PARIS (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) players celebrated with supporters gathered outside the ground after Neymar set them on their way to a 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors early yesterday, taking them through to the Champions League quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.
PSG needed to overturn a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their last-16 tie in Germany, but Neymar’s 28th-minute header put them ahead on the night in the second leg amid a surreal atmosphere, as banned supporters congregated outside the Parc des Princes instead.
Juan Bernat then deflected in a Pablo Sarabia assist to make it 2-0 and PSG – for whom Kylian Mbappe was only fit enough to appear as a substitute – go through to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2016. Dortmund finished the night with 10 men after Emre Can was sent off.
This game was played behind closed doors after the French government banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 people due to the coronavirus outbreak, but many still came together outside.
Those supporters brandished flares as the team bus arrived before the game and sang and set off fireworks throughout the match.
PSG players rushed to a concourse at the back of the stadium to celebrate with them at the end of the game after breaking a run of three straight exits in the first knockout round of the competition.
“We played like a team. It was a pleasure to be their coach tonight,” PSG coach Thomas Tuchel told broadcaster RMC Sport.
“The atmosphere was great coming here in the bus, with all the ultras singing. We were all singing together and it was a special atmosphere.
“It needed a huge effort from us, playing without spectators made it all the more difficult.”
Neymar was caught on camera in tears after the match, having shaken off desperate disappointment in the competition in the last two years, with injury preventing him from playing in the second leg against Real Madrid at this stage in 2018 and in both legs against Manchester United last season.
Dortmund were disappointing, though, with Erling Braut Haaland never looking like repeating his first-leg heroics when he netted twice. Their defender Mats Hummels admitted his team struggled with the atmosphere, saying, “It was really bizarre, but for both teams. The start of the game was really strange, like a friendly.”
Mbappe was only named among the substitutes after struggling with illness and even undergoing a test for coronavirus in the build-up to the game.
His absence from the starting line-up was just the latest blow for coach Thomas Tuchel, who was also without the suspended Marco Verratti and injured centre-back Thiago Silva.
That meant Edinson Cavani and Pablo Sarabia started through the middle of the attack, while Argentine international Leandro Paredes was selected in midfield.
Cavani was denied the opener in the 25th minute when Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki stretched out a leg to tip his shot around the post.
The opening goal followed soon after, Neymar stealing in front of his marker to stoop and head in Angel Di Maria’s corner.
The PSG supporters outside responded to the Brazilian’s second goal in the tie by exploding more fireworks in celebration.
PSG scored again in first-half stoppage time. This time Di Maria laid the ball out to Sarabia on the right side of the box, and his low ball was diverted into the far corner by Bernat.
Mbappe came on with just under half an hour remaining, while Dortmund were still only one goal away from forcing extra time.