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Atalanta 1-2 Paris Saint-Germain: 5 talking points as Choupo-Moting's heroics seal PSG comeback | UEFA Champions League 2019-20

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrates PSG
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrates PSG's stoppage-time winner with Neymar, Mbappe during their quarter-final win against Atalanta
ANALYST
Modified 13 Aug 2020, 08:55 IST
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Paris Saint-Germain have become the first team to book their place in this season's Champions League semi-finals after a remarkable stoppage-time comeback against an admirable Atalanta on Wednesday night.

Goals from an unlikely source- Marquinhos and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting- saved Thomas Tuchel's blushes as well as that of Neymar after a frustrating display seriously threatened to see PSG crash out of Europe's elite club competition for another year.

Instead, they'll now play either RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid after earning their first semi-final berth since 1995 for a place in next week's showpiece event from Lisbon.

Billed as a clash between two of Europe's highest-scoring sides, it was the Serie A high-flyers who opened the scoring in the first half. Sustained pressure and warning signs were seemingly ignored by a lax PSG defence, as Mario Pasalic scored his 12th goal of the campaign with aplomb. 

The former Chelsea midfielder reacted the quickest to slam home beyond Keylor Navas after Presnel Kimpembe's attempted interception inadvertently teed him up instead.

Neymar missed a handful of big goalscoring chances as PSG created promising openings themselves. It took Kylian Mbappe's introduction to prompt a more prominent attacking response in the second half, though his minutes' restriction through injury wasn't ideal.

The Frenchman, too, missed chances as Atalanta sat ever deeper, looking to retain their one-goal advantage with time continuing to tick down. Choupo-Moting played a pivotal role in the build-up to PSG's equaliser as Neymar fed the ball into Marquinhos, tapping it in off Mattia Caldara during a frenzy in the six-yard area. 

Neymar and Mbappe then combined before the latter squared the ball across goal for Choupo-Moting, who was on hand to slot home a dramatic stoppage-time winner. 

Without further ado, here are five talking points as PSG scored two late strikes in quick succession to break Atalanta hearts in stoppage-time and their semi-final place: 

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#5 Both teams depleted by injuries, PSG more so

Josip Ilicic (right), pictured against Juventus, didn
Josip Ilicic (right), pictured against Juventus, didn't feature against PSG for personal reasons in Slovenia

Despite an impressive comeback win over Borussia Dortmund pre-pandemic, it's fair to say that PSG have had a distinct lack of luck since then. 

Kylian Mbappe, who was largely a motivated spectator during their 2-0 win on March 11, was doing the same on Wednesday night.

He sustained an ankle injury last month after a heavy challenge from Loic Perrin during their French Cup final and despite being named among the substitutes, Tuchel revealed his inclusion would be limited to just 30 minutes. 

Verratti's calf injury was worse than first feared and they expect to be without the deep-lying midfielder for the remainder of this quick-fire competition. 

Angel di Maria was out through suspension, meaning Pablo Sarabia was granted his first Champions League start of the campaign in their biggest fixture. It doesn't get more high-pressure than that.

Dortmund's new signing Thomas Meunier and Benfica recruit Edinson Cavani were also both unavailable for selection. Atalanta weren't without their own issues either.

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Josip Ilicic, who has scored 21 goals and created nine more across all competitions in 2019-20, missed out through personal reasons after being granted permission to travel to his native Slovenia earlier this month. 

The 32-year-old has been a revelation over the past twelve months, with this campaign being his best-ever scoring season.

First-choice goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini was also sidelined for this fixture after being diagnosed with a knee ligament tear. 

#4 PSG captain Thiago Silva's final swansong continues

In the thick of things: Thiago Silva still had to play his part defensively en route to a dramatic PSG win
In the thick of things: Thiago Silva still had to play his part defensively en route to a dramatic PSG win

Just before kick-off, Thiago Silva exchanged pleasantries with Atalanta captain and forward Alejandro Gomez.

If they lost here, it would officially mark the last time he would be doing the whole pre-match routine as PSG captain as the highly-experienced Brazilian defender will depart this summer after eight years in Paris.

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He turns 36 next month and with the Ligue 1 champions seemingly unwilling to provide him extended terms on his current contract, the one-legged Champions League ties feel like a necessary finale to a busy stint for him in France.

Starting alongside Kimpembe, as he's done on multiple occasions previously this term, he looked comfortable and assured - despite some early warning signs.

Although his defensive responsibilities were virtually over after Mbappe's introduction changed the game's shape, he didn't rest on his laurels and that was important considering Atalanta's counter-attacking abilities.

He made four clearances, two interceptions and tackles while winning six of eight duels contested with 88.1% pass completion (52 successful passes).

Kimpembe often ventured forward to apply pressure out of possession, which had mixed success, so it may have felt like he was the busier centre-back on TV.

However, Silva was typically dependable before pulling up with a cramp late on - unsurprising considering the amount of distance he'd had to cover at the back.

Thilo Kehrer delivered a decent shift at right-back but Tuchel will hope that cramp is the only issue for Silva to recover from, ahead of next Tuesday's semi-final.

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Published 13 Aug 2020, 08:55 IST
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