We break down Man City's defensive mistakes, leading to Messi's wonder goal in the Champions League
Lionel Messi opened his account for PSG in fine style on Tuesday night, choosing his old manager Pep Guardiola to punish in the Champions League.
When the little Argentinian picked up the ball just inside the Manchester City half, there was an air of inevitability regarding what was about to happen.
Eight seconds later, the former Barcelona man was wheeling away in celebration, having slammed a shot past Ederson into the top corner, giving the multiple-time French champions an unassailable 2-0 lead on the night.
At first glance, it looks like a typical Messi goal, and one that any team would have struggled to cope with. In fact, it looks like that even if you take multiple looks at it.
But by breaking down the footage, it’s clear why Messi makes the goal look so easy. Manchester City’s defensive error.
When Messi initially picks up the ball from Marco Verratti’s pass, it’s five vs two in City’s favour as Messi advances towards the Premier League champions’ back line. Not such a bad position, especially considering City have only conceded one goal in the league this season so far.
Even with Kylian Mbappe readying himself to make a dart towards the heart of City’s defence, Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte look to have things covered.
But there’s one man who is the key to this goal becoming a reality: Achraf Hakimi.
The Moroccan wing-back is one of the most expensive defenders in the world after a summer move from Inter Milan, and managed to cause this goal without even touching the ball.
Take a look at the screenshot above, and you’ll see how Messi gets the space to run directly at City’s centre-backs. Hakimi’s sprint is a problem, and it forces City into a vital mistake.
Instead of going to the ball, Joao Cancelo chooses to run straight past Messi and cover Hakimi’s overlapping run. This is understandable, as the Portuguese international has spent most of the night worrying about the problems Hakimi can cause if he’s allowed space down the flank.
In fact, this might not have even been Cancelo’s mistake, as illustrated by the screenshot below, which shows Laporte pointing for Cancelo to cover Hakimi. This is a crucial error of judgement.
In this instance, the danger is the six-time Ballon d’Or winner and one of the best players of all-time, who is running towards your goal with the ball at his feet. You can see from the picture above that Laporte’s body position is pointing towards Hakimi, readying himself to cover the overlap, but he doesn’t, opting to try and cope with Messi himself.
As a result, the pitch opens up for PSG’s #30. He puts his foot down, accelerates towards Laporte, and because the Spain international has to turn his body round to face the attacker, is always at a disadvantage.
By the time he gets in a position to close him down, the pass for Mbappe is on, and after a deft touch from him, Messi arrives to slam it past Ederson.
We’ve got to remember that these decisions are taken in a matter of milliseconds and against arguably the best attack in the world, but those can be the moments that decide big games.
City were excellent for large parts of the game, but their decision making on PSG’s counter attack was the difference between playing the final 20 minutes chasing an equaliser and a consolation goal.