Di Maria leads PSG to first-ever Champions League final

Argentine Di Maria, back from suspension, scored and assisted to help Paris Saint-Germain ease past RB Leipzig in their Champions League semifinal clash.

Angel Di Maria celebrates with Neymar after scoring PSG's second goal against RB Leipzig.   -  Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain reached its first ever Champions League final with a convincing 3-0 win over RB Leipzig on Wednesday, finally delivering the reward of the biggest game in European football for its Qatari backers.

Goals from Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria put PSG 2-0 up at the interval and Juan Bernat added the third in the 56th minute for what was a comfortable victory at the Estadio da Luz.

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The French club, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding in 1970, will meet the winner of Thursday's other semifinal between Bayern Munich and Olympique Lyonnais after ending what some felt was a mental block in the knockout stages.

PSG has gone out in the last 16 for the past three years, but proved a step too far for Leipzig, which was playing in the regional leagues just 11 years ago.

 

The Germans, financed by the Red Bull energy drink company, have outperformed all expectations by reaching the last four, knocking out Tottenham Hotspur and Atletico Madrid en route.

“We showed quality and determination. A good mix. We deserved to win,” said Tuchel, who had faced a heavy expectation to deliver in Europe this season.

“I felt the pressure, it was not easy. I have players who are used to playing with this pressure, who like this pressure and these decisive matches.”

 

With French World Cup winning forward Kylian Mbappe back in the starting line-up after fully recovering from his ankle injury, Tuchel was able to field his preferred attacking trident with Brazilian Neymar and Di Maria.

Right from the outset, PSG looked a threat to the Leipzig defence with Neymar clipping the post after he was slipped in by Mbappe in the sixth minute.

Seven minutes later though, PSG had the lead -- Neymar and Di Maria lined up to take a free kick on the left and it was the Argentine who floated in a lovely cross which was nodded home by Marquinhos.

 

Former Real Madrid and Manchester United winger Di Maria was in fine form, constantly probing, while Neymar created from deep and Mbappe pushed on to the last defender looking to use his pace.

The Germans were struggling but did threaten in the 25th minute when Konrad Laimer burst down the right and found Yussuf Poulsen but the forward's shot was just off target.

Neymar then went close with an audacious free kick from deep and wide on the right, the former Barcelona man going for Peter Gulacsi's near post and striking the post as the Hungarian keeper scrambled.

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It was a poor clearance from the keeper which led to PSG's second. Leandro Paredes collected the ball and then found Neymar who cleverly flicked it with the back of his heel into the path of Di Maria who made no mistake.

Leipzig's 33-year-old coach Julian Nagelsmann needed to find some way to shift the momentum of the game and made two changes at the break but after a bright start, PSG put the outcome beyond doubt.

Leipzig defender Nordi Mukiele slipped while attempting to clear, allowing Di Maria to cross the ball back in to the box and Bernat's glancing header floated into the far corner.

 

Mbappe forced a good save out of Gulacsi as PSG pushed for a fourth while PSG keeper Sergio Rico had his hands warmed by a fierce drive from fellow Spaniard Angelino.

“After the second goal, the belief of our players went down a little bit,” said Nagelsmann.

“That's normal. It's not that easy right now to think about the good season we've had in the Champions League but in one week it will be ok. We know that it was a good season for a young team and we will try to do it again next season,” he added.

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The French club has played 110 games in the competition -- the most played by a side before reaching its first final, overtaking Arsenal's record of 90 between 1971-2006.

PSG's only other appearances in the final of a European competition came with their UEFA Cup Winners' Cup victory in 1996 and its runners-up spot in the following season.

Olympique Marseille is the only French team to win the European Cup, triumphing over AC Milan in 1993.

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