Ángel di María

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UCL wrap: PSG runs over Real; Atalanta clobbered on debut

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Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League goals, and Angel Di Maria go together pretty well.

[ MORE: Man Utd extends Lindelof ]

The man who scored a decisive goal for Real in a UCL Final scored two as Paris Saint-Germain throttled the 10-time champions in France without Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani, and Neymar.

PSG 3-0 Real Madrid

If it’s possible for Zinedine Zidane to feel heat under his seat, it’s probably happening right about now.

Real Madrid was absolutely cooked by a clinical PSG missing its trident, with Di Maria scoring two goals in the win.

Juan Bernat was exceptional in the win, and set up two goals including Thomas Meunier’s late insurance tally.

Dinamo Zagreb 4-0 Atalanta

The Serie A visitors made their UEFA Champions League debut, and boy did it fall flat.

Down 1-0 early on a Marin Leovac opener, Atalanta surrendered a hat trick to Mislav Orsic in the loss. The 26-year-old midfielder is fresh off his first cap for Croatia. More seem on the horizon, yeah?

Considering their group includes Man City and Shakhtar Donetsk, La Dea won’t appreciate losing four goals in the differential column against a perceived bottom dweller for the group.

Elsewhere

Olympiacos 2-2 Tottenham — RECAP, Pochettino reaction
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Man City — RECAP
Atletico Madrid 2-2 Juventus — RECAP
Club Brugge 0-0 Galatasaray
Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayern Munich 3-0 Red Star Belgrade

Di Maria brace seals 3-1 win for PSG over Marseille

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Kylian Mbappe and Valere Germain bracketed the halftime whistle with last-minute/first-minute goals, but Angel Di Maria’s second-half brace proved the difference as Paris Saint-Germain topped Marseille 3-1 to restore its 20-point Ligue 1 lead and leave the visitors exposed in the Champions League race.

Marseille came into the match in good form, unbeaten in its last six matches with five wins in that span, but they were no match for Di Maria who had a hand in all three goals. Mbappe opened the scoring at Parc de Princes in first-half stoppage time with a clinical fastbreak, finishing off a feed from Di Maria that pushed the Frenchman to the left, but no matter as he calmly slotted the ball inside the far post to break the deadlock.

The visitors earned a lucky equalizer just 24 seconds after the break as Valere Germain picked up the goal, with both his strike and Lucas Ocampos’s assist were deflected before reaching its destination. From there, Di Maria took over for his first multi-goal game of the season.

His first came in the 55th minute via a mistake at the back from Hiroki Sakai who stepped to a ball and allowed Di Maria to get free down the right, and he produced a low finish from a very tight angle to put PSG in front.

From there, Marseille fell a man down as goalkeeper Steve Mandanda came nearly 40 yards out of his net to challenge Di Maria on a breakaway, and in his sliding challenge, the ball struck his outstretched hand, leaving the referee no choice but to send him off. Just three minutes later, Di Maria put the game away with an unbelievable free-kick from at least 25 yards that found the top-right corner.

The performance moves Di Maria to nine goals and 10 assists for the season, leaving him one goal away from a season double-double that only Eden Hazard and Lionel Messi have achieved among the top five European leagues.

Di Maria: My only problem at Manchester United was Van Gaal

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First of all today is Angel Di Maria’s 31st birthday. Happy birthday, fella.

The Argentine is probably feeling pretty good after his latest trip around the Sun, especially given its most recent moment was Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 defeat of former club Manchester United in the first leg of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16.

[ MORE: Man Utd paid a lot to fire Mourinho ]

Di Maria was in the headlines after the game because an Old Trafford attendee tossed a bottle at him, part of what’s prompted a UEFA investigation into both sets of fans.

Di Maria, however, insists he has no problems with United or its fans, saying his poor memories of Old Trafford rest only with manager Louis Van Gaal.

“I’ve said it in the past and I reiterate it, I never spoke badly of the people here and of this club,” Di Maria said. “These are things that happen and people took it badly. I only had problems with the coach here.”

The numbers say that Di Maria wasn’t all that bad at Old Trafford; He just didn’t quite live up to his standards (He also had fewer matches than any time in his career because United was neither in the Champions nor Europa League.

Here are Di Maria’s matches, goals, and assists since he turned 21 and broke out with Benfica. While the numbers don’t tell the whole story of any seasons, they are a guiding light and also show why he’s considered a star everywhere outside of England.

There’s little doubt that Manchester United and the Premier League are a significant challenge compared to the Portuguese and French leagues, so perhaps his numbers should speak for themselves anyway.

