This article also featured on Guardian Sport.
Paris Saint-Germain have failed often in the last decade, but rarely so dramatically and never so unexpectedly. While Barcelona’s remondata at the Nou Camp two years ago was unprecedented, over turning a 4-0 first leg loss in Paris to win 6-1 and progress in the second, there remained a sense that Messi and co were capable of fighting back. That was not the case here. Never had a 2-0 home first leg deficit been overturned in the Champions League, and given PSG’s masterful away display three weeks previously coupled with a Manchester United minus Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Alexis Sanchez, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, this tie was supposed to be over. But, in the driving Parisien rain, another record was broken.
Influential French sports daily L’equipe, who’ve devoted reams to the coverage of both legs days in advance, were typically scathing in their judgement. Twenty four hours after awarding Real Madrid’s chief tormentor Dusan Tadic only a tenth ten-out-of-ten game rating in their 63 year history, both Gianluigi Buffon, who spilled Marcus Rashford’s first half shot for Romelu Lukaku to tuck away United’s second, and Thilo Kehrer, his loose backpass led to an early deficit, received just 2/10. The keeper’s slip was branded “indefensible” and his performance “embarrassing”, while the German, overtly nervous all game, endured a “nightmare”, a word splashed across their website last night.
Mental frailty has dogged PSG under QSI rule, but it now appears endemic having again been spooked by a golden opportunity. Overwhelmed by Barcelona in 2017, naive against Real in Madrid for last year’s first leg after a timid and vacant display in losing to Manchester City in 2016 with Manuel Pellegrini’s team vulnerable. Somehow this marked a new low. 56% of over 26,000 L’equipe website readers voted last night’s defeat the biggest disappointment of all while premier columnist Vincent Duluc labeled PSG “ridiculous in the eyes of the world” and “a specialist in failure”.
But Paris were supposed to be re-made by their new coach. Thomas Tuchel had brought, courage, harmony and tactical diversity, wins over Liverpool and in Manchester were streetwise and exacting, but a distressed Thiago Silva, who said it was “hard to talk” about his side’s exit, claimed to radio station RMC that his team didn’t follow Tuchel’s instructions and that they were ”stressed until the end”. An angry Marquinhos was less diplomatic: “Now we need to eat our own shit” he said. Tuchel meanwhile blamed bad luck for “a totally ridiculous result” against a team he ‘never felt came to win.’ An injured Neymar meanwhile, seen justiculating from the mouth of the tunnel late on, lambasted the injury time VAR penalty decision via Instagram, made by “four guys who do not understand football”.
Others were just as exacting in their appraisals. Le Parisien deemed PSG’s defeat “unforgivable” and “horrible” while also awarding Kehrer a 2/10 rating; major Paris fan site PSG Culture said their team were ‘cursed’; Ouest France spoke of a ‘new remontada’; RMC called the result an “earthquake”. Conversely, rarely able to poke fun the Parisiens’ way of late, Marseille based paper La Provence tweeted Didier Deschamps holding the European Cup after OM became the only French team to win the Champions League in 1993 with the caption ‘forever first’. ‘Try again’ was their jibe following Marseille’s Classique rivals exit to Madrid last season.
After the Barcelona defeat, a defeat which called the entire project into question, there was a sense that PSG could not get any lower. L’Equipe’s front over this morning stated otherwise. “Even worse” it read. PSG had “cracked”, “dismally eliminated” in “a cataclysm” said the paper, who asked forlornly on their sixth of eight pages of coverage, much as Tuchel, Neymar and QSI will be this morning: “What do we do now?”
by Adam White