Paris, September 20: Striker Kylian Mbappé continued his scoring spree and right back Achraf Hakimi also found the net as Paris Saint-Germain opened its Champions League campaign with a 2-0 home win against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.
Mbappé’s penalty put PSG ahead in the 49th minute following a video review. Referee Jesús Gil Manzano stuck to his decision and ruled that defender Niklas Süle handled the ball from Mbappé’s shot.
The France striker stroked the ball into the bottom left corner and just out of the reach of goalkeeper Gregor Kobel for his eighth goal in five games this season. It extended his club-record tally to 220 goals in 265 games.
Nine minutes later, Kobel was beaten from close range when Hakimi swapped passes with midfielder Vitinha and cut inside a defender before curling the ball into the bottom left corner with the outside of his right foot.
“It’s a very important game for us, we’ve started the competition well,” said the 23-year-old Portugal international Vitinha, who is in his second season with PSG. “It’s important for me as well. I want to help the team even more in the upcoming matches.”
In the other Group F game, seven-time European champion AC Milan wasted chances in a 0-0 draw with Newcastle.
PSG, which has never won the competition, played last season with superstar Lionel Messi and Neymar in attack, yet went out in the last 16 for the second straight season.
That led to coach Christophe Galtier’s dismissal and the hiring of former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique.
“We needed to do better in the last 15 minutes of the match, but otherwise it’s pretty much a perfect night,” Luis Enrique said.
When Luis Enrique took charge, he was thrust into a difficult situation.
Messi and Neymar left PSG, leaving only Mbappé from that attack.
He has been joined by forward Randal Kolo Muani, who started his first game since signing from Eintracht Frankfurt for 95 million euros ($103 million). Kolo Muani played at center forward and was flanked by former Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembélé and Mbappé at Parc des Princes.
A tight opening saw Dutch forward Donyell Malen have a shot comfortably saved by goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and Vitinha hit the post in the 19th. Kolo Muani’s low strike was saved near the end of a drab first half.
“We chased the ball a lot,” Dortmund captain Emre Can said. “It was not a good performance as we gave away the ball too fast.”
PSG stepped things up after the break.
Dembélé’s cross from the right found Mbappé, whose snapshot clipped Süle’s arm as he was falling down and the spot kick was awarded despite Dortmund’s protests.
Both clubs have made a shaky start to their league campaigns. PSG is fifth after losing at home to Nice last Friday and Dortmund is seventh. PSG’s vulnerability to quick counterattacks was ruthlessly exposed by Nice.
This was a more composed performance, although coach Edin Terzic’s Dortmund side offered very little in attack.
“We can say clearly that we were not brave enough in the first half,” Terzic said. “We wanted to be braver, attack more, leave our positions more.
Julián Álvarez helps Manchester City sweep past Red Star Belgrade 3-1
Manchester City fans were left in disbelief as Osman Bukari of Red Star Belgrade broke through the City defence to give the visitors an unexpected halftime lead.
This early setback served as a reminder of the challenges that may lie ahead for Pep Guardiola’s squad as they seek to defend the Champions League title they claimed for the first time last season.
Nevertheless, normalcy was eventually restored by the end of Tuesday’s Group G contest, with Manchester City completing a second-half comeback to secure a 3-1 victory. Despite Bukari’s strike serving as evidence of potential pitfalls, Pep Guardiola and his team expressed confidence in their ability to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
“After winning the treble, we need to be the type of champions who prove ourselves that we are able to make a comeback,” Guardiola remarked post-match. “We have things to improve in general, but that’s really, really good.”
Julián Álvarez played a pivotal role in the comeback, scoring twice for Manchester City.
Rodri, whose goal against Inter Milan in last season’s final sealed City’s European triumph, added a third goal.
Guardiola’s side had dominated the first half without managing to breach the defence of Belgrade goalkeeper Omri Glazer, while Bukari seized a rare opportunity at the opposite end.
“We weren’t clinical enough,” noted Rodri. “They scored with the first chance, and the same thing happened against West Ham (on Saturday). The most important thing is at halftime talking to the guys and saying, ‘Don’t panic, let’s keep doing our job.’”
Manchester City, aiming to become the second club to successfully defend the Champions League trophy in the modern era, understand the formidable task at hand. Real Madrid remains the only team to have achieved consecutive titles, securing a three-peat from 2016-2018.
Having reached two finals in the last three seasons, City are expected to perform well again in this year’s competition. Guardiola, however, highlighted the difficulty of defending the title, emphasizing that “this competition doesn’t allow for mistakes.”
Bukari’s goal underscored this point, as it came against the run of play.
Throughout the match, City applied immense pressure on Belgrade, forcing Glazer into multiple saves and striking the woodwork. Players such as Rodri, Álvarez, Nathan Ake, and Phil Foden were thwarted, while Erling Haaland’s header rebounded off the crossbar.
The opening goal, however, arrived unexpectedly. As Belgrade’s primary outlet on the counter-attack, Bukari had been unable to trouble City’s defense until his breakthrough in the 45th minute. He clinically dispatched a shot past Ederson, sparking jubilation among the visiting fans.
The celebration was temporarily halted by an offside flag, but VAR ultimately overruled the decision, granting the goal to Belgrade.
Manchester City had not suffered a home defeat in the Champions League since 2018 and had maintained a 26-game unbeaten streak at the Etihad Stadium in the competition, an English record.
This record was extended to 27 games as City found its attacking rhythm in the second half, with Álvarez levelling the score two minutes after the restart. He then fired City ahead on the hour mark with a stunning free-kick.
Rodri sealed the victory with a well-placed shot in the 73rd minute. A concern for City, however, was an injury sustained by Bernardo Silva in the first half, with Guardiola confirming that Silva would be sidelined for the “next games.” (AP/ToI With AP inputs)