Di Maria pro­vides the ex fac­tor to spell dou­ble trou­ble for Real’s un­der-fire Zi­dane

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Champions League - By Ja­son Burt CHIEF FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Le Parc des Princes

No Ney­mar, no Mbappe, no Ca­vani but no prob­lem for Paris St-ger­main as they prof­ited from the Im­mutable Law of the Ex.

An­gel Di Maria did not want to leave Real Madrid five years ago, and cer­tainly did not want to go to Manch­ester United for a mis­er­able sea­son be­fore flee­ing to Paris, and so this re­venge was five years in the mak­ing, with the PSG winger scor­ing twice and tear­ing his for­mer club apart.

In do­ing so Di Maria heaped the pres­sure on Real coach Zine­dine Zi­dane, who will be aware of an­other ex – Jose Mour­inho – who is wait­ing to see whether the man who de­liv­ered three Cham­pi­ons League ti­tles for the Span­ish gi­ants is go­ing to sur­vive much longer on his own sec­ond com­ing.

Re­sults like this will only heighten the grow­ing ex­pec­ta­tion that he will not – for­mer Ju­ven­tus coach Max Al­le­gri is an­other op­tion – with Zi­dane’s big sum­mer sign­ing, Eden Haz­ard, strug­gling be­fore even­tu­ally be­ing sub­sti­tuted.

Gareth Bale fared bet­ter, but also went off and was not ac­knowl­edged by Zi­dane, who stood rooted to the edge of the tech­ni­cal area, look­ing lost as his side failed to pro­duce a shot on tar­get for the first time since such records be­gan in 2003.

It may have only been the open­ing game in a group which both clubs can ex­pect to progress, but Real are in a down­ward spi­ral and it will hurt that they lost to a team who had Kylian Mbappe and Edin­son Ca­vani out in­jured and Ney­mar banned for two matches.

Maybe with­out them, PSG played more as a team. Idrissa Gana Gu­eye, who joined from Ever­ton, was ex­cel­lent and the dom­i­nant mid­fielder against the colour­less Toni Kroos, Casemiro and James Ro­driguez – who Di Maria had been forced out to make way for.

“He is a ma­chine, he never stops run­ning,” Thomas Tuchel, the PSG coach, said of Gu­eye, while ban­ning any talk of this re­sult be­ing a state­ment. “If any­one asks if we are go­ing to win the Cham­pi­ons League I am leav­ing [the press con­fer­ence].” Zi­dane’s con­tri­bu­tion was as unin­spir­ing as his team.

There were, in fact, more French play­ers in the Real side than in PSG’S and, con­versely, more Span­ish rep­re­sent­ing PSG. To add to the re­ver­sal, the home side were wear­ing their all-white, third kit and the vis­i­tors were in dark blue. Con­fused? Real seemed to be, for sure.

And so it was maybe also ap­pro­pri­ate that it was a player who used to play for the other team who opened the scor­ing – and then dou­bled it. Di Maria claimed his first goal as Mar­quin­hos’s header was clev­erly flicked on by Mauro Icardi – on his first start since his loan move from In­ter Mi­lan – to the over­lap­ping Juan Ber­nat, whose cross was met first time by Di Maria to neatly beat Thibaut Cour­tois at his near post.

The fans cranked it up. “A myth­i­cal sta­dium. A his­toric city. Paris is magic!” read a gi­ant tifo prior to kick-off at the Au­teuil end of the ground, where the PSG ul­tras con­gre­gate and the drums beat ever louder, with smoke from the flares drift­ing across the sta­dium.

PSG struck again. Gu­eye fed the ball into Di Maria. On the edge of the area the Real de­fend­ers stood off and Di Maria took ad­van­tage to catch out Cour­tois with a fierce shot. In the stands Mbappe and Ney­mar gig­gled in cel­e­bra­tion, with David Beck­ham – an­other who

had played for both clubs – also among the on­look­ers.

From the kick-off it ap­peared Real had struck back when Bale, su­perbly it seemed, jug­gled the ball three, four times with his left foot be­fore lift­ing it over goal­keeper Key­lor Navas with his right.

What a goal. But, hang on. English ref­eree An­thony Tay­lor even­tu­ally went to the side of the pitch, af­ter con­sult­ing with the video as­sis­tant ref­eree, Stu­art At­twell, and it was clear that Bale had han­dled the ball as he brought it un­der con­trol. The goal was dis­al­lowed.

Di Maria should have com­pleted his hat-trick when Gu­eye, im­pres­sively tena­cious, again won the ball back. Marco Ver­ratti pushed it into the path of the winger but, with just Cour­tois to beat, he at­tempted to chip the goal­keeper, with the ball land­ing on the roof of the net.

In in­jury time, PSG claimed the third goal they de­served. They broke away, with Di Maria again in­volved as he sent Thomas Me­u­nier through. The right-back picked out the other full-back, Ber­nat, and the Spa­niard re­turned the pass for Me­u­nier to steer into the net with Cour­tois stranded, kick­ing the turf as he was beaten. It summed up Real’s for­lorn night.

Han­dle with care: Gareth Bale has a goal ruled out for handball by VAR

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