TV View: It’s City slickers that slide away from PSG as pundits pump it up
The oil puns were in full flow but when the football started it ignited from the start
Manchester City’s Phil Foden shoots at goal during the Champions League semi-final, first leg against Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes. Photograph: Julien Poupert/PA Wire
Some folk were very unkind ahead of this Champions League semi-final meeting between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, the Guardian dubbing the contest ‘El Cashico’, others labelling it the Qatar v Abu Dhabi derby, some even suggesting that if it finished all square after the second leg it should be decided by the number of barrels of oil produced in the last month by the states of the respective owners.
If it was settled by the number of human rights abuses committed by the states of the respective owners, others noted, there would, of course, have been no winners at all.
In light of that, Virgin Media’s Tommy Martin asked Brian Kerr if we should all feel guilty about savouring the prospect of this tussle, of say, Neymar leaving Kyle Walker looking like a Tangle Twister, or Kevin De Bruyne leaving Marquinhos wishing he’d never been born at all.
Brian was comforting, reminding us that football fans have perfected the art of parking bad things once the ref blows his whistle and the game commences, but are capable of refocusing on those bad things when the final whistle blows. The 90 minutes in between, then, are ours to relish.
So, let there be no talk of oil and such like.
“It’s very important at this stage of the season to have some petrol left in the tank – something tonight’s two semi-finalists definitely have plenty of,” said Tommy, before telling us that the game would feature “two well-oiled machines”. Pumped up, the lad, if a little crude.
Incidentally, Virgin’s decision to place a camera at Tommy’s feet for his opening greeting to us viewers, thereby allowing us to see directly up his nostrils, was quite a topical option, it being much like the view a Covid tester might have before doing their thing with their up-yer-nose-swabs.
Speaking of which, BT Sport viewers were greeted by Jake Humphrey rather than Gary Lineker, Links, as he’s known in the trade, ruled out of action because he’d been a close contact of a member of the BT team who had tested positive.
This meant that BT also needed to assemble a punditry panel at late notice, Owen Hargreaves, Joleon Lescott, Joe Hart the last minute call-ups – Joe so discombobulated by it all, he kept referring to City as “we” despite him now being a Spurs player and not having played for City since 2018.
Jake, bless him, reminded us of the good old days. “Twenty-two years ago City lost at home to Wycombe in the old third division,” he said, before introducing a piece featuring City old boys Shaun ‘feed the goat and he will score’ Goater, Paul Dickov and Michael Brown who reminisced about the days when the club was muck and oil was just something they put in their hair.
Match analysis time and Jake asked Joleon how you stop Kylian Mbappé. “The best way is to nullify the ball from getting to him,” he suggested, Joe and Owen nodding violently. Whatever that lad was paid, it wasn’t enough.
Match time. All eyes on Neymar, of course. BT’s Darren Fletcher asked Jermaine Jenas to dissect his role in this PSG team, whether or not he had any defensive duties. Jermaine admitted he could only “guess” whether he “tracks back” during French league games, because he doesn’t watch them, so had no clue if his role differed in the Champions League. Which left BT viewers wondering why BT wouldn’t politely request that their pundits do a smidgeon of homework before taking up their lucrative telly contracts.
Back on Virgin Media, Brian was, most likely, telling us that Neymar tracked back 63.4 per cent of the time against Lille recently, but only 54.3 per against Metz. Although his efforts against Montpellier hit the 68 per cent mark. Swot.
Any way, the game. Half-time, 1-0 to PSG, cruising. Full-time, 1-2, losing. “Some might say, it’s been a biblical night in the city of lights,” said Fletcher of City’s effort, him going all Oasis-ish on us.
They’re so well-oiled, you fear they won’t, um, slide away in the second leg.