Manchester United came from behind on their Women’s Champions League debut to hold Paris Saint-Germain to a draw at Leigh Sports Village on Tuesday.
The hosts would have feared the worst after a sluggish start in the first leg of their Round 2 matchup, but Melvine Malard cancelled out Tabitha Chawinga’s opening goal to draw them level.
Having significant Champions League experience, PSG had the upper hand heading into the tie, but the home advantage was crucial for the hosts as Geyse’s impact from the bench along with the loud atmosphere lifted United to earn a draw.
Marc Skinner praised his side ahead of the fixture believing the debutants could defeat any opponent. The draw gives United something to play for in the second leg next week, yet the hosts would have been disappointed not to have taken the lead after a dominant second half performance.
How the game unfolded
PSG started aggressively and the opening few minutes saw them force big saves from Mary Earps, with the visitors’ experience and mastery piling the pressure on United.
Netherlands forward Lieke Martens had two big chances but was unable to make anything come from them, as her link-up with former United midfielder Jackie Groenen began to look increasingly threatening.
PSG were then forced into a change following an injury to Oriane Jean-Francois. The defender contorted uncomfortably, twisting her knee and was replaced by Australian defender Clare Hunt.
United had their only good chance of the first half as Hunt fumbled a back-pass with Lucia Garcia pouncing on the misdirected ball. Goalkeeper Constance Picaud came far off her line to rectify her teammate’s mistake and deny the Spaniard.
Summer signing Gabby George made a crucial interference to block Martens as she looked to slide home Chawinga’s low cross. United were struggling with the overload but were exploiting the spaces in behind PSG’s high press.
The hosts started the second half far better. After not having a single attempt on goal in the first half, United changed formation, and bringing on Geyse automatically introduced a heightened pace and energy.
However, the deadlock was eventually broken by Chawinga. United’s backline momentarily switched off, failing to notice a through-ball from Sandy Baltimore. Earps hesitated and allowed the 22-year-old to use the outside of her left boot to slot home in the bottom-left corner.
Leah Galton had an opportunity to level the scores but she sent her shot wide. In a period of relentless attack from United, PSG retreated into the shells, allowing substitute Malard to equalise. Katie Zelem’s corner swung off Millie Turner who headed back across goal for Malard to poke home.
United had a plethora of opportunities to take the lead, but they were unable to make their chances count and they had to settle for a draw.
GK: Mary Earps – 7/10 – Pulled off some impressive stops to deny PSG an opener in the first half. She could have done better to prevent the goal and was then seldom called into action in the second half.
RB: Hannah Blundell – 6/10 – Did well to contain Martens as the game progressed but struggled in the earlier stages.
CB: Millie Turner – 7/10 – Lost the ball a fair few times that allowed PSG to counter. Did well to header the ball across goal for United’s equaliser.
CB: Maya Le Tissier – 8/10 – Was brilliant in one-v-one defending. Kept United in the game during the first half.
LB: Gabby George – 7/10 – Brings much-needed defensive ability to the side and was able to keep Baltimore quiet on the wing.
CM: Katie Zelem- 7/10 – Looked dangerous on set pieces and calmed her teammates down when they started to look a little brash.
CM: Lisa Naalsund – 6/10 – United would have benefitted from her being on the ball a lot more. Got a bit lost in the middle but did well to mark PSG’s midfielders out of the game, forcing them to play long over the top of United’s defence instead.
RM: Jayde Riviere – 5/10 – Unusual for her to be playing on the wing as she is a natural full-back. Struggled with the positioning throughout the first half and was subbed at the break.
AM: Ella Toone – 7/10 – Grew into the game and played a vital role in the middle of the park, though could have been a more useful presser.
LM: Leah Galton – 8/10 – Had a few really sprightly moments and carved out a perfect chance to level the score, but sent her shot wide. Troubled PSG with her pace.
ST: Lucia Garcia – 7/10 – Having never player as a striker for United, the Spaniard did well to pile pressure on, but was far more effective when moved onto the wing.
SUB: Geyse (46′ for Riviere) – 9/10 – Started with a lot of energy as she looked to overturn United’s slow start. Completely turned the tide for United, injecting pace and fight.
SUB: Melvine Malard (64′ for Garcia) – 9/10 – Had an immediate impact and was able to level the scores.
SUB: Hinata Miyazawa (64′ for Naaslund) – 8/10 – Did well to come on and dictate pace in the middle.
Marc Skinner – 8/10 – While playing Riviere as a winger was a rogue and possibly regrettable choice, his game management to bring Geyse on at half-time and then introduce Malard and Miyazawa was expert.