Two late goals lifted the French champions past Atalanta and into the Champions League semifinals. Can their talent finally finish the job?
In that second half, the cavalry kept coming, wandering off the bench and onto the field one after the other. As Atalanta’s players blinked back the sweat, it must have felt as if Paris St.-Germain could draw from a bottomless well of talent.
First, the boy wonder, the next best player in the world, with his blistering speed and his glistening menace and his adhesive touch. That was bad enough. Then came the German winger who would walk into all but a handful of teams in the world, and the playmaker not long since regarded as Argentine soccer’s coming star.
True, there was a sliver of solace to be found in the desperation of it all. The clock was ticking on Thomas Tuchel, P.S.G.’s coach: 30 minutes until yet another humiliation in the Champions League; 20 minutes left to save his job; 10 minutes before all that talk of a curse came rumbling back.
Tuchel has a reputation as cold and aloof, as a coach who thrives in the sideline battle of wits: a tweak here, a touch there, a smart shift that changes the dynamic of a game. He is a tactician, more than a rouser or a cajoler or a motivator. But there was no subtlety on Wednesday, no grand idea beyond throwing everything and everyone forward and seeing what happened.
ImageP.S.G. Coach Thomas Tuchel with Kylian Mbappé, whose entry as a substitute invigorated his team and whose assist delivering the winning goal.
Sometimes, though, material resources trump mental ones. With scarcely more than a minute left to play, Atalanta was nearly there, in the semifinals of the Champions League, the grandest stage on which it had ever played, in the darkest year its Italian hometown, Bergamo, has ever experienced. The great fairy tale — the sort of story that soccer’s vulture economics are now specifically designed to prevent. Continue reading