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Sunday , December 5 2021

PSG & Chelsea ‘reach’ Champs League semis

PARIS, April 14, (AP): After Neymar missed several chances to finish off defending champions Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain were left clinging to a 1-0 home defeat that nevertheless sealed the French club’s second straight Champions League semifinal. Bayern had to score twice after losing 3-2 in Germany in the first leg of their quarterfinal and survived several scares from livewire Neymar in the first half before largely taking control in the second.

PSG’s Neymar (left), and Bayern’s Lucas Hernandez challenge for the ball during the Champions League, second leg, quarterfinal soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Bayern Munich at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, France. (AP)

But without the prolific Robert Lewandowski, the six-time champions lacked a cutting edge and could not add to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s firsthalf goal against his former club. After losing 1-0 to Bayern in last year’s final, PSG stand one step away from the second final of its 51-year history and remain on course to win it for the first time. Neymar had three shots saved by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and hit the woodwork twice in an eventful first half that tilted Bayern’s way when Choupo- Moting headed home in the 40 minute. Bayern’s wingers were a constant menace and PSG’s defenders were relieved to see standout goalkeeper Keylor Navas stretch his right hand to keep out Leroy Sane’s dangerous cross deep into injury time at Parc des Princes. That was Bayern’s last chance on a night when the usually so prolific German side paid the price for their wastefulness without Lewandowski. Injury-hit Bayern were also missing midfielder Leon Goretzka, as well as winger Serge Gnabry because of coronavirus.

In fact, Flick couldn’t even fill his substitute’s bench. Still, PSG were not at full strength, either. Defender Marquinhos had an adductor problem, while midfield schemer Marco Verratti stayed on the bench after recovering from COVID-19. Early into the game, Kylian Mbappe shot wide from the right and Neuer saved Neymar’s close-range shot following a scramble. Bayern’s main threat came from Kingsley Coman’s probing runs down the left fl ank and the silky Sane cutting inside from the right fl ank. After an even 30 minutes, a frantic 15-minute spell saw a fl urry of chances. Sane curled a shot wide and midfielder Joshua Kimmich thumped an effort past the post moments later.

Mbappe was a menace for PSG on breaks, as he was in the first leg when he scored twice. He set up Neymar in front of goal, but Neuer spread himself brilliantly to save with his legs, then Germany’s No. 1 denied the Brazilian again at the near post. Neuer was well beaten in the 37th but Neymar’s curler smacked off the bar, then his low shot crashed off the base of the post two minutes later. The sucker punch came when Coman charged down the left and the ball broke to David Alaba, whose shot was saved by Navas. The ball looped up near the line and Choupo-Moting rose above Presnel Kimpembe to nod in from close range. After Bayern started the second half with authority, PSG had another chance when Angel Di Maria’s pass across the mouth of goal somehow eluded Neymar in the 54th.

At the other end, Thomas Mueller ghosted around the back of defense but Kimpembe read it. Bayern had to get a second goal, and it almost came in the 70th when Coman’s header across goal was cleared by Leandro Paredes. With Bayern pushing more players forward, Neymar played Mbappe clean through and he finished superbly – but Jerome Boateng had cleverly read the pass and stepped forward just in time to play Mbappe offside. By now, gaps were appearing everywhere and the elusive Sane’s cross fizzed past everyone and rolled wide in the 83rd. With seconds left, PSG’s bench watched in agony as Sane got into space again. But this was a night where Bayern’s danger didn’t translate into goals. The damage was ultimately done two weeks ago when Bayern lost despite having 12 shots on target, and PSG showed Flick’s side how to be clinical. The cross from the right was curling away from goal at shoulder height when Mehdi Taremi took off, connecting with a spectacular scissor kick that sent the ball into the top corner from 12 meters out.

A beautiful goal – arguably the best in the Champions League this season – to settle an ugly match. It wasn’t enough for Porto. Chelsea qualified for the semifinals for the first time since 2014 despite a 1-0 loss to the Portuguese champions , the English team going through 2-1 on aggregate. Aside from Taremi’s stunning, acrobatic effort in the fourth minute of second- half stoppage time, Chelsea successfully stifl ed Porto in what proved to be something of an arm-wrestle and was happy to rely on the away goals scored by Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell in the first leg, which was also played in Seville because of coronavirus restrictions. It wasn’t pretty but Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel didn’t care. “I can imagine that both games were not the nicest games to watch on the television for spectators who look for entertainment,” Tuchel said. “I can totally accept that, but it’s very hard to play your best game against Porto. “Part of a performance is not letting your opponent perform. This is what they do and this is what we do also. Today was the day to hang in.”

The niggly nature of the quarterfinal extended to the sidelines, with Tuchel and Sérgio Conceição exchanging words at the final whistle and the Porto coach showing his frustration by cutting short his post-match news conference after questions about the confrontation. Tuchel shrugged it off. He has bigger concerns, firstly an FA Cup semifinal match against Manchester City on Saturday and then a second straight Champions League semifinal on a personal basis. Last year, he was at this stage with Paris Saint-Germain and advanced to the final, where his team lost to Bayern Munich. Tuchel doesn’t have the star quality of PSG at his disposal at Chelsea, just a young, hard-working squad which is outperforming expectations – albeit despite a spending spree of around $300 million in the last offseason. “We take it like an adventure,” he said. “It’s a big step to be in a semifinal for them. This is a very, very big achievement. “You see the last time Chelsea has been in a semifinal, so we are not used to being there … We need every minute to learn, to grow. You cannot improve without these experiences.” Under Tuchel, who replaced the fired Frank Lampard in January, Chelsea have only conceded one goal in four knockout matches, having nullified Atlético Madrid in the last 16. While he has largely sorted out the team’s defense, Chelsea’s attack is still a work in progress and will likely need to improve if it is to win the competition for a second time, after 2012.

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