It was the moment that European football had been waiting for, and the one that Pep Guardiola knew was probably “unstoppable”.
Lionel Messi slid forward from the midline at the end against Manchester City at Parc des Princes, played a double with his Paris St-Germain teammate Kylian Mbappé and left goalkeeper Ederson nailed on the spot with a shot beautifully placed on top. corner.
It was the first club goal of his entire career that had not been scored for Barcelona and sealed a Win 2-0 for the team that hired him primarily to lead them to Champions League glory.
That goal ended Messi’s 264-minute goalless streak since his summer signing from Spain. Coach Mauricio Pochettino celebrated with joy. Guardiola had seen Messi up close enough to know that he was as good as he was inevitable. Messi himself was left with a huge sense of relief.
“It is true that I was desperate to score my first goal,” Messi told the French channel Canal Plus. “I hadn’t played much lately and I had only played once here at home but I am gradually settling into the team.
“The more we forwards play together, the better our relationship will be. We all need to grow together, improve and continue to do our best.”
It has taken the 34-year-old Argentine more than a month to play his first four games with his new club due to lack of form, international duties and then injury.
He had been unable to score in his first three games for PSG, against Reims, Club Bruges and Lyon, after joining in a free transfer in the summer.
By their standards, that was a goal drought.
PSG coach Pochettino, Messi’s Argentine compatriot, was delighted to see him finished. “Usually I don’t celebrate the goals, I keep it to myself,” he said. “But today, for Messi, I did it.
“I spent years watching Messi score goals from the opponent’s side, so this time, scoring for my team, that’s great.”
PSG’s three highly publicized forwards – Neymar, Mbappé and Messi – the two most expensive players in history and the record six-time Ballon d’Or winner – showed some promising signs.
They played 44 passes between them in total, almost 10% of the PSG total.
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, defeated by Messi and Barcelona in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals, was impressed by the Argentine.
“You see the pace, the strength, the balance and the technique to put him where he did,” he said on BT Sport. “It was phenomenal.
“He was on the fringes of the game, he’s at a new club and he’s making his way. Even the superstars have to do that. You see the celebrations after the goal, that’s a relief. He’s not usually as lively afterward.
“We have waited and what Messi did tonight is worth waiting for.”
Former United and City midfielder Owen Hargreaves said: “Messi is the man for the big occasion. He always seems to score against Pep Guardiola’s teams.”
That was Messi’s seventh goal in five Champions League games against teams led by Guardiola, his former Barcelona coach. No other player has scored more goals against Guardiola in the competition.
Former City midfielder Michael Brown was watching the game on BBC Radio 5 Live: “The headlines will go to Messi and that’s what we expect from the great man.
“He has returned and is with PSG.”
Guardiola won two Champions and three Spanish titles with Messi, but could not ensure that his team would stop one of the greats of the game.
“We know that it is impossible to control Leo for 90 minutes,” he said.
“He didn’t have much contact with the ball, of course he came from an injury, he needed a bit of rhythm, but we know very well that when he can run and get close to the ball, he is unstoppable.”
Messi happy to do his dirty work
Messi also drew attention for his hard work on the game. Sixteen of his 60 touches were on his own half. He beat the ball off Riyad Mahrez on the edge of his own box to stop a City attack.
Even his run for his goal, which was his only shot, started in his own half.
No PSG player had more successful passes (43) in the game.
But the moment, aside from the goal, that really caught the eye was when he played the draft excluder role for a late free throw from Kevin de Bruyne.
That’s where a player lays on the ground behind the wall so the catcher can’t shoot on a low free throw. It was a practically invented role to defend Messi’s free throws.
De Bruyne went high, rather than low, and his shot was stopped.
“We couldn’t believe it. He’s one of the greatest of all time,” Hargreaves said.
Ferdinand added: “The moment Mauricio Pochettino asked him to do that in training camp, someone should have come in and said ‘no no no.’
“If I were on that team, I’d say: ‘I’ll go to bed for you.’ Messi doesn’t get his kit dirty!”
‘We did everything but score’
City entered the game high after beating title rivals and European champion Chelsea 1-0 on Saturday.
They had more, and better, chances than PSG, hitting the crossbar twice through Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva in one move.
PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made seven saves against one from Ederson.
“We did everything but score,” Guardiola said. “They defended deep and were dangerous with the counterattack. My highest compliment to the team.
“The team was there, as was Stamford Bridge. It’s a shame. We played to win. Unfortunately, they didn’t need much to score their goals.
“We are going to eat well tonight, have a glass of wine, recover and prepare for the Liverpool game on Sunday.”
Former City midfielder Brown added: “They created a lot of opportunities and I think Pep will say ‘that’s football’ and take the positives.
“He knows it is neither life nor death being the group stage. They have a super squad and they will continue to progress.”
Former City defender Sylvain Distin said: “I think City had intensity, they just didn’t take their chances.”
“They had more than enough chances to win that game.”