To boot:

Benfica
2009-10 — 45 matches, 10 goals, 19 assists
Real Madrid
2010-11 — 53 matches, 9 goals, 26 assists
2011-12 — 32 matches, 7 goals, 17 assists
2012-13 — 52 matches, 9 goals, 17 assists
2013-14 — 52 matches, 11 goals, 25 assists
Manchester United
2014-15 — 32 matches, 4 goals, 12 assists
Paris Saint-Germain
2015-16 — 47 matches, 15 goals, 25 assists
2016-17 — 43 matches, 14 goals, 15 assists
2017-18 — 45 matches, 21 goals, 12 assists
2018-19 — 32 matches, 10 goals, 11 assists

Champions League wrap: BVB on fire, Barca wins without Messi

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It was a bit of a slow burn, but the UEFA Champions League sure provided more drama once the goals started coming in Wednesday.

[ UCL: Standings | Box scores ]

PSV Eindhoven 2-2 Tottenham HotspurRECAP

El Tri star Hirving Lozano gave the Dutch hosts an early and surprising lead, but Lucas Moura and Harry Kane helped dominant Spurs to a 2-1 advantage.

However, Spurs again lost it late. Hugo Lloris took a red card to send Tottenham down to 10 men, and Luuk De Jong struck in the 87th minute to earn a point for PSV.

Barcelona 2-0 Inter Milan

Lionel Messi’s broken arm kept him from this one, but the Blaugranas broke through against tricky Inter. Luis Suarez sent a delightful assist to Rafinha for the first goal, and Jordi Alba shut it down with a late goal and continued Barca’s perfect start to the group stage.

Liverpool 4-0 Red Star BelgradeRECAP

Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino joined a Mohamed Salah brace on the score sheet, but the story may have been Fabinho‘s fine work in the midfield as Liverpool goes atop Group C.

Paris Saint-Germain 2-2 Napoli

Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens gave the visitors leads at the Parc des Princes, but PSG twice found answers including a gorgeous Angel Di Maria finish deep in stoppage time to leave Group C cluttered at the midpoint.

Galatasaray 0-0 Schalke

USMNT youngster Weston McKennie was an 82nd minute sub as Schalke ground out a result in what is perhaps its most difficult fixture of the group stage.

Lokomotiv Moscow 1-3 Porto

Champions League legend Iker Casillas stopped a penalty as Porto got goals from a pair of Mexican national teamers. Hector Herrera scored in the first half, and Jesus Corona nabbed this one late.

Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Atletico Madrid

Lucien Favre’s BVB condemned Diego Simeone to his worst European defeat, with Achraf Hakimi producing three assists to all but put the German side in the knockout rounds.

Raphael Guerreiro scored twice, with Jadon Sancho and Axel Witsel also scoring for Dortmund. USMNT midfielder Christian Pulisic played 79 minutes before making way for Sancho.

Club Brugge 1-1 AS Monaco

Thierry Henry gets Monaco its first point in the UCL, and his first point as a manager, but he won’t be pleased after the visitors conceded just eight minutes after Moussa Sylla put them ahead in Belgium.

Klopp backs ‘fantastic, outstanding’ Neymar ahead of Champions League match

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Jurgen Klopp isn’t having any of the criticism of Brazilian superstar Neymar.

Ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield, Klopp sang Neymar’s praises and said the team will do its best to cope with “Neymar, the full football package.”

“I don’t think he’s a person who wants to act or something like that, because if you are like that you can’t play the football he plays,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference on Monday. “So I don’t think about these kind of things, to be honest. He got rested over the weekend so he will be 100% fresh for us, he’s not injured anymore, so we will see the full package, Neymar the football package, so we have to cope with that, and that’s what we’ll try.”

Neymar was criticized throughout the World Cup for his acting, diving and rolling to earn fouls. The Brazilian was the most-fouled player at the tournament at the time of Brazil’s elimination in the Round of 16, and their early departure added more fuel to the fire. Klopp says that while teams in Russia this summer looked to hack Neymar as a purposeful tactic, his side will avoid that strategy during Tuesday’s match.

“We play football. We want to win the ball and we don’t try to act in these kind of things. We try to avoid passes to him, we try to avoid him winning challenges and all that stuff which is a big job to do, to be honest. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to avoid his quality 100%…I’m pretty sure it’s not, so that’s all. He’s a fantastic footballer, an outstanding player.”

Klopp even backed Neymar’s behavior on the pitch, saying, “When I saw a few games at the World Cup…I know what a few people were talking about when it looked like he made a bit more of the situation than it was. That’s, for me, a completely normal reaction because players are really going for him, that’s the truth, and he wants to protect himself and I understand that as well.”

The Liverpool boss said that Neymar was also injured during the World Cup, and claimed that Brazil would have beaten Belgium in the Round of 16 had its superstar been fully fit.

Neymar is just the start of the PSG attacking presence Liverpool will be forced to deal with. Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani also pose serious threats, with the trio combining for 11 goals so far this season. Angel Di Maria also looks on his game, with four goals himself this campaign. PSG was without Neymar and Mbappe this weekend, with the Brazilian rested and his French teammate suspended, and the defending champions still defeated St. Etienne 4-0 with Cavani and Di Maria on the scoresheet plus a goal from Julian Draxler and late substitute Moussa Diaby.