Mauro Icardi scored the only goal and Keylor Navas saved a second-half penalty as Paris Saint-Germain edged out Club Brugge 1-0 to secure their place in the knockout phase of the Champions League with two group matches to spare on Wednesday.
Argentine striker Icardi’s close-range finish in the first half at the Parc des Princes was his eighth goal in PSG’s last seven matches and it was enough to give the French champions a fourth win in as many outings in Group A.
However, their opponents played well enough to take something from the game and would have done so had Navas not stopped Mbaye Diagne’s 76th-minute spot-kick.
Despite failing to convince here — two weeks after a 5-0 victory when the sides met in Belgium — PSG know they will appear in the last 16 for the eighth consecutive season, and a draw in their next game away to Real Madrid will ensure that they progress as winners of Group A.
Real are also on the verge of qualifying themselves after a 6-0 hammering of Galatasaray on Wednesday.
Club Brugge, meanwhile, are now unlikely to finish higher than third — which would see them parachute into the Europa League — as they fell short of replicating their impressive display in drawing 2-2 away to Real earlier in the campaign.
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Nevertheless, they are supposed to be small fry for the behemoth that PSG have become.
On Wednesday, the Qatar-owned outfit announced record turnover for last season of 637.8 million euros ($706m), confirming their status as one of the world’s richest clubs.
What PSG do in the group stage has never really been the issue, and once again it will only be when the knockout rounds begin in February that their true potential will be measured.
The nature of their display here, just five days after a Ligue 1 loss against modest Dijon, does raise questions, yet Thomas Tuchel’s side are still yet to concede a goal in this Champions League campaign and again they won here without Neymar.
The Brazilian is scheduled to be back from his latest spell on the sidelines in time for the trip to the Santiago Bernabeu on November 26.
Cavani Left On Bench Again
After scoring a stunning hat-trick as a second-half substitute in Bruges, Kylian Mbappe made his first start in the Champions League this season, while Icardi was again preferred to Edinson Cavani up front.
Cavani, PSG’s all-time leading goal-scorer, has not started a game since suffering a hip injury in late August.
He watched on as Icardi got the opening goal midway through the first half, prodding home from close range after the visitors made a mess of dealing with a seemingly harmless ball into the box by Colin Dagba.
Icardi later hobbled off with a knock to be replaced by Cavani in the 72nd minute, with the Uruguayan being given a hero’s welcome onto the pitch by the home fans.
However, within moments of his introduction the away side won a penalty, Scottish referee Bobby Madden pointing to the spot when substitute Diagne went down under a Thiago Silva challenge.
It was a glorious chance for Club to earn a draw that they will feel they deserved, and yet Senegalese striker Diagne’s kick was clutched low down by a grateful Navas.
Having earlier made two notable saves to deny Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis, including showing excellent reactions to get down to a deflected effort just after half-time, the Costa Rican was the real hero of the night for the home side.