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PARIS — Kylian Mbappé might be heading for the exit door at Paris Saint-Germain, but if this season is his last shot at UEFA Champions League glory with his hometown club, he is making sure it doesn’t end in the group stages — just ask Newcastle United‘s distraught players after the 24-year-old’s stoppage-time rescue act at the Parc des Princes.
Mbappé’s penalty, eight minutes into stoppage time, salvaged a 1-1 draw for PSG and kept Luis Enrique’s team in control of their own destiny in Group F after Alexander Isak‘s first-half goal had put Newcastle ahead. The late spot-kick means that PSG’s task on matchday six at Borussia Dortmund is simple — win and they will qualify for the Round of 16.
Whether this PSG team can actually go all the way and win the Champions League is another matter, but with Mbappé’s contract due to expire at the end of the season and the France forward showing no inclination to sign a new one — he will be free to negotiate with any club outside of France from Jan. 1 — this really feels like his final attempt at delivering the one trophy that has eluded PSG since they were transformed by the arrival of Qatari owners in 2011.
When Mbappé signed for PSG after a sensational breakthrough season with Monaco in 2017, he arrived at the club shortly after Neymar had become the world’s most expensive player by leaving Barcelona for Paris in a €222 million transfer. PSG were a team of stars and Mbappé and Neymar were added to the likes of Edinson Cavani, Angel di Maria, Thiago Silva and Marco Verratti with the sole objective of winning the Champions League.
But all of those big names have now moved on — Lionel Messi has also been and gone — and all PSG have to show for it is a losing final against Bayern Munich in 2020. The Champions League continues to elude PSG and Mbappe won’t hang around forever in a vain attempt to win it, especially when he surveys a squad that no longer has the quality or charisma of the one he joined.
PSG are attempting to build a younger squad, recruiting the best emerging French talent, but the reality is that the best France players apart from Mbappé — Antoine Griezmann, William Saliba, Eduardo Camavinga, Aurélien Tchouaméni, Christopher Nkunku — all choose to play their football in Europe’s biggest leagues rather than with PSG in Ligue 1.
Yet this game against Newcastle proved that Mbappé is still fighting, still attempting to be the man who makes the difference in the Champions League. When he waved his arms at the crowd on 67 minutes, Mbappé was demanding more noise and backing from an already raucous home support. He knew that PSG needed everyone, on and off the pitch, to help break Newcastle’s stoic resistance.
Mbappé missed chances and created them for others to miss as Newcastle rode their luck and goalkeeper Nick Pope had the game of his life, but it was only when he was dispossessed by Jamaal Lascelles in the 84th minute that he looked ready to throw in the towel. That was the moment that Mbappe’s shoulders dropped as if he believed that it simply wasn’t going to be PSG’s night.
But their luck finally turned in the sixth minute of stoppage time when referee Szymon Marciniak reviewed a penalty call after initially failing to spot a Tino Livramento handball from Ousmane Dembélé‘s cross. It was a debatable decision, with the ball hitting Livramento’s chest before bouncing onto his arm, but following the intervention of VAR, Marciniak pointed to the spot.
Trailing 1-0, Mbappé knew that PSG’s hopes rested on him. A defeat would leave PSG needing to win against Dortmund and hope Newcastle fail to beat AC Milan, but he blanked out the pressure and scored from the spot to swing the pendulum back in PSG’s favour. But despite his late equaliser, Mbappe said that he could have done more for his side.
“I try to be at my best level every night,” he told TNT Sports. “I think I could have done more for my team. I had many chances and didn’t score more goals.
“Too many chances. You watch many games and in the Champions League, you have to score when you have the opportunity. It’s hard when you see the game. What happened was we had so many chances to win. In football, you can be so much better but don’t win.”
In the end, PSG didn’t need to win, but they will have to go to Dortmund believing that a victory is the minimum they require. Having pushed so hard to pull this result out of the fire, a failure to win in Dortmund combined with a Newcastle victory at St James’ Park will send PSG and Mbappé out, so the main man may have to carry his team to a big result once again.