Berlin, 13 August 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Paris Saint-Germain struck twice late in the game to beat brave Atalanta 2-1 on Wednesday in Lisbon for their first place in the Champions League semi-finals in 25 years.
Marquinhos cancelled out Atalanta’s first-half lead from Mario Pasalic in the 90th minute and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting grabbed the winner three minutes into stoppage time behind closed doors at the Estadio da Luz.
It was cruel exit for the debutants Atalanta who had impressed this season in Italy and Europe and were also playing for their home city of Bergamo, one of the Italian cities hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ambitious PSG were far from glorious, with Neymar missing a host of chances, and Kylian Mbappe only returning for the final half hour from injury. But man-of-the-match Neymar set up the equalizer and Mbappe the winner.
PSG will now aim for their first place in the elite event final next week against Atletico Madrid or RB Leipzig, who contest the second quarter-final on Thursday. The other games are Bayern Munich v Barcelona and Manchester City v Olympique Lyon.
“It was a great night. It was tough. I never thought we’d be back home tomorrow. At every moment, we just went for one thing: progress to the last four,” Neymar said.
Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini told Sky TV: “I can only thank my players. We were so close, really close.” Midfielder Marten de Roon said: “At this moment it’s quite painful. Tomorrow, I will be proud of our team and club but at this moment I feel disappointment.”
Atalanta came into the Lisbon mini-tournament having completed the Serie A season less than zwo weeks ago while PSG were playing only their third game since the French league was stopped in March and then abandoned because of the coronavirus.
Mbappe returned onto the PSG bench from an ankle injury sustained in the French cup final almost three weeks ago while midfielder Marco Verratti was out injured and Angel di Maria suspended.
Atalanta were without Josip Ilicic, who scored five of the eight goals in the last 16 against Valencia, for personal reasons, and goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini was out with a knee injury.
But their high-powered attack threatened right from the outset after a minute’s silence was observed before kick-off for Covid-19 victims around the world.
Captain Papu Gomez had a low shot stopped by Keylor Navas who was also on his guard against a tight-angle header from Hans Hateboer after 11 minutes.
However, PSG should have scored in-between, with Neymar running alone towards goalkeeper Marco Sportiello but then astonishingly fluffing his shot wide right.
Atalanta took the lead in the 27th from Pasalic’s curling effort into the top left corner – off a toe-poke from Duvan Zapata who at first had appeared to have lost the ball.
Neymar tried to level almost instantly but shot inches left from just outside the penalty area, and the Brazilian sunk to the ground in disbelief after shooting wide again shortly before half-time after chasing down a terrible backpass from Hatebour.
Neymar tried everything to lift his team after the restart but PSG were lucky not to be two down in the 57th when Berat Djimsiti volleyed into the side-netting at the far left post.
Mbappe finally came on on the hour and showed his speed on the left in the 74th with Sportiello however on his guard against his tight-angle effort.
Navas had to leave injured in the 79th before the drama then unfolded late on.
Marquinhos levelled off Neymar‘s low cross from the left, and there wasn’t even extra time because Choupo-Moting stuck out his foot to convert Mbappe’s cross against exhausted Atalanta.
“It was a crazy game. I thought when I was coming on ‘we can’t lose, we can’t go home like this’. I was confident in myself and the team,” Choupo-Moting told BT Sport.
“It’s a long time and we never won the Champions League. With such a great team you have to have this ambition. We will give everything in the next game and continue to believe.”