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From glory to humiliation: PSG loses in dramatic style

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PARIS (AP) The man hired to lead Paris Saint-Germain to Champions League glory delivered the most embarrassing result imaginable.

PSG became the first team to throw away a 4-0 lead from the first leg in the Champions League, losing to Barcelona 6-1 in the second. The awful outcome was made worse by the calamitous way PSG conceded three late goals.

In the previous four seasons, PSG had reached the quarterfinals. That was insufficient in the eyes of Qatari owners QSI, who fired coach Laurent Blanc – despite Blanc winning back-to-back domestic trebles – and replaced him with Unai Emery.

[ MORE: Barca inspired “by the Super Bowl” ]

When PSG dismantled Barcelona at home with an electric display of attacking soccer three weeks ago, the back-slapping and congratulations were in full swing. There was a growing confidence, if not certainty, that Emery was the perfect man to lead PSG to its first European Cup. He was credited with instilling the breathtaking energy the players showed that night.

Now, he and his players will be known as the ones who threw it all away.

“We had everything in hand and we gave them the game,” PSG right back Thomas Meunier said. “We made an enormous amount of errors.”

On a disastrous night, the club’s initials could have stood for something else: Pathetic. Spineless. Gutless.

The French press let rip.

Shortly after the loss, sports daily L’Equipe’s website carried the headline “A Historic Disaster” along with a picture of midfielder Marco Verratti lying on his back with his hands covering his face. L’Equipe’s newspaper called it “Unqualifiable” – underlining the shock while delivering a scathingly sarcastic verdict on PSG’s inability to progress in the most favorable of circumstances.

“We weren’t worthy of playing for PSG,” Meunier said.

Angry fans gathered at the airport to jeer and heckle the players when they arrived back.

LACK OF LEADERS

As the exasperated Emery gesticulated wildly on the sidelines, there was no one on the field to stop the damage.

From the first minute, PSG sat far too deep, inviting Barcelona to overrun midfield and camp around the penalty area. That gave PSG the look of a small, retreating army with a massive one bearing down on it, attacks coming from all sides.

[ MORE: Ranking the greatest comebacks ]

Thiago Motta’s absence in central midfield was sorely missed. A great organizer, strong tackler and neat passer, Motta would have added steel and calmness. The hard-nosed Italian is also a relentlessly competitive character and would have got a response from his flagging teammates.

“We were a bit lost,” Meunier said. “We allowed ourselves to be victims.”

PSG also missed veteran left back Maxwell, with Layvin Kurzawa out of position all game and scoring an own-goal.

CHANGING A WINNING TEAM

When PSG routed Barcelona at Parc des Princes, observers marveled at Emery’s tactical innovation.

His three-pronged attack of Edinson Cavani, Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria worked to perfection, while his decision to pick inexperienced center half Presnel Kimpembe paid off as he contained Lionel Messi.

Then he changed a winning team.

[ ROBERTO: I woke up wondering if it was a dream ]

Kimpembe was on the bench for the return leg. Worse, with PSG needing only to see out the last few minutes, Emery kept him there.

Di Maria was overlooked in favor of Brazilian player Lucas. When Di Maria came on, PSG looked sharper going forward and soon pulled a goal back.

If Barcelona had to defend the whole game against Cavani, Draxler and Di Maria, they might have had fewer occasions to charge forward.

SHEER COMPLACENCY

PSG’s lethargic absenteeism on the field was mirrored by a complacent approach before the game.

Two days before the match, the club released a video on YouTube called “Supper Club” with four players sitting around a table.

As they pick at their pizzas and slurp soft drinks, Blaise Matuidi and Verratti are joined in conversation by Draxler and Meunier. They are casually discussing the game ahead.

“The first 20 minutes are going to be tough, eh Marco? The field is really big,” Matuidi says. “(Barcelona) attack, attack, and they leave a lot of spaces.”

Draxler then intervenes, telling Matuidi “you will need to run a lot” and they both laugh when Matuidi retorts “I’ll need you to (run) as well.”

The players certainly appeared to taking Barcelona lightly.

BAD GOALKEEPER

When Emery took over he recalled goalkeeper Alphonse Areola from a loan spell and made him his No. 1. Then, uncertain about Areola’s level, he picked Kevin Trapp.

Against Barcelona, Trapp exposed all of his limitations: Poor composure, weak handling, erratic decision making.

On the first goal, the German keeper came up to claim a looping ball with his fists bunched rather than his hands apart, reducing his own surface area.

Trapp appeared to be terrified and his inability to command his back four made sure that panic set in – and stayed throughout.

WHAT NEXT?

Emery’s future clearly hangs in the balance.

PSG trails Monaco by three points in the French league and Emery’s position will be further undermined if he does not win the title. PSG also faces Monaco in the League Cup final next month.

After the Barcelona match, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was asked if Emery was still the right man for the job.

“That’s not a question for now,” Al-Khelaifi said.

It will be soon, though.

AT HALF: Manchester United trails, 10-man Brighton loses goal to VAR

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We’ve got goals. We’ve got red cards. We’ve got fun.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

All four Premier League 10 a.m. ET Saturday kickoffs have reached halftime. Here’s your primer to select which second half to stream live.

Watford 1-1 West Ham United

Chances and entertainment for days at Vicarage Road, where Mark Noble‘s early penalty was quickly offset by Andre Gray‘s emphatic finish of a Will Hughes through ball.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Southampton

Florin Andone has been sent off for the hosts after a gnarly challenge on Yan Valery, and further insult for Brighton came when VAR spotted a clear foul on Lewis Dunk‘s headed goal.

