The youth representatives of Celtic and PSG traded blows in a scintillating match which saw five goals, a missed penalty and 22 of the finest young players in Europe as both teams kicked off their UEFA Youth League campaigns.
Both clubs have heavily benefited from their youth academies in recent years with PSG producing the like of Champions League winner Nicolas Anelka and Celtic seeing Kieran Tierney and Shaun Maloney come through their ranks so this was a fantastic opportunity to see the beginnings of a fantastic career for some of these players, and what better place to showcase your talents than in the UEFA Youth League.
Celtic had the better of the opening exchanges as their electric football, usually spearheaded by Calvin Miller, Ewan Henderson and especially Michael Johnston, who impressed throughout the 90 minutes, ripped apart PSG’s back four. Beautiful link up play by Millerand Johnston didn’t give PSG a moment to compose themselves as they were forced into many clumsy challenges gifting Celtic free-kicks in dangerous areas but the home team failed to make anything of these set piece opportunities with McInroy, Hendry and Hill all chancing their arm but ultimately not having enough dip and swerve to give their team an early lead.
Celtic did put themselves in front on the 12th minutes, though, when Henderson won the ball on the edge of PSG’s box, he then fed the ball to Jack Aitchison whose mazy run to the byline was too much for Moussa Sissako who swiped away Aitchison’s feet giving Celtic a spot-kick opportunity in the process. Sissako was making his UEFA Youth League debut but was thrown in at the deep end as his opposite attacker turned Sissako inside out causing the 16-year-old to bring down the striker. Regan Hendry calmly struck the ball into the bottom right corner to give Celtic the lead, much to Sissako’s disappointment.
Despite taking the lead and controlling the early play, Celtic knew that PSG were not the team to be soft with as they have the potential to turn a game in an instant, so the boys in green charged up the pitch trying to add a second. Calvin Miller once again won the ball high up the pitch and drilled the ball across the box narrowly outwith the reach of the sliding Aitchison.
PSG had been building well in the first half hour with good interplay between Bernede, Moussa Diaby and Alec Georgen but whenever they found themselves in the final third, their attacks seemed to peter out with Meterhan Guclu being transparent in the game thus far. Bernede and Georgen were two bright lights for PSG throughout the match and the experience was there to see as both players had been in the 2016 UEFA Youth League runners up team, Georgen also won the UEFA European Under-17 Championship with France in 2015 and has already appeared for the PSG senior team. The captain is looking like one of the best up and coming fullbacks in Europe.
Georgen had a big hand in PSG’s equaliser as he was played down the right by Diaby where he chipped a ball to the penalty spot for Guclu to direct a beautiful header against the left post and in. The goal really came out of nowhere but this highlighted the quality PSG have even when they seem down.
PSG really got the wind in their sails after the goal which meant that the half-time whistle couldn’t come quick enough for Celtic as they looked to regroup and dominate the opening minutes of the second half.