Halfway through the Champions League group stage, and some of the sides in the upper echelon are left sweating. Angel Di Maria curled in an injury-time equalizer as Paris Saint-Germain scraped a 2-2 draw at home to Napoli, slipping to third in the group on a day when the result could've been even worse. Under even greater pressure is Tottenham, which drew 2-2 away to PSV Eindhoven.
A Mario Rui own goal had cancelled out Lorenzo Insigne’s opener for Napoli in Paris, but an opportunist finish from Dries Mertens restored Napoli’s lead before Di Maria’s decsive intervention. The result mattered so much given Liverpool's 4-0 rout of Red Star Belgrade, with Mohamed Salah scoring twice to move to 50 goals in his short time with the club.
Elsewhere, Hugo Lloris was sent off as Tottenham again squandered a dominant position to draw 2-2 away to PSV Eindhoven. Barcelona leads that group after it beat Inter Milan, 2-0, despite the absence of Lionel Messi.
In Group A, Borussia Dortmund also has a perfect record after inflicting a 4-0 defeat on Atletico Madrid. Raphael Guerreiro scored two, with Axel Witsel and Jadon Sancho netting the others.
In the group's other match, new Monaco manager Thierry Henry began his Champions League coaching career with a 1-1 draw at Club Brugge, with Wesley’s goal for the hosts canceling out Moussa Sylla’s opener.
Meanwhile, Porto took control of Group D with a 3-1 win at Lokomotiv Moscow. After Iker Casillas had saved an early Mario Fernandes penalty, Porto rarely seemed troubled, with Moussa Marega converting from the spot and Hector Herrera heading in a cross from his Mexico teammate Jesus "Tecatito" Corona. Anton Miranchuk pulled one back, but Corona soon restored the two-goal margin, giving El Tri three goal-scorers on the day (Hirving Lozano, who had PSV's opener, being the other).
Schalke is two points back of Porto in second place, although it will wonder how on earth it only drew 0-0 away to Galatasaray in a game it dominated.
Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League:
Old flaws undermine PSG
For PSG the failings were all too familiar. Even though it salvaged a draw against a Napoli side managed by its former manager, Carlo Ancelotti, there's little to celebrate. With the ball, it was indulgent, its forwards always inclined to individuality at the expense of ruthlessness. Without the ball, PSG was hopelessly exposed. Lorenzo Insigne had already sidefooted against the bar from a Mario Rui cross when he latched onto a delightfully weighted ball from Jose Callejon and dinked his finish over Alphonse Areola for the opener.
PSG was much improved after the break, though, as Thomas Tuchel switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-3, and the pressure had been building before Thomas Meunier’s cross was sliced into his own net by Rui just after the hour mark.
At that the game seemed there for the taking, but when Marquinhos blocked a shot from Fabian Ruiz, the ball fell perfectly for Mertens, who calmly poked the ball into the corner. That would have left PSG four points adrift of the group leaders, but it has so much quality, however unstructured, that there is always a chance one of its stars will produce something extraordinary. Di Maria has been reinvigorated by Tuchel, and he lashed a very late leveler for the goal that may have saved PSG from the embarrassment of a group-stage exit.
Without it, PSG would've been four points back of Napoli and three back of Liverpool with games against each still remaining. As it stands, PSG is still in third, but two points back of Liverpool and one back of Napoli. It'll need to change its approach if it's to outlast either and advance.
Sloppiness costs Spurs again
Tottenham’s hopes of Champions League progress hang by a thread after it once again squandered a dominant position in an away game and ended up being held to a draw by PSV. One point from three games means it probably has to win its three remaining matches to go through to the knockout stage.
From the start, it seemed like being one of those nights for Spurs. They dominated almost from the beginning, with Harry Kane hitting the bar early on. But then Toby Alderweireld was caught in possession by Lozano, and, although he got back to make a challenge, the ball deflected off him and looped over Lloris to give PSV the lead. Davinson Sanchez had a goal mystifyingly ruled out for offside against Kane, although he didn’t seem to be interfering with the play, before luck finally went Tottenham’s way as Christian Eriksen and Kieran Tripper opened up PSV and Lucas Moura’s shot deflected in off Pablo Rosario.
Even then, though, laxity dogged Spurs. PSV had offered little as an attacking force and yet Gaston Pereiro also had a shot deflect against the bar just before halftime. Tottenham’s apparent superiority continued after the break. Eriksen, in his first start for a month, played a sharp one-two with Son Heung-min, then crossed for Kane to nod in after 55 minutes. As Erik Lamela also hit the bar, any outcome other than a Spurs win seemed implausible.
But Spurs’ repeated problem in Europe has been a tendency for lapses of concentration. It cost them against Inter in Milan and it did so again here with 11 minutes remaining, a combination of Eriksen being dispossessed and a huge gap between the central defenders setting Lozano away. When Lloris lunged into him, a red card was the only possible outcome. The equalizer came with three minutes remaining, a needless free kick half-cleared and returned into the box where Luuk De Jong jabbed it home. PSV hadn’t had a shot in the second half before the red card.
No Messi, no problem for Barcelona
Barcelona won its third game out of three in the group stage, making light of Messi's absence due to an arm fracture with a victory over Inter that was more comfortable than the 2-0 margin might suggest. A win away to Inter on Matchday 4 will guarantee Barcelona’s progression to the knockout stage with two games to spare.
The build-up had been dominated by doubts about Barcelona’s dependence on Messi, who had scored five of its eight goals in the Champions League this season but was reduced to sitting in the stands with his son, donning a sling.
It was his replacement, Rafinha, once of Inter, who opened the scoring casually knocking in a volley, as he ran on to a superb pass from Luis Suarez after 32 minutes to complete a play he started by winning the ball in midfield. Jordi Alba added the second late on to let Barcelona secure the three points and take positive momentum into this weekend's Clasico against a vulnerable Real Madrid.