KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Paris Saint-Germain, after the near-eternity of 110 games, have finally reached the final of the UEFA Champions League, the first French club to reach the climactic showdown since Monaco 16 years ago.
Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria and their team-mates secured a comfortable 3-0 victory over an RB Leipzig side who not only failed to rise to the occasion but sunk beneath it.
PSG’s German coach Thomas Tuchel saw his expensive team of Qatari-financed superstars run the semi-final from start to finish. The three-goal margin was the least they deserved against Bundesliga opponents who came up short of both energy and concentration.
In Sunday’s final in the Estadio do Benfica they will face fellow French club Lyon or German tournament favourites Bayern Munich.
PSG have won 18 domestic trophies since being taken over by Qatar Sports Investments in 2011 but have never previously threatened to convert that domestic monopoly into European glory, despite splashing world record fees on the likes of Brazil’s Neymar and home-grown Mbappe.
This time no doubt existed about their progress to the final when they took the lead after only 13 minutes as Marquinhos rose above the flat-footed Leipzig defence to head home a curling left-wing free by Di Maria.
Only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (32 each) have provided more assists in the competition than the Argentinian (27).
Di Maria, a European club champion in 2014 with Real Madrid, thoroughly enjoyed his return after suspension. He scored the second goal himself after a delicate assist from Neymar three minutes before half-time. A third goal from Juan Bernat in the 56th minute was the minimum reward PSG earned.
Man of the match Di Maria said: “We ate them up from minute one. It’s going to be tough to sleep between now and the final. We worked hard all game and we showed we deserve to be there. It doesn’t matter who we face, either Bayern or Lyon, we’ll give our all. We want to make history for the club.”
PSG will be the fifth different French side to appear in a European Cup/Champions League final and the first since Monaco in 2003-04. Only Italy, Germany (six each) and England (eight) have sent more different clubs to the final.
Also, no club have scored in more consecutive matches in major UEFA competition than PSG’s 34 which lifted them level with Real Madrid in the Champions League between 2011 and 2014. The last opponents to deny them were Manchester City in April 2016.
As for Leipzig, the semi-final was a step too far after their hard-earned quarter-final victory over Atletico Madrid. For all that, merely reaching the semi-final enhanced the fast-growing reputation of 33-year-old coach Julian Nagelsmann.
He had no argument with the result.
Nagelsmann said: “PSG has so much quality and at the end they were the better team. In the first 10 minutes we had three or four good moments and made two of three big mistakes. When we conceded the second goal the belief of our players drained.
“It not easy to think now of the good season we have had but after a week it will be OK. We are a young team.”