PARIS (AP) — Kylian Mbappe saved his team again, scoring a brilliant solo goal deep into injury time as Paris Saint-Germain beat Real Madrid 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 match on Tuesday.
Mbappe has rescued PSG many times with late goals in the French league this season — as recently as last Friday — and he did so again on the biggest stage.
After taking a back-heeled pass from substitute Neymar in the fourth and final minute of injury time, Mbappe cut inside two players down the left and shot the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Courtois had the starring role until then, denying Mbappe early in each half and then stopping record seven-time Golden Ball winner Lionel Messi’s penalty in the 61st minute. It was awarded after Mbappe was fouled by right back Dani Carvajal.
Courtois guessed correctly and dived to his left for a fine stop.
Messi scored 26 goals and delivered 14 assists in 45 games against Madrid during his glory era with Barcelona, but did not find the net in several games before joining PSG last summer.
PSG threw on Neymar for the last 20 minutes as the Brazil standout made his return from a sprained ankle, while Madrid’s star forward Karim Benzema shook off a hamstring injury and faced ex-club rival Messi and France teammate Mbappe.
Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season and remains heavily linked with a move to Madrid, which had an offer of 180 million euros ($204 million) rejected by PSG last summer.
Now the Spanish giant might get arguably the world’s most dangerous striker for free.
The subplots were in place but the first half did not live up to the hype, save for a few flashes of skill from Mbappe.
The second started better as Courtois produced a superb one-handed save low to his right to deny Mbappe, who was set up by right back Achraf Hakimi’s astute quick pass.
PSG has never won the competition while record 13-time champion Madrid hasn’t reached the final since completing a straight hat trick of European Cups in 2018. Carlo Ancelotti faced the side he once coached, hired near the start of the club’s Qatari-backed takeover as the big name to achieve Champions League glory.
This is the first season in 57 years that the away-goals rule — a way of deciding two-legged matches in European club competitions if necessary — is not being used.
Somewhat unlucky, then, for Manchester City as last season’s runner-up won 5-0 at Portuguese club Sporting.
The return legs are on March 9, but Madrid midfielder Casemiro is suspended after picking up a yellow card late in the first half.
PSG started strongly and Mbappe’s fifth-minute cross from the left was blazed over by Angel Di Maria.
The elusive Mbappe kept getting behind the defense down the left, and in the 17th he latched onto Messi’s pass but Courtois saved smartly from close range.
In the end, his tenacity and belief made the difference.