Manchester City’s 2-1 comeback win at Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday was down to the team eventually showing their personality after a timid first half, coach Pep Guardiola said.
The visitors fell behind in their Champions League semi-final first leg after 15 minutes when Marquinhos headed home from Angel Di Maria’s corner.
PSG looked sharp and focused, but lost control of the game to a transformed City side after the break, with Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez scoring second-half goals to earn City their 18th consecutive away win in all competitions.
With Neymar and Kylian Mbappe threatening to punish them on the counter, however, City took a cautious approach in the first half, and Guardiola said he did not blame them for it.
“They’re a team who are able to do whatever they want because they have the quality, so that’s why you play a bit cautious. You cannot win the qualification in the first leg, but you can lose it in the first leg,” he told a news conference.
“I told them ‘I understand you guys, I was a player myself. If you lose you lose but you have to try to play our game. What is our identity as a team without the ball and with the ball’?”
The City players showed they got the message as they played with more intent after the interval. “We were more aggressive in our game. In the first 45 minutes we played not to lose the ball but with no intention to break the lines,” Guardiola explained.
“The second half was better in every way, our football was better.”
Despite the advantage they carry into the second leg, Guardiola is well aware that City will need to be at the top of their game again next Tuesday.
De Bruyne said there would be moments in the second leg when City would suffer. “We know how good they are you have to set your mind on the fact you’re going to work hard for the team and that’s gonna happen in the second game also,” he said.
Lack of intensity
Mauricio Pochettino said PSG will need to maintain their intensity levels throughout the game if they are to overturn a 1-2 deficit.
“We were the better team in the first half but then we conceded two goals we normally don’t concede,” coach Mauricio Pochettino told a news conference.
“The key was that we didn’t show the same energy with the ball than in the first half,” Pochettino explained.
“But we are confident that we can turn this around and approach the second leg the same way.”