All that talk about Paris Saint-Germain just to claim the leading role. Club Brugge played an impressive Champions League opener against the tournament favorite who is touring Europe. There is no goal to be negotiated at 1-1. There is a surprising amount of life in the “group of death”.
It was a first half to remember for a long time in Jan Breydel. Because the scenario developed so differently than we had seen so often with Belgian representatives in the most prestigious of the European cups.
The beginning misled all observers. After an encouraging opening phase, in which PSG had given Club Brugge the ball, it was the visitors who took the lead. That happened after their first chance of the game. Kylian Mbappé continued on the left, Ander Herrera completed his cross clinically. PSG lived up to its reputation of one chance – one goal. Chairman Nasser Al-Khelaïfi was able to slide a little deeper into his chair. He waited for another sprint from Kylian Mbappe, a dribble from Neymar, the first goal of Lionel Messi.
But 0-1 was not 0-2. Lionel Messi found Mbappe but Simon Mignolet distinguished himself with a first save. Club’s greatest achievement was that it did not let itself be thrown off balance by the early deficit. The players stayed true to their battle plan and confidently sought out the combinations. This mainly happened along the right flank, where ex-Zulte Waregem player Abdou Diallo was the weakest link on paper.
The twelfth man also played his part. The Bruges fans made themselves heard loudly when Mats Rits – Ruud Vormer’s replacement – forced the first corner. And when Leandro Paredes brought down Charles De Ketelaere, the home fans screamed for a red card. That didn’t happen because Marquinhos could have come back in time. Hans Vanaken hit the free kick into the wall.
Club continued to threaten from the right. Kamal Sowah went wild, but his efficiency remained subpar. Clinton Mata was busy with Neymar, the busiest of the Parisians. Noa Lang, Hans Vanaken and Charles De Ketelaere also appeared regularly on the right flank.
But it was on the left side that Club came alongside. Lionel Messi was at the base of the goal during one of his scarce wanderings. His bad pass was intercepted by Stanley Nsoki and Eduard Sobol was able to take advantage of the space the Argentinian had left. Hans Vanaken appeared in the right place to push Sobol’s cross hard past Keylor Navas into the goal.
The 1-1 gave Club even more fuel. Charles De Ketelaere already came into contact with Presnel Kimpembé in the opening minutes, but played as if the Champions League was his daily fare. “CDK” didn’t lose a ball and would remain a cue point and a calmer throughout the match.
Noa Lang tried with his energy and dribbles to make holes in the Paris block. But it was especially Hans Vanaken who set the standard at Club Brugge in his well-known style. Keylor Navas should have scored another free kick. The Costa Rican also had to work after a personal action by De Ketelaere. Lionel Messi showed himself one more time before half-time. His effort hit the top of the bar.
The break seemed ill-timed for Club Brugge. PSG coach Maurizio Pochettino rearranged his troops and sacrificed two defensive midfielders with Paredes and Wijnaldum. Once again it was to Club’s credit that the game image did not change. Noa Lang had the first chance of the first half, but it was mainly Jack Hendry who had advanced along, who left the 2-1 behind after an action by Vanaken and De Ketelaere.
Moments later, Pochettino was allowed to make a third substitution. Mbappé, who came back from the international break with hindrance, was injured. Mauro Icardi was his replacement. The Argentinian striker almost immediately had a chance at 1-2, but an excellent Eduard Sobol managed to get the ball out of his feet.
And so it kept raining chances on both sides. Lionel Messi was allowed to take a free kick but Simon Mignolet took it without difficulty. Lang pulled out acrobatic on a pass from De Ketelaere, but saw his attempt fly wide.
PSG increased the pressure in the final quarter. But Messi couldn’t get his visor adjusted and Icardi didn’t get his attempt between the posts.
Trainer Philippe Clement enjoyed. Regular time was completed when he made his first substitution. The crowd had taken over control of the match and was shouting Club to a first point in “the group of death”. It is sometimes pleasant to be in the Hereafter.