SPORTS DESK : 29 NOVEMBER, 2023, 11:16 PM
A 98th-minute Kylian Mbappe penalty earned Paris Saint-Germain a 1-1 Champions League draw with Newcastle United on Tuesday that keeps the French club in a position to qualify for the last 16 and leaves their opponents in serious danger of a group-stage exit.
It looked as though Newcastle — who won 4-1 when the sides met at St James’ Park last month — were going to leave Paris with all three points in the Group F encounter thanks to Alexander Isak’s 25th-minute opener.
PSG had run out of ideas by the time they were gifted an opportunity to salvage a draw in injury time when the VAR decided a Tino Livramento handball in the box was worthy of a penalty.
Mbappe made no mistake, and PSG hold onto second place in the group behind Borussia Dortmund, who won 3-1 away to AC Milan and are through to the last 16.
The French champions will join them with a win in Dortmund in their final group game, while Newcastle now have to win at home to Milan and hope PSG slip up.
“I feel it is a poor decision,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said of the penalty.
“It is hugely frustrating for us because at that moment you know how little time there is left in the game, but there is nothing we can do about it now.”
Howe’s side would have been out with a defeat, so at least they remain in contention, while avoiding a third defeat in five group games allows PSG to hold off the threat of a first elimination from the Champions League before the last 16 in the Qatar era.
“We should have won, without a doubt. I think it was a very complete performance from us,” said PSG coach Luis Enrique.
“We were better than Newcastle but that’s football,” he added before claiming he had not seen the crucial penalty incident.
“I don’t dedicate myself to looking at VAR decisions. I am only dedicated to improving my team.”
PSG have regularly struggled to impress in the Champions League in the last decade, but never as much as this season, and Mbappe’s late goal — his 17th of the season — got them out of jail.
Mbappe, wearing the captain’s armband with Marquinhos missing, often struggled to impact the game as he found himself squashed in between Newcastle defenders Kieran Trippier and Jamaal Lascelles.
The visitors set up to thwart the hosts and the tactic mostly worked, at least after PSG almost went in front inside nine minutes.
Achraf Hakimi linked up with Randal Kolo Muani down the Paris right before driving into the box and delivering a low centre for Mbappe, whose backheeled attempt was saved by Nick Pope.
– Isak opens scoring –
PSG were not helped by another shaky performance from their Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, which has become a worrying trend.
It was his poor pass out which led to Hakimi losing possession in the 12th minute, allowing Miguel Almiron to cross for Isak to fire over in a first warning.
The Premier League side then went in front when Livramento ran unchallenged across the edge of the box to set up Almiron for a shot that Donnarumma could only parry out to the feet of the grateful Isak.
Newcastle then served a reminder of why they boasted the joint-best defence in England last season alongside champions Manchester City, as they sat back and denied Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Kolo Muani the space they crave.
But PSG also squandered chances, with Mbappe setting up Dembele for a shot that was blocked in first-half stoppage time, while the latter was denied by Pope diving at his feet shortly after the restart.
Pope made a superb stop in the 66th minute to deny substitute Bradley Barcola after he was set up by Mbappe.
PSG then appealed furiously for a penalty when Hakimi was knocked off balance by Anthony Gordon, but a VAR check concluded there was nothing worth a spot-kick, and a claim for handball against teenager Lewis Miley moments later was also dismissed.
Pope saved again from Mbappe in the 87th minute, but Newcastle’s resistance was finally undone when the Polish VAR official called referee Szymon Marciniak across to the monitor to review a possible handball by Livramento.
The award was harsh, but Mbappe snapped up the chance to equalise. BSS
Rent for add