Thursday, October 21, 2021

Champions League soccer: Messi, Neymar, Mbappe debut; PSG, Club Brugge draw

Sept. 16 (UPI) — Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe appeared in the same starting lineup for the first time, but the elite front line could not lead PSG to a victory, drawing with Club Brugge in a Champions League group stage game.

The French Ligue 1 power tied its Belgian Pro League foe 1-1 in the Group A match Wednesday in Bruges, Belgium. Club Brugge outshot PSG 16-9.

“We know these matches are difficult,” PSG goalie Keylor Navas told reporters. “It’s a tournament in which all the teams know how to win and play at their best.

“We saw that [Wednesday], and it’s never easy, but we need to keep our heads up because we’re a good team and we can move forward. I try to help all my teammates and the team. Of course, we would have preferred to win this game, but we all need to improve individually in our areas and become more solid as a team to be better.”

Mbappe left the field in the 51st minute due to an ankle injury. He assisted PSG’s goal in the 15th minute. Messi fired several close attempts, but will need to wait longer to register his first score with his new team.

Right wing Ander Herrera put PSG ahead early in the first half. Mbappe dribbled around a defender to the left of the Club Brugge box at the start of that sequence.

He then fired a cross into the middle of the box. Herrera ran into the area and used his first touch to fire a shot past Club Brugge goalie Simon Mignolet.

Mbappe nearly scored about 10 minutes later off a pass from Messi, but Mignolet blocked that attempt.

Club Brugge’s Hans Vanaken equalized in the 27th minute. Left back Eduard Sobol made a run toward the left corner flag to spark that score. He received a pass and sent another feed into the box. Vanaken ran onto the ball and smashed a shot into the upper left portion of the PSG goal.

Messi hit the crossbar on another PSG shot on net in the 29th minute. Navas went onto save close attempts from a free kick and a breakaway later in the first half.

Messi received a yellow card in the 72nd minute when he came in late on a challenge. Each team fired close chances down the stretch, but couldn’t finish.

PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino told reporters that Mbappe “twisted” his ankle in the draw.

“It’s good to have this squad together for the first time,” Pochettino said. “Players need to play together and get to know each other. Of course, it takes time to find the right balance to be solid and win games.

“We’re disappointed with the result and we need to improve the performances, but there is still time to improve.”

PSG hosts Lyon in Ligue 1 at 2:45 p.m. EDT Sunday in Paris. They host Manchester City in another Champions League group stage game at 3 p.m. EDT Sept. 28 at Parc des Princes stadium.

Club Brugge battles Charleroi in the Belgian Pro League at 2:45 p.m. EDT Saturday in Charleroi, Belgium. They face RB Leipzig of the German Bundesliga in their next Champions League match at 3 p.m. EDT Sept. 28 in Leipzig, Germany.
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