Kylian Mbappe, Bradley Barcola bail out PSG in win over Real Sociedad but Luis Enrique must find consistent XI

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PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain took full control of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie with Real Sociedad on Wednesday with a 2-0 win at Parc des Princes thanks to second-half goals from Kylian Mbappe and Bradley Barcola for the Ligue 1 giants. It took nearly an hour for Luis Enrique’s men to break the deadlock against their Basque visitors who are now over 500 minutes without a goal across all competitions but you would not have been able to guess that based on the opening 58 minutes in the French capital.

Sociedad dominated PSG in everything but possession and shots on target in the first half and hit the crossbar before the breakthrough Mikel Merino as Imanol Alguacil’s men threatened an upset against the French outfit who are no strangers to humiliating results in Europe. For long periods, the home fans would have been forgiven for feeling the familiar sense of dread when their team does not make the most of an opponent in difficulty and the capital team certainly allowed a depleted Sociedad to dictate the game at times.

A different Parisien side emerged for the second half, though, and Mbappe eventually made the breakthrough with a finish from close range after Marquinhos headed the ball on from a corner to awaken the home fans from their slumber. Barcola had been a threat at times out wide on the left throughout the game but seemed set to depart without anything to show for it before he knifed his way through the Sociedad back line to finish clinically past Alex Remiro 12 minutes after Mbappe’s opener.

Although the result will have pleased Luis Enrique, he will not have been convinced by his team’s first half showing off the back of scraping through behind Borussia Dortmund in the group stage but the Spanish tactician must take some responsibility for that. After a raft of changes for the 3-1 win over Lille OSC this past weekend he shuffled his hand again with a number of players returning to the XI and some unexpected players left out from the start such as Lucas Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani.

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The opening hour was as disjointed as you would expect from a team constantly changing in terms of its composition and Luis Enrique needs to settle on his preferred XI before the return leg in San Sebastian with an ideal balance yet to be struck in this Parisien side at any point in the UCL this term. It did eventually work out in Luis Enrique’s favor that Mbappe and Barcola delivered moments of brilliance which we expect of the former and know that the latter is also capable of but it also bailed out a largely unconvincing first 60 minutes from the Ligue 1 champions.

The six shots to zero on target and 58% possession is a little deceptive given the quality of the actual opportunities carved out by Sociedad without testing Gianluigi Donnarumma in any serious way bar the Merino effort which was saved for the Italy international by the woodwork. PSG, in that respect, were superior to their La Liga visitors and that is what counted by the end of the game — even if a better side could easily have hurt the hosts before they finally managed to draw first blood.

Although the execution was not necessarily perfect the result was and that will be the most important thing for Paris and Mbappe who continues his perfect record in terms of scoring in every home UCL game so far this season. A more thorough and professional job will be needed to see it out in Spain for the second leg which will require Luis Enrique to select his team with consistency in the next few weeks for greater fluency in San Sebastian and beyond.





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