As we enter the winter months, it’s finally time for the Champions League group stage to come to a close. Tuesday’s matchups featured a couple of high profile tilts including Barcelona vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (a.k.a. A German Team) and Manchester City vs. Celtic. One fixture that didn’t really catch the eye was Ludogorets trip to take on Paris Saint-Germain. PSG had already qualified for the knockout rounds alongside Arsenal, but needed a win to at least have a chance of taking the top spot in Group A. Somehow, a winless Ludogorets managed to stop them.
After a quarter of an hour, the Bulgarian club silenced the Parc des Princes with the opening goal. PSG had the chance to clear the danger earlier in the attack, but tried to play out from the back. Instead, they turned it over to Anicet Andrianantenaina who quickly found Natanael Pimienta on the left flank. Pimienta delivered an excellent cross into the penalty area and Virgil Misidjan was there to head it home.
On Misidjan’s opener, Unai Emery’s squad looked a little too relaxed. Nobody really pressed Ludogorets to try and win back possession, and neither center back even bothered to mark Misidjan in the box.
Before the match, if you would’ve told me that the Bulgarians were going to shutout PSG in the first half, there’s no way I would’ve believed you. Emery fielded a strong lineup that included the likes of Edinson Cavani, Ángel Di Maria, Hatem Ben Arfa and Thiago Silva. All that talent wasn’t enough to score, however, as the two sides entered the break with Ludogorets holding on to a slim 1-0 lead.
Cavani finally returned some energy to the home crowd in the 61st minute with an acrobatic close-range finish. Similarly, to Ludogorets opener, an inability to clear the ball from the back gifted possession to Ben Arfa. The former Newcastle midfielder played it to Di Maria who’s cross was right at the Ludogorets defense, but somehow they still couldn’t get it clear. Cavani jumped on the loose ball and delivered a bicycle kick from just six-yards out to level the scores.
Was this the moment PSG needed to take control of the match and runaway with the result?
Apparently not. Less than ten minutes after Cavani’s goal, Ludogorets were back on top. The move started with Jonathan Cafu racing past Marquinhos on the left flank. The 25-year-old winger slid a perfectly weighted pass back to the top of the area where Wanderson finished his shot into the bottom corner. 2-1 Ludogorets.
Anything but a win from this match would’ve been seen as an embarrassing result earlier in the day, but after Wanderson’s goal, PSG fans must’ve been hoping for anything more than a loss.
As the match crawled into stoppage time, the home fans may have started to lose what little hope they had left in their squad. Then, in the 92nd minute, Di Maria saved the French giants from a humiliating defeat. Some intricate footwork from Layvin Kurzawa on the left wing saw the defender earn a yard of space between two opposing players. He quickly found Di Maria who seemingly chipped his close-range effort past Vladislav Stojanov to save a 2-2 draw.
The result means that PSG finish the group stage two points behind Arsenal in second. Some potential opponents for Emery’s squad now include the likes of Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and the winner between Borussia Dortmund/Real Madrid. Not exactly an easy path to the quarterfinals.