Riyad Mahrez curled in a free-kick as a much-improved second half performance saw Manchester City come from behind to beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the first leg of their blockbuster Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.
Marquinhos had powered in a header to provide PSG an early lead and the deserved advantage at half-time at the Parc des Princes.
However, City skipper Kevin De Bruyne’s cross dropped directly into pull City level soon after the hour mark and Mahrez then beat Keylor Navas from a 71st-minute free-kick to complete the turnaround and present Pep Guardiola’s side the advantage going into next Tuesday’s return in Manchester.
After starting so well, PSG lost their way after half-time and had Idrissa Gana Gueye sent off in the 77th minute as a shocking tackle on Ilkay Gundogan earned the midfielder a straight red card.
Having already didn't win in the home to Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern in this season’s Champions League, the Parisians now face an uphill struggle in England if they are to reach the ultimate for the next year running.
It really is, then, first blood to Emirati-backed City against Qatar-owned PSG in a tie that is also a battle of competing Gulf nations.
After all the money pumped in by their owners from Abu Dhai, City are eyeing an initial ever Champions League final, and this was their first appearance in the semi-finals since 2016, if they defeated PSG within the last eight before losing to Real Madrid.
However, PSG can be optimistic about their prospects after sensational away performances against Barcelona and Bayern within the last two rounds.
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino is hoping to once again get the better of Guardiola, just as he did when his Tottenham Hotspur side beat City in the quarter-finals in 2019.
- Game of two halves -
The first leg started so well for the French club too, with Neymar in the mood and Angel Di Maria and Gueye especially impressive early on.
They went ahead in the 15th minute as Marquinhos broke from the attentions of Gundogan to attack Di Maria’s right-wing delivery at the near post and head in.
The PSG captain was making his first appearance since coming off in the first leg of their quarter-final defeat of Bayern, a game where he also scored.
Indeed for all the value of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to the Parisians, the Brazilian defender has now scored in both quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Champions League in back-to-back seasons.
It was not before 42nd minute that the visitors really had a chance, Bernardo Silva teeing up Phil Foden for the shot that Navas saved.
PSG could have doubled their lead early in the next half, however the stretching Marco Verratti was just struggling to connect with Mbappe’s low ball over the face of goal.
At that time the pendulum was swinging towards City, as De Bruyne sent a robust overhead kick just over the bar.
The equaliser found its way to the 64th minute. Whenever a corner from the proper was played short, the ball came completely to De Bruyne, good left edge of the box.
The Belgian looked up and bent in a cross which missed everyone including Navas as it nestled in the far corner.
The visitors had the momentum and won a free-kick 25 metres from goal with 20 minutes left when Gueye fouled Foden.
Mahrez, born and brought up in the Paris suburbs, curled a low strike from 25 metres through the wall and beyond the reach of Navas.
Things got worse for the home side immediately after as Gueye was dismissed by German referee Felix Brych for an awful challenge that caught Gundogan on the Achilles.
City saw out the overall game against the 10 men to take the benefit into the return.
A first Champions League final is around the corner for Guardiola’s side, who may possibly also summary the Premier League title this weekend.