PSG held at Benfica despite Messi stunner




 

Paris Saint-Germain were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw away to Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday despite Lionel Messi's brilliant curling strike.

The Argentina star scored midway through the first half in Lisbon but Danilo Pereira's own goal before the break ensured PSG and Benfica remain level at the top of Group H on seven points.

Both clubs failed to win for just the second time this season in all competitions but are four points clear of Juventus, who bounced back from successive defeats to beat Maccabi Haifa 3-1 at home.

"We know it's difficult to play at this ground, with this atmosphere. Benfica are a team in form," PSG captain Marquinhos told Canal Plus.

Messi only scored 11 goals in 34 games in his first season for PSG last term, but already has eight in 13 this time around.

"It's normal, it takes a little time," said Marquinhos. "Now he feels a little more comfortable... I hope Leo Messi has a great season until the end to win this title."

Sitting top of the Portuguese league despite dropping their first points at the weekend, Benfica's high pressing rattled PSG as the hosts made a bright start.

Goncalo Ramos, who drew interest in the summer from PSG, saw his effort blocked by Gianluigi Donnarumma's leg after he raced onto a long ball in behind the defence.

Ramos then stung the palms of Donnarumma from distance before the Italy goalkeeper produced a terrific save to deflect David Neres' shot wide.

- Messi's moment of magic -

But PSG's vaunted three-man attack of Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe suddenly sparked into life and the visitors surged ahead as the Argentine finished the move he started in style.

Messi's pass to Mbappe was helped on to Neymar, whose smart lay-off was whipped into the far top corner first-time by Messi for his 127th Champions League goal.

Donnarumma again intervened to deny Benfica by parrying Antonio Silva's strike to safety, but the hosts got the equaliser their play deserved just before half-time.

 

Enzo Fernandez was afforded far too much space to swing in a teasing cross from the left that Danilo inadvertently glanced in as he tried to track Ramos.

Neymar twice went close to restoring PSG's lead early in the second half, clipping the bar with an inventive overhead kick and forcing Odysseas Vlachodimos to punch away his free-kick.

Achraf Hakimi could only drill straight at the Benfica 'keeper after being played in by Messi, while Benfica defender Nicolas Otamendi glanced a free-kick just past the post at the other end.

Both sides continued to create chances. Mbappe's curling shot was turned behind by a sprawling Vlachodimos, with Donnarumma spreading himself to thwart Rafa Silva after a marauding run.

But there was ultimately nothing to separate two sides who are unbeaten this season, and will meet again in six days' time at the Parc des Princes.

mw/jc

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