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Champions League: Paris St-Germain late goals shatter Atalanta

There were just 149 seconds between Marquinhos’ equaliser and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s winner

Paris St-Germain scored two late goals in a sensational comeback against Atalanta to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in 25 years.

A night of frustration for PSG forward Neymar looked set to ensure more continental disappointment for the French champions as unfancied Atalanta led through Mario Pasalic.

But the Brazil forward then laid on a 90th-minute equaliser for Marquinhos and substitute Kylian Mbappe teed up former Stoke striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to slide in the winner.

On the 50th anniversary of the club’s founding, it looked like being a familiar tale of failure for PSG on European club football’s biggest stage.

Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, was all too often the only bright spark for Thomas Tuchel’s side, but was also guilty of two glaring misses.

But the introduction of Mbappe – the world’s second-most expensive player – proved crucial as his pace and quality finally undid the stubborn Atalanta rearguard to provide an astonishing finale to the first one-legged quarter-final in the re-shaped competition.

PSG will now face either RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid in the first semi-final next Tuesday night.

The £200m man delivers

PSG have made a habit of finding improbable ways to lose in the Champions League since their emergence as a global force off the pitch – with Barcelona’s comeback from 4-0 down three years ago perhaps the most notable.

And Tuchel could well have joined Unai Emery, Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc in paying for that failure with his job with another letdown in Lisbon.

Champions League debutants Atalanta undoubtedly kicked-off as underdogs but have been superb all season, scoring 98 goals in Serie A and playing attractive, fluid, attacking football.

Neymar had already missed one glorious chance – running clean through on goal but shooting wide – when Pasalic capped a typically stylish Atalanta attack with a brilliant left-footed curler to give the Italian side the lead.

Neymar – whose salary was reported this week to be equal to that of the whole Atalanta squad – blazed wide again when well placed.

But to his credit the former Barcelona man, brought to Paris largely to deliver in this competition, continued to work hard for his side, driving them forward all night.

His 16 completed dribbles were the most in a Champions League game since Lionel Messi for Barcelona against Manchester United in April 2008.

He was always likely to produce PSG’s decisive moment if one arrived, and Marquinhos got on the end of his dangerous ball across goal to poke in the equaliser just as a tired Atalanta looked poised to record a huge shock.

Their heads understandably went down as extra-time loomed but the fit-again Mbappe – majestic from the moment he stepped onto the pitch – glided past their defence again to lay on a tap-in for Choupo-Moting, a free transfer from the Potteries two years ago.

It was only a third win in 11 quarter-final matches in the European Cup for the French side. Could they now go all the way and claim the prize they covet most?

‘It’s impossible to eliminate us’

Neymar: “I never thought of going home. From the warm-up to the end, we believed in it. We never gave up. No-one will take this desire to go to the final away from me.

“We are a great group, we are a family, so we know that with this state of mind, it is impossible to eliminate us.”

Thomas Tuchel: “I thought about elimination, after 88 minutes at 1-0, I am realistic. But I didn’t have the feeling that we weren’t going to score.

“I told my assistants that if we scored a goal we would win. After this match, these efforts are absolutely deserved.”

Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini: “We came very close, it was very close. It looked as if we could do it, pull off a great achievement.

“Mbappe coming into the game, combined with the presence of Neymar, changed things for PSG. He gave an energy to PSG, who were losing the match – it was fundamental because of what he brought to the game.”

Man of the match – Neymar (Paris St-Germain)

The Brazil superstar missed two inviting chances in the first half but stuck at it, carried his team when they needed him and eventually engineered the breakthrough.
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