Paris Saint-Germain’s second defeat of the season will have spelled the end of the patience that head coach Luis Enrique had been enjoying so far this campaign as he takes time reshaping the French giants. The Spanish tactician witnessed his Parisiens deliver a wretched opening 55 minutes or so in Newcastle before even coming to life for the final 35, by which time it was too late to salvage.
PSG have been knocked off of top spot in UEFA Champions League Group F by Newcastle United who were 3-0 up at St James’ Park after 50 minutes on Wednesday and ran out 4-1 winners. The French champions’ performance, more than the result, will bring consequences at Parc des Princes with a heavy loss to the Saudi Arabia-owned Magpies unlikely to be tolerated in Qatar.
PSG captain Marquinhos gifted Newcastle Miguel Almiron’s opening goal on 17 minutes, and despite an element of misfortune on Dan Burn’s second, Eddie Howe’s men deservedly led at the break. Two quickly became three as Gianluigi Donnarumma went from unlucky on the first two goals to questionable on the third, as he allowed a Sean Longstaff shot to squeeze through him and in.
Lucas Hernandez did hand PSG a lifeline when he headed home from a smart Warren Zaire Emery ball in on 56 minutes, but Fabian Schar extinguished all hope in added time with a stunning fourth. The Ligue 1 outfit will argue that they were unlucky on Burn’s goal which required a thorough check before being confirmed, but really PSG only have themselves to blame — specifically Luis Enrique.
“I am responsible for the team’s results so I am the first and last one responsible for what happened here,” said the 53-year-old postgame. “There was no problem with the players’ attitude. We must not have seen the same thing. The attitude was optimal and the result was fair albeit excessive. There are things to improve. We made errors on the goals that should not happen at this level.
“I never speak with my players immediately after a game as there are too many emotions,” added Luis Enrique later. “I prefer to wait for a calmer moment for better analysis. We are still second in what is a very interesting group and Newcastle deserved their win. However, the score was flattering and did not show the difference between the two teams. It is clear, though, that we must improve.”
The Spaniard is about to get his first real experience of the tremendous pressure that comes with the Parc des Princes gig given that his team looked in disarray almost from the off. Marquinhos has to take huge responsibility for the first goal, and the visitors’ defense suddenly lost all shape with the Brazilian clearly rattled after his mistake in a further challenge to his long-term leadership credentials.
However, Luis Enrique set his team up in a way that any sort of detailed game preparation should have dissuaded, given Newcastle’s habit for dishing out heavy defeats. The decision to go with four attackers and just two midfielders from the start was already bold, so it did not help matters that Randal Kolo Muani had a night to forget, but it would be too easy to just blame the summer signing.
Relying heavily upon Manuel Ugarte and Zaire Emery was a big risk when PSG have been better off with Vitinha completing a midfield trio while both Goncalo Ramos and Kolo Muani felt like muddled thinking. It was no surprise that Hernandez’s goal brought a brighter spell from the Ligue 1 powerhouse with substitute Bradley Barcola offering much more than Kolo Muani before him.
It was all in vain, though, despite the fact that Ousmane Dembele had gone close with an early volley, saw a powerful late effort well saved by Nick Pope and fired wide when played in over the top. Star man Kylian Mbappe rarely threatened on Tyneside such was the tactical confusion in the PSG attack and it resulted in a loss matched only in size by the infamous Remontada in the Qatari era.
If there was one ray of light on the French side it was another mature showing from Zaire Emery who became the youngest player since Jude Bellingham to record a UCL assist at just 17 years and 210 days. PSG’s uncharacteristic group stage porousness must not take away from how good Newcastle were on the night and how much of an impact an electric St James’ Park had on the hosts.
That said, Luis Enrique was shown up by Eddie Howe whose game plan was clearer and better executed, which has now handed the Magpies the advantage in Group F. The 2015 Champions League winning coach now faces a crucial doubleheader against winless Milan and will be clear in no uncertain terms that there cannot be any repeats of Wednesday’s debacle — starting Sunday in Rennes.