It was July 14 2019 all over again for Riyad Mahrez, but this time the venue was not Cairo International Stadium and the opponent was not Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final, the Algerian Maestro produced a sublime free kick to beat the wall of Paris Saint-Germain players and a World class goalkeeper, Keylor Navas.
Mahrez’s strike yet worthy of a match winning status, clinched a vital first-leg victory for Manchester City in the keenly contested UEFA Champions League semi-final game, between two mega club sides.
Man City in the last four of the Champions League and for the first time since Pep Guardiola’s appointment, got off to a bad start.
Marquinhos gave the hosts a 15th minute lead, heading home from an Angel Di Maria corner kick.
PSG controlled the game for the most part of the first half and continued after the break.
However, Guardiola tweaked his game strategy and just past hour mark introduced Oleksandr Zinchenko for more steal at the back, allowing his midfielders to move further up to press the PSG flanks.
The move played out just right, four minutes later a fortuitous cross by Kevin De Bruyne beat everybody and left Navas red faced as City levelled. Zinchenko supplied De Bruyne the pass – with the PSG players pushed back.
Guardiola pushed his players to find the winner and a perfect opportunity presented itself after Leandro Paredes committed a foul on Phil Foden just outside his own box – the Argentine was booked.
DeBruyne and Mahrez stood over the ball with two walls in front of them; a Man City decoy wall and the PSG wall behind it with Marco Verratti on the floor.
On his left foot, Mahrez produced a fine technique, whipping the ball hard and with enough elevation and instant dip.
The wall would have heard the ball whistle past beating Navas to the near post, like it did Daniel Akpeyi at the AFCON two years ago.
Déjà vu. ?????? @Mahrez22 | @LesVerts pic.twitter.com/xVnkDbEpB0
— CAF – FR (@caf_online_FR) April 28, 2021
That goal progressed Algeria to the final, Mahrez will hope Wednesday night’s winner will prove just as significant heading into the second leg.