PSG superstars held by Club Brugge in Champions League
BRUGGE, Belgium (AP) PSG's formidable attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe was left frustrated by a spirited Club Brugge that created the best chances and defended well to earn a 1-1 draw in their Champions League group opener.
Messi hit the crossbar during his 150th appearance in the competition but could not score for his new club after PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino sent out his three superstars all together for the first time.
Messi had previously made only one substitute appearance for PSG - in a 2-0 win against Reims last month - since he ended his career-long association with Barcelona last month.
Brugge captain Hans Vanaken drew the hosts level in the 27th minute after Mbappe set up Ander Herrera's opener in the 15th. In the other Group A match, Manchester City beat Leipzig 6-3.
Both PSG and City are chasing an elusive first title in European soccer's top competition. City will travel to the Parc des Princes on Sept. 28 for a much-awaited clash.
Mbappe played in a center forward role, with Neymar and Messi deployed on the wings, but the trio often switched positions. They played 50 minutes together before Mbappe, who suffered an apparent ankle injury, was replaced by Mauro Icardi.
PSG imposed a fast tempo and monopolized possession from the start as the visitors struggled to string passes together in the early stages. But the Belgian champions gradually got into the match and enjoyed several good spells of pressure while PSG lacked cohesion and gave the ball away too often in midfield.
Brugge came back with the same attacking spirit after the interval. Forwards Noa Lang and Charles De Ketelaere were a constant threat and the hosts found space at ease but lacked a cutting edge.
"It's the Champions League, we came up against a very good Brugge side even if we didn't play our football. We took a point though and the key thing is that we didn't lose," said PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe.
A lapse of concentration from Leandro Paredes could have been fatal to PSG in the 12th minute when the midfielder awkwardly gave the ball away in his own half and was forced to make a clumsy foul to stop De Ketelaere, and got a yellow card for doing so.
PSG took the lead on its first chance three minutes later after Mbappe dribbled past defender Clinton Mata down the left wing and crossed the ball near the penalty spot for the unmarked Herrera, who scored his first Champions League goal with a low shot past Simon Mignolet.
The Brugge goalkeeper was then forced into a good save after Messi accelerated past two defenders and picked out Mbappe in the box with a precise pass. Moments later, Vanaken found the net at the conclusion of a fine collective move from Eduard Sobol's cutback in the box.
The game became an entertaining end-to-end affair. Messi came close with a left-footed curled shot from the edge of the box that hit the crossbar while the hosts had two more occasions before the interval through Vanaken's free kick and De Ketelaere, whose shot was parried away by Keylor Navas.
Pochettino brought in substitutes Julian Draxler and Danilo to stabilize his midfield but Brugge was still the better team and did not crack in the closing stages when PSG applied huge pressure.
"I didn't really have much work to do," said Mignolet. "We didn't give an incredible attack chances. You cannot mark them one-on-one, they have so much quality to beat their man. We tried to defend collectively to not leave them any space. I made two, three saves, not very difficult ones at that."
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated September 15, 2021