Sheffield United 0-1 Leicester City

Jamie Vardy may not tire of throwing parties, and James Maddison sure designs delightful invitations.

Manchester United 0-1 Crystal Palace

Possession doesn’t matter much if you can’t handle a 70-yard goalkeeper pass, and Victor Lindelof‘s lost header to Jeff Schlupp allowed Jordan Ayew as much time as he needed to slot past David De Gea.

United probably should be up a man after Gary Cahill chopped down Anthony Martial, but only a yellow arrived at Old Trafford.

Lampard, Abraham react to first Chelsea win, goal

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Frank Lampard was all business in being asked about his first Premier League win as Chelsea boss.

Coming on the heels of a loss and draw heading into Saturday’s 3-2 defeat of Norwich City, Lampard was ready to talk about the big picture (especially considering the Blues dealt with a pre-match injury to Pedro).

[ MORE: How did Pulisic perform? ] 

With a lot of young players and a tricky transfer ban, Lampard has to walk a fine line between the expectations of Chelsea and the reality of working with a side he hasn’t been able to improve through the transfer window. From the BBC:

“We want to compete. We know this year is difficult on different levels. We’ve had a tough start, and yep, we needed a win. It helps confidence.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Tammy Abraham, who has no qualms whatsoever with his first Chelsea goal in the Premier League.

“I didn’t even know how to celebrate so I just ran over to the management and the staff. It always gives confidence to me and the young boys when the coach believes in you.”

Sheffield United is next, a real chance for the Blues to round into form even if the Blades have been plucky early in their Premier League return.

Watch Live: Four Premier League games at 10am ET

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Four Premier League games kick off at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, as Matchweek 3 is in full swing.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

Man United host Crystal Palace, Southampton head to Brighton, Watford and West Ham do battle and Leicester travel to Sheffield United.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all four games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Man United v. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Leicester – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford v. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Pulisic watch: How did USMNT star perform for Chelsea at Norwich?

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Saturday was a big day for USMNT star Christian Pulisic in the Premier League, as he played a pivotal role in Frank Lampard securing his first win as Chelsea’s boss with the Blues beating Norwich City 3-2.

Pulisic, 20, grabbed an assist and a hockey assist in the first 17 minutes as the Chelsea winger caused Norwich all kinds of problems as he drifted off the right flank time and time again.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The Pennsylvania native needed a big display with Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi both fit and fighting for his spot out wide on the left but with Pedro out injured in the warm up, Pulisic played really well on the right and went 84 minutes.

Here’s a look at how Pulisic performed against Norwich at Carrow Road on Saturday.


1st minute: Pulisic lines up on the right wing after Pedro is injured in the warm up and Ross Barkley replaces him in the lineup.

3rd minute: Launches himself into three tackles in quick succession, winning the final with a perfect sliding lunge.

4th minute: Controls a long pass across the pitch, runs at Norwich’s defense and plays in the overlapping Cesar Azpilicueta. His cross is volleyed home by Tammy Abraham to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead.

6th minute: Norwich attack down Pulisic’s side and get behind Azpilicueta, as Pukki crosses for Cantwell to make it 1-1.

11th minute: Pulisic pops up centrally but Norwich win the ball box just before he bursts into the box.

13th minute: Slides into a tackle and is getting through a lot of defensive works with Buendia drifting inside from Norwich’s left.

14th minute: Links up well with Mateo Kovacic on multiple occasions with clever passing and flicks. He is starting to drift inside a lot more.

17th minute: Pulisic pops up centrally, again, and slots in a perfect pass to Mount who slots home to put Chelsea 2-1 up. Pulisic grabs his first Premier League assist.

23rd minute: After making a surging run down the right, moments later he slips as he tries to wriggle free from a defender in the box.

29th minute: Pulisic gets on the ball and plays in Jorginho in the box. All the Italian midfielder has to do is slot home, but he makes a mess of it.

33rd minute: After Norwich’s Teemu Pukki made it 2-2, the home side have the momentum. Pulisic launches into a fine tackle on Lewis and is dropping deeper and deeper to help his team defend.

36th minute: Azpilicueta whips a cross into the box and Pulisic jumps high but the ball is just flicked away from him.

38th minute: His cross to the back post misses everyone and drifts out of play.

39th minute: Falls down in the box under pressure as he tries to control a looping pass.

44th minute: After a lovely darting run inside, Barkley picks him out and he twists and turns in the box. Eventually gets a shot off which is blocked.

45th minute + 2: Pulisic again wriggles free centrally and sets up Barkley who smashes way over the bar.

47th minute: Races free into the box and slams a shot into the side-netting with Abraham waiting for the pass. Should have done better with the finish. Didn’t look confident at all when taking the shot on.

55th minute: Tammy Abraham flicks the ball around the corner to Pulisic but Lewis wrestles him off the ball. Moments later Pulisic is tackled by Lewis.

61st minute: Cuts inside from the right and plays the ball to Mount who sets up Emerson who fires an effort right at Krul.

66th minute: Wins a foul just outside of his own box as his fantastic battle with Lewis continues.

71st minute: Loses a tackle on the edge of the box as Norwich push for an equalizer after Abraham put Chelsea 3-2 up. Godfrey hits the crossbar from a corner soon after.

75th minute: Tracked back as Buendia controlled a flashed in a dangerous cross. Good defensive work.

79th minute: Again, fine work down the right and a ball cut back to the edge of the box is dummied by Mount and Barkley’s shot is blocked.

80th minute: Pulisic is found by Kovacic in the box and his cross to Giroud is scrambled clear by Norwich.

84th minute: Subbed out and replaced by Willian. Gets a pat on the back from Frank Lampard and a warm ovation from the Chelsea fans.