Messi’s goal was both stunning and also so typical of the Argentine, as he burst forward from the right and played a one-two with Kylian Mbappe on the edge of the box, holding off Aymeric Laporte as he sent a first-time strike high into the net. It raised the roof at the Parc des Princes, as PSG supporters celebrated seeing the six-time Ballon d’Or winner open his account for the club he joined in August.
Idrissa Gana Gueye, arguably PSG’s best player this season, had given the home side an early lead to leave City chasing the game. Guardiola’s side, who beat the French club in the semi-finals last season before losing the final, dominated large spells of the match in between the two goals, but their finishing let them down.
They will especially rue the moment in the first half when Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva each hit the bar in quick succession, but City will still be confident of progressing to the last 16. PSG and Club Brugge, who won 2-1 at RB Leipzig on Tuesday, are level on four points at the top of Group A, with City on three having beaten the Germans 6-3 a fortnight ago.
The Premier League champions will hope to take their revenge on PSG when they meet in the reverse fixture, but this was a night for the Qatar-owned rivals of Abu Dhabi-backed City to bask in the glow of having Messi. The former Barcelona man had missed PSG’s last two games with a knee knock but the expectation was always that he was being saved for this glamour tie. He had completed 90 minutes for PSG only once before this game since arriving to team up with Neymar and Mbappe in a dream front line.
Naturally all eyes are drawn to him when PSG play now, yet the surprise star for the French side so far this season has been Gueye, the Senegal midfielder who has four goals to his name after opening the scoring eight minutes in.
Neymar failed to properly connect with Mbappe’s cutback from the right but the ball fell to Gueye and he fired high into the net from close range. Having kept Chelsea at bay in a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge at the weekend, City were chasing the game already. Guardiola had made two changes to his line-up from the Chelsea victory, with Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden dropping out to make way for Sterling and Riyad Mahrez.
Sterling was involved as the visitors squandered a chance to equalise in comical fashion as the half-hour mark approached. The England forward’s header came back off the bar and on its way down brushed Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was making his first ever Champions League appearance after being preferred to Keylor Navas in the Paris goal. Silva was left with an easy chance to convert the loose ball from barely two metres but somehow also hit the bar.
City were succeeding in cutting off PSG’s front three from the rest of their team although the hosts might have scored again on the break in the 38th minute as an Ander Herrera shot was tipped over by Ederson. Then came a flashpoint as Kevin De Bruyne escaped with a yellow card after his studs caught Gueye high above his ankle, the referee Carlos del Cerro Grande somewhat surprisingly not reviewing the images.
Despite that moment, this heavyweight showdown between the runners-up from the last two seasons often lacked the intensity that would certainly have been there in a knockout tie. Donnarumma saved well from De Bruyne in the second half. Messi was largely a peripheral figure until conjured his moment of brilliance to kill off City.