Paris Saint-Germain hadn’t reached the UEFA Champions League semifinals since 1995 and have never reached the UCL Final. They paid over 200 million euros to acquire Brazilian superstar Neymar from FC Barcelona. They brought him, not to win Ligue 1, but to win the UCL.
Today, he finally came through after three injury-riddled years where PSG crashed out of the round of 16. It took most of the match but he finally led PSG to the semifinals with a 2-1 win over Serie A’s Atalanta.
Neymar, all match long, dribbled his way through the Atalanta defense and set himself up with great chances, but he could not convert. Atalanta, playing in their first-ever UCL quarterfinals, did convert in the first half as Mario Pasalic scored on a marvelous curler to give Atalanta a 1-0 lead. As Neymar continued to miss chances, Atalanta held the lead 1-0 heading into halftime.
The second half saw a desperate PSG club try to score an equalizer as manager Thomas Tuchel saw with a boot in his left ankle after spraining it last week. PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who made incredible saves in the first half, was injured after a collision and replaced by Sergio Rico. PSG desperately tried to equalize but to no avail while Atalanta blew multiple chances to double their lead.
They now wish they did as in the 90th minute, Neymar connected with Marquinhos on a through pass, which he tapped in to give PSG the equalizer. PSG would not stop there as three minutes later, Neymar hit Kylian Mbappe on a through pass and Mbappe would pass it to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. Choupo-Moting would put it away in similar fashion to Marquinhos’ earlier goal to give PSG the lead and the win.
The UCL knockout round is known for its chaos and already in the quarterfinals, we have had insane drama that this tournament is known for. While it is unfortunate we will not get a famous second-leg comeback like Liverpool’s 3-0 comeback against Barcelona last year, the one-match structure provides late-match drama like this match.
For Atalanta, the clock struck midnight on their great run in heartbreaking fashion. They were minutes away from advancing to the UCL semifinals and pulling off a shocking upset. They played well considering they were without their star player in Josip Illicic but could not hold on when it really mattered. This is a tough loss but they should be proud of what they accomplished this season, considering they nearly avoided relegation just five years ago.
PSG were the victors as Neymar came through with his playmaking ability in the clutch. Choupo-Moting was a striker for Stoke City in 2018, the year they got relegated from the Premier League. He transferred to PSG and became notorious for missing easy chances. It is only fitting he is the one to send PSG to the semifinals.
PSG will face the winner of Atletico Madrid-RB Leipzig in the UCL semifinals.