Mauro Icardi converts the only goal of the game in PSG's win over Club Brugge
Paris (AFP) - Paris Saint-Germain were nowhere near their best but Mauro Icardi’s goal and a Keylor Navas penalty save allowed the French giants to edge out Club Brugge 1-0 and secure their place in the knockout phase of the Champions League with two group matches to spare on Wednesday.
Icardi’s close-range finish in the first half at the Parc des Princes was his eighth goal in PSG’s last seven matches and it gave them a fourth straight win in Group A.
However, their opponents played well enough to take something from the game and would have done so had Navas not stopped Mbaye Diagne’s 76th-minute spot-kick.
Despite failing to convince here – two weeks after a 5-0 victory in Bruges – PSG will appear in the last 16 for the eighth consecutive season, and a draw in their next game away to Real Madrid will ensure they progress as group winners.
Real are also on the verge of qualifying after a 6-0 hammering of Galatasaray on Wednesday.
“It was clear for me before this game that there would be moments in the Champions League when we would suffer. They have lost just twice this season, both times against us,” pointed out PSG coach Thomas Tuchel, who added that his side cannot be expected to win handsomely every week.
“That’s football. If you can’t accept that some games finish 1-0 then we might as well end it all.”
Club Brugge are now unlikely to finish higher than third as they fell short of replicating their impressive display in drawing 2-2 away to Real recently.
“When you look at all our games we could have got more in Madrid, against Galatasaray, and again today, so I am very, very proud of my team,” said their coach Philippe Clement.
Nevertheless, they are supposed to be small fry for the behemoth that PSG have become.
Keylor Navas played a starring role for PSG as his late penalty save allowed them to seal their place in the last 16 of the Champions League
On Wednesday, the Qatar-owned outfit announced record turnover of 637.8 million euros ($706m), confirming their status as one of the world’s richest clubs.
What PSG do in the group stage has never really been the issue, and once again it will only be when the knockout rounds begin in February that their true potential is measured.
The nature of their display here, just five days after a Ligue 1 loss against modest Dijon, does raise questions, yet Tuchel’s side are still yet to concede a goal in this European campaign and again they won here without Neymar.
The Brazilian is scheduled to be back from his latest injury in time for the trip to Madrid on November 26.
- Cavani on bench again -
After scoring a stunning hat-trick as a substitute in Bruges, Kylian Mbappe made his first start in the Champions League this season, while Icardi was again preferred to Edinson Cavani up front.
Cavani watched on as Icardi got the opener midway through the first half, prodding home from close range after the visitors made a mess of dealing with Colin Dagba’s ball into the box.
Icardi later hobbled off to be replaced by Cavani in the 72nd minute, with the Uruguayan being given a hero’s welcome by the home fans.
However, within moments of his introduction the away side won a penalty when substitute Diagne went down under Thiago Silva’s challenge.
It was a glorious chance for Club to earn a draw, and yet Senegalese striker Diagne took the kick rather than usual penalty-taker Hans Vanaken, and his effort was clutched by a grateful Navas.
Having earlier made two notable saves to deny Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis, including showing excellent reactions to stop a deflected effort just after half-time, Navas was PSG’s real hero of the night.
“Being a goalkeeper is a bit like a tennis player. You have to accept you will make mistakes at times, so it’s important you don’t lose confidence and stay calm, and he’s so calm,” Tuchel said of the Costa Rican.