Lionel Messi was brought to PSG to put the French giants over the Champions League hump.
While Kylian Mbappe saved the Argentine from further embarrassment to give PSG a 1-0 win over Real Madrid in the first leg of their heavyweight Round of 16 matchup, Messi’s performance left a lot to be desired.
PSG completely dominated the match, pinning Real Madrid back deep in its own half for the entire game. Finally, after an hour of toiling in front of net, Mbappe won a penalty.
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Lionel Messi, the superstar whom PSG paid a hefty amount of money for moments like this, stepped up, his 126th Champions League goal on his mind. Real Madrid ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois had other ideas.
Messi’s penalty was saved by the Belgian, who dove down low to his left and stopped the weak effort. The scoreline remained level at Parc des Princes, and Messi came up empty in a moment the French side had desired most. It was his first failed penalty kick conversion against Real Madrid in his career.
COURTOIS SAVES MESSI’S PENALTY. 🧤 pic.twitter.com/eo1krKPwkA
PSG was in complete control of the match to that point, with 61 percent possession and 16 shots to Real Madrid’s two, but the score remained level. Angel Di Maria had missed a big chance early, and Courtois had made four prior saves before the spot-kick.
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His fifth was by far the biggest moment of the match. For Messi, it was his fifth penalty miss in 23 Champions League attempts, the most wasted spot-kicks in the competition since Opta began gathering data in 2003.
For a brilliant player such as Messi, his penalties have been poor and predictable.
Lionel Messi’s previous five penalties for club & country before tonight’s miss, via @StatsPerform‘s Pressbox Live tool.
Thibaut Courtois had obviously done his homework.
More info, here: https://t.co/tGwkeAe14f pic.twitter.com/reJ4R3KyTO
With eight shots and just two on target, Messi’s finishing touch was missing all match on a night when his teammates put on a stellar show.
Mbappe and left back Nuno Mendes were brilliant down the left, with Mbappe making a fool of Real Madrid right back Dani Carvajal all night, culminating in the eventual game-winning goal. Marco Verratti was brilliant in midfield, controlling PSG’s possession and advancing play with expert precision. Even Neymar, off the bench for his first minutes in months, provided something to the match, playing a key part in Mbappe’s late winner.
Angel Di Maria missed an early chance, sure. Mbappe’s goal made sure PSG is in control for the second leg, sure. But Messi’s failure to convert both from the spot and throughout the match remains the biggest gaping hole in PSG’s otherwise comprehensive performance.
📸 ¡FOTÓN! #UCL pic.twitter.com/4PhJmAxvLC
The Parisians deserved a return from the glittering performance, forcing Real Madrid back all match. The Spanish side defended with 10 men behind the ball for long spells, unable to produce a single shot on target of its own all night.
While Messi has celebrated Champions League glory on four occasions throughout his glittering career — four more times than PSG has tasted — his recent efforts in the competition have ended in early disappointment. Since winning his most recent Champions League crown in the 2014-15 tournament, Messi has seen the semifinals just once and hasn’t been back to the final.
The 34-year-old Argentine was lured to the French capital for exactly this type of match, with eye-popping money serving as the carrot. For Messi to come up short here leaves Real Madrid with a real chance to turn things around at the Bernabeu in the second leg, which would leave a dark mark on the twilight of Messi’s legacy.
When the volume is high, the misses will also rack up.
In his entire professional career for club and country, Lionel Messi has missed 30 total penalties. In the Champions League specifically, Lionel Messi has missed five penalties, listed below.