The intense Champions League quarter final clash between Italy’s Atalanta and France’s PSG ended with a team used to losing advantages coming from behind to win it at the death. For most of the game, it looked like it would yet again not be their day, as a resolute Atalanta showed determination to knock them out. It was a game of the cliché two halves, just not the type we know. There was the pre-Mbappé hour and the Mbappé quarter. So what did this incredible tie show us? Let’s see:
1. Neymar is special:
When Neymar missed those two clear cut chances in the first half, it looked like it was going to be a night in which all the sharpened knives and narratives against him would be put to use. As it turned out, by the end of the game, everyone was in awe once again of a truly exceptional player. On this night, the kind of night PSG paid all that money for him for, Neymar showed stupendous ability. While PSG struggled to do anything with Mbappé on the bench still not fit, following his injury less than 3 weeks ago, Neymar carried them and made things happen. Unfortunately for him, his teammates were not on his wavelength in attack. It didn’t stop him from being magical and creating goal-scoring opportunities out of nothing. He affected the game from midfield and attack. If there was any doubt before, there shouldn’t be now. Neymar is special. Only the absolute best of this generation should be put into a sentence with him.
2. Mbappé can make the most attacking sides park the bus:
Atalanta are a team well known for attacking at all costs. No matter who you are, they will attack you. This team attacked Man City at Etihad! It ended in tears, of course, but it showed what they were about. They never retreat, no matter how many times you score against their mostly open defence. They are so confident that they will outscore you. Last night, they attacked PSG from the first half. For an hour, they risked conceding on the counter many times by pressing PSG high up and trying to attack them. As soon as Mbappé came on, they finally did what they never do. They retreated. In fact, they parked the train. No one can blame them though. When Kylian Mbappé steps in, you have no choice unless you want to get slaughtered. He still found a way to disrupt them and then assist the winner though. What a player!
3. Atalanta’s excellence is no fluke:
Many times, we have seen teams surprise people and then fade. It has happened again and again. When Atalanta started to emerge, many people put them in that box. Most expected them to eventually run out of steam and fade. What we have seen in the past few months has been a team that people have quietly come to respect. They simply refused to fade. For the second consecutive season, they made the top 4 in Italy. They will be in the Champions League again next season. However, last night told us that they aren’t a team built to fade. Their performance against a top team like PSG showed that they belong to this level. They didn’t get here by fluke. They belong to this level of competition, rubbing shoulders with the best.