PSG defender Juan Bernat, center, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal with teammates Neymar, right, and Kylian Mbappe during the Champions League Group C second leg soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Liverpool at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

PSG beats Liverpool 2-1 to get qualification back on track

November 28, 2018 - 4:59 pm

PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain showed its resilient side, beating Liverpool 2-1 Wednesday in a scrappy match to get its Champions League campaign back on track.

The win moves PSG up to second place in Group C and drops Liverpool down to third, turning the pressure onto Juergen Klopp's team heading into the last round of games.

Left-back Juan Bernat and Neymar gave PSG a deserved 2-0 lead against a static Liverpool side, whose only attacks in the first half were predictable and slow forays down the right.

Liverpool was given a lifeline on the stroke of halftime when forward Sadio Mane was clumsily tripped by Angel Di Maria and veteran midfielder James Milner coolly sent Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Liverpool had the better of the second half but failed to create clear scoring chances, with Mohamed Salah particularly ineffective and easily marked by burly center-back Presnel Kimpembe.

Klopp was quick to criticize referee Szymon Marciniak and took a swipe at Neymar and other PSG players for what he considered to be play-acting.

"There was a little hurdle with the 500,000 interruptions in the second half, and the referee did nothing. In England we are high up in the fair play table, but tonight we looked like butchers," Klopp said. "It was clever of PSG, Neymar — especially him — but a lot of players went down as if it was really serious."

Klopp wanted PSG's players to be punished more often.

"You act like you die and the next moment you get up. It could be a yellow card. You could do that. Everybody's going down, it's not football anymore," Klopp said. "But I don't want to say 'Paris didn't deserve it.' We were not calm enough ... Our decision making was not good enough."

In Group C's other match, Napoli beat Red Star Belgrade 3-1 at home. Napoli is one point ahead of PSG and three clear of Liverpool, leaving the three teams fighting to advance to the knockout stage.

Liverpool must beat Napoli at home on Dec. 11, while PSG travels to last-place Red Star.

"We need Anfield again, we need a great atmosphere," Klopp said. "We have to make a special night of it if we want to go through."

PSG celebrated the win almost as if it had won a title, with Neymar jumping over the advertising hoardings and leading the rest of the team into jubilant dancing in front of the fans. It was a clear sign of PSG's relief at finally winning a big game after twice drawing with Napoli and losing away to Liverpool.

Ultimately, PSG coach Thomas Tuchel got his choices right and his players responded to his request for more intensity and a greater work ethic.

He took the risk of playing center half Marquinhos as a holding midfielder instead of Adrien Rabiot, but the move worked as PSG largely controlled the first half.

Di Maria and Neymar had shots saved before PSG's 13th-minute opener, which had a touch of luck as Kylian Mbappe's mis-hit pass was poorly cleared by Virgil van Dijk and Bernat lashed the ball into the bottom corner.

PSG's second goal came after another Liverpool move on the right broke down. PSG charged down the left and Dejan Lovren's lack of pace was exposed by the electrifying speed of Mbappe. Alisson did well to stop Mbappe's cross from the left reaching the onrushing Edinson Cavani, but Neymar picked his spot from the rebound.

Liverpool's goal arrived with a timely shift down the left flank, as Mane got behind the defense and forced Di Maria into a panicky error.

After Marquinhos had a goal disallowed for offside right at the start of the second half, Liverpool upped the tempo. The mobile Mane was getting considerably more involved and PSG started to give the ball away carelessly as the pressure rose at a tense Parc des Princes.

Roberto Firmino headed wide from Andy Robertson's cross and Salah was getting into better positions, but his turns were easily read by Kimpembe.

Still, a concerned Tuchel strengthened his defense by replacing Di Maria with veteran defender Dani Alves and took off Cavani — PSG's all-time leading scorer — for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

Cavani, who has been out of favor with Tuchel, walked straight past him and refused his offer of a handshake.

PSG woke up again 20 minutes from the end, but Alisson made a fine stop to keep out a firm downward header from Marquinhos. Alves played Mbappe through late on but Liverpool shielded him well.

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