PARIS (Reuters) – Mauricio Pochettino has been insisting that Paris St Germain have yet to become a team and Tuesday’s 3-2 Champions League victory against RB Leipzig served as a reminder that the Ligue 1 side have yet to find their collective stride.
PSG were overwhelmed in the midfield, their full backs often caught off guard by a visiting team who played with high pressure throughout and the French club only had Kylian Mbappe’s brilliance and Lionel Messi’s clinical finish to be happy about.
“There are things we can improve because we need to control the match for 90 minutes and for 20-25 minutes, we lost that control,” said midfielder Ander Herrera.
PSG went ahead early on as Mbappe fired home at the end of a sharp counterattack but fell behind after goals at the far post by Andre Silva and Nordi Mukiele.
France striker Mbappe then took the matter into his own hands to overturn the deficit, providing Messi with the assist for the equaliser before winning the penalty that the Argentine coolly converted.
Until then, Messi had been a pale shadow of his brilliant self, stuck near the touchline with too little speed to make a difference.
It is only when he repositioned in the heart of the game, closer to Mbappe, that the former Barcelona forward could finally help.
Eventually, PSG were left being satisfied with the team’s character.
“When we went 2-1 down, we showed character as we have done all season. We know there are things to improve, and we will improve with time. But I think we need to praise the players, because they did very well,” said Pochettino.
“The most important thing is that we won. We suffered. You have to suffer, nothing is given to you in football. We’d said to ourselves before the game that it wouldn’t be easy,” said captain Marquinhos.
PSG, who will play away to Leipzig and Manchester City in the return phase, top Group A with seven points, one ahead of Pep Guardiola’s team.
They face another test of their character on Sunday when they travel to bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille in Ligue 1.
Third-placed OM are 10 points behind leaders PSG with one game in hand.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)