Mbappe, Di Maria (Dagba 81′).