Kylian Mbappé signed the best European performance of his career when Paris Saint-Germain won in Barcelona on Tuesday February 16, in the round of 16 first leg of the Champions League (4-1). Untenable, triple scorer, the Parisian striker fully assumed his role as leader in the absence of Neymar and Angel Di Maria.
Kylian Mbappé was expected, he responded present. Particularly scrutinized in the absence of Neymar and Angel Di Maria, the Parisian striker was decisive in the Parisian victory in Barcelona (4-1) in the round of 16 first leg of the Champions League. A hat-trick and a release for Mbappé, sometimes singled out for his disappointing performance in PSG knockout matches. “I made mistakes, I missed things, but I’ll never hide, summarized the Parisian striker at the microphone of RMC Sport after the meeting. Tonight, it’s the work that has been paying off for months.“
Until tonight, Mbappé scored in the Champions League, yes, but in groups! 14 of his 15 European goals with PSG were scored before the knockout phase. His only achievement before Tuesday: the 2-0 goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford, in the round of 16 first leg two years ago. On the return, his decisive pass for Juan Bernat was not enough to forget a ghostly performance, nor to prevent the elimination of PSG. Embarrassed by an injury last season, he had managed several brilliant shots during the “Final 8” in Lisbon. Promising matches, but without a goal.
A paradox when we remember his Monegasque explosion at only 18 years old. For his discovery of the Champions League in 2016, Kylian Mbappé had scored six goals in as many knockout matches and ASM had reached the semi-finals. If he is always launched to break records in Ligue 1 (96 goals in 138 matches) or among the Blues (16 goals in 39 selections), his contribution to major European meetings remained criticized.
This new shock was therefore of particular importance for Mbappé. And Mauricio Pochettino wanted to put him in the best conditions, well aware that the success of PSG could hardly do without a great Mbappé. The choice to align Moise Kean on the right wing, rather than Pablo Sarabia, was also intended to relieve him, with a second element capable of taking depth and pushing the Catalan block back.
The Argentinian technician also called Layvin Kurzawa several times to encourage him to go up to his left lane. In these situations, Mbappé could then refocus more easily and adopt a role of second striker around Mauro Icardi. This type of movement brought the Parisian equalizer. A rise from Kurzawa, a wonderful relay from Verratti in the box, and a perfect control-hook-strike sequence from Mbappé to conclude (1-1, 32nd).
The world champion also made the Barcelona defense suffer with the ball. In addition to his speed, difficult to follow for a Gerard Piqué just back from injury, Mbappé managed several dribbles against one, two or even three defenders. In a second period dominated by the Parisians, the attacker multiplied the calls, the solutions, to unbalance the Barcelona block. Talent, desire and luck too. That of seeing Alessandro Florenzi’s cross deflected by Pique… in his race! His powerful strike was unstoppable to give the advantage to PSG (2-1, 65th). He concluded his historic performance with a perfect wound shot, on an offering from Julian Draxler (4-1, 85 ‘).
The finicky will be able to highlight his two lost duels against Marc-André ter Stegen. From the first action, on a ball stung by Verratti over the defense, Mbappé had the opportunity to open the scoring. But a rough control allowed the Catalan doorman to intervene. He also saw a 3-1 ball deflected by ter Stegen, after creating this duel in the box with a dazzling hook.