PLAYER RATINGS | PSG 2-0 Real Sociedad: Mbappé and Barcola seal first-leg win

The tired axiom that Paris Saint-Germain’s season only ever really starts in February does, admittedly, have some truth to it. For all their domestic dominance (although the story this season has been more nuanced than their 11-point lead at the top suggests) overcoming the mental block of the Champions League knockout stages was always going to be Luis Enrique’s first real test in charge.

For most of tonight’s last 16 first leg against Real Sociedad, it looked as though their continental stage fright would get the better of them again. The hosts were decidedly not up to the task in the opening exchanges, with the Basques successfully pressing their opponents off their game. Luis Enrique’s men looked particularly vulnerable on their left flank, with Lucas Beraldo – the winter signing from Brazil thrown into the deep end for his first Champions League game – struggling to stave off an electric Takefusa Kubo.

PSG did manage to break out of their own half on the counter, but neither Mbappé nor Dembélé could trouble Remiro. The best chances came the visitors’ way, though – André Silva’s header going narrowly wide before Mikel Merino struck the bar with a long-range effort.

That pattern of play would subsist at the start of the second half – until, against the run of play, the hosts broke the deadlock on the hour mark. With Marquinhos nodding on Dembélé’s corner to the back post, Mbappé was on hand to finish from close range, for his fourth goal in Europe this season. Bradley Barcola would double the lead twenty minutes from time, finishing off a sweeping counter-attack with a devastating solo effort from the left wing.

It was fitting that the summer signing – with his last contribution – would be the one to pull PSG clear. It had been in this competition, against Newcastle, that the worst of this season’s criticism came down on him, after a string of wasted chances in that tedious home draw. Having roared back into form over the last few months, the former Lyon man is now a nailed-on starter on PSG’s left wing.

With the wind decisively taken out of the Basque sails, Paris Saint-Germain were able to cruise through the last 20 minutes virtually unopposed. Given Real Sociedad’s dominance in the first hour, though, the tie is far from over. Luis Enrique would go on to praise the “suffering” that Imanol Alguacil’s men inflicted on his team – the Txuri Urdin have been the sternest test PSG have faced at the Parc des Princes this season. It was the first of the Spanish coaches, though, whose management made the difference, with his players emphasising the importance of his half-time team talk and changes – “the coach pulled us by the ears, he was very annoyed”, smiled Marquinhos.   

PSG player ratings

Gianluigi Donnarumma, 6

Achraf Hakimi, 5

Marquinhos, 6

Danilo Pereira, 5

Lucas Beraldo, 3 – Just a month after his arrival from Brazil, the defender was thrown into the deep end of a Champions League knockout tie, and struggled considerably when tasked with staving off Takefusa Kubo. Admittedly, he was being played out of position – the Brazilian has performed well when deployed as a centre-back. He was replaced by Lucas Hernández midway through the second half.

Fabián Ruiz, 6 – The most-improved player between the two halves – the Spaniard turned what was initially a wasteful performance into one where he was able to break up his compatriots’ play and provide the platform for PSG’s upturn in fortunes at the end of the game.

Warren Zaïre-Emery, 5

Vitinha, 5

Ousmane Dembélé, 6 – The only Paris Saint-Germain player who looked capable of breaking free from the chains of Real Sociedad’s press in the first half, even if the final product was decidedly lacking. As was the case for the rest of the team, a much-improved performance after the break, having been the catalyst for both goals – taking the corner that led to Mbappé’s and starting the break that led to Barcola’s. 

Kylian Mbappé, 7 – The forward was back in the team after being rested at the weekend with an ankle knock, and once again delivered in Europe – he has now scored 9 of PSG’s last 13 Champions League knockout goals. He nearly beat Remiro in one of PSG’s rare bursts forward in the first 45 minutes, and then decisively took charge of the game from his opener onwards. 

Bradley Barcola, 7 – Saw less of the ball than Dembélé and Mbappé, but the 21-year-old continued his impressive run of form by finishing off a sweeping counter-attack to double the lead. 

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