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06th Apr 2016

First leg of El Gasico only added fuel to theory that these two teams have more money than sense

Dion Fanning

When the two clubs built by petro-dollar empires meet in the quarter-final of the Champions League, most people probably wouldn’t expect the game to be shaped by a moment of staggering incompetence.

If Fernando’s mistake was the most glaring error, PSG looked inept at times too, comically in the seconds leading up to City’s second goal when Fernandinho equalised.

This was not what this game was supposed to be about, but both sides looked determined to send a message about the deadening effect of too much money, a warning about how it can dull the mind and stun the senses.

When David Luiz was booked after 12 seconds, that message was received and understood. City were energetic to begin with and they scored an opening goal with a devastating break which also owed much to the confusion that takes place in David Luiz’s head.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s most incisive contribution to the game turned out to be a casual poke as Fernando lazily dealt with Joe Hart’s goal-kick which sent the ball into the Manchester City goal.

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 06: Joe Hart (2nd R) of Manchester City is congratulated by his team mates on stopping a penalty by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (3rd L) of Paris Saint-Germain during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City at Parc des Princes on April 6, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Zlatan had interviewed himself before the game on Instagram and asked himself about Joe Hart who had “conceded beautiful Zlatan goals before”. If the interviewer – Zlatan – was trying to get the interviewee – Zlatan – to open up with a bit of sycophancy, he failed. “Let’s see what happens,” Zlatan told Zlatan.

What happened was that Ibrahimovic’s penalty was saved early on by Joe Hart and it appeared to send him into a spiral of self-doubt which, this being Zlatan, manifested itself in increasingly elaborate ways of announcing himself on the game.

There were back-heels, defence splitting passes to phantom team-mates, a free-kick smashed into a wall, a header against the bar and a miss which summed up his way of playing his way into a game: get bigger and louder, miss bigger and louder.

Zlatan has spent the season reminding people on and off the pitch that his contract at PSG is coming to an end, and it might be time to move on. This was a night when he could offer some more examples of his work, but Zlatan couldn’t match the sweet talk from his advance party with a stunning moment to add to his showreel.

His goal was not a beautiful goal, and Manchester City might feel that they were unlucky having started well, taken the lead and been unlucky to concede a harsh penalty.

Yet PSG should have had a penalty before that, and City were exposed many times, even if the home side failed to take advantage.

PSG may have felt that it would be easy to take advantage of this team which has been drifting aimlessly for some time.

Perhaps the announcement in February that Pep Guardiola would take over next season has had a detrimental effect on Manchester City. They have won only four times in the 12 matches since that was revealed, but nobody could say that the City that has been seen since then is a City they had never seen before.

They have made a mess of challenging for a Premier League title which they could easily have won. Their 1-3 defeat at the Etihad against Leicester in February could be seen as a defining moment for a team when they decided to lose by making the same mistake over and over again.

during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City at Parc des Princes on April 6, 2016 in Paris, France.

Of course there has been a League Cup victory, but the Champions League is the last chance for City to make sense of their season.

Few expected them to do so, but the result in Paris means they are now in a strong position to make it to the last four. Maybe they’ll go on and win the competition, but they won’t do it it by embracing good sense and order.

City were a club who were said to have a plan. The pursuit and acquisition of Pep was seen as the culmination of their hard work and methodical planning. There is much truth in that, but on the field they remain frustratingly unpredictable, rarely showing evidence of the sound planning that has gone on elsewhere.

PSG will regret the chances they missed, but this City side look more comfortable with the chaos. They’re in a strong position, but with Manchester City that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.