Analysing PSG’s wasted chances vs Dortmund: 44 shots, 4.94 xG and hitting the woodwork six times

How did Paris Saint-Germain fail to score against Borussia Dortmund?

Across the two legs of their Champions League semi-final, PSG had a combined expected goals tally of 4.94 and hit the woodwork six times. Edin Terzic’s side went into the semi-final as considerable underdogs and were always going to require some luck to get through, but PSG’s continued inability to score was astounding.

PSG had nine big chances across the two ties, and their second-leg xG tally of 3.25 is the highest of any team in the Champions League this season without scoring. You have to go back to 2019, when Napoli failed to score against Genk from a total of 3.67 xG, to find a worse performance in front of goal.

Luis Enrique threw Kylian Mbappe, one of the world’s best players, and a supporting cast of Ousmane Dembele, Bradley Barcola, Randal Kolo Muani, Goncalo Ramos, Lee Kang-In and Marco Asensio at Dortmund, but their defence remained impenetrable.



Dortmund’s famous win vs Paris Saint-Germain was built on both luck and judgement

“How we won the game, no one will ask tomorrow,” said Marco Reus, the Dortmund captain. “Shots against the post won’t matter tomorrow. What counts is that Borussia Dortmund are in the final again. Nobody expected this. It’s just incredible.”

That may well be true, but join The Athletic as we analyse 10 of PSG’s most glaring misses in the tie.

psg woodwork 1

Chance 1

In the 50th minute of the first leg, Kylian Mbappe, who had been quiet until that point, reminded Dortmund of his quality.

After receiving a pass from Achraf Hakimi, Mbappe found himself isolated against Dortmund midfielder Marcel Sabitzer on the left corner of the opposition box. With four team-mates in close vicinity, Mbappe could have tried to beat Sabitzer with a dribble down the line, allowing his team-mates to crash the box and attempt a cut-back.

Instead, he took a couple of steps into the box and shifted the ball out of his feet before bending a shot towards the far post. Goalkeeper Gregor Kubel was beaten, but the woodwork stood firm and prevented PSG from drawing level.

Chance 2

Seconds after Mbappe hit the post, Hakimi went even closer.

hakimi post gif

Mbappe’s shot rebounded to him, allowing him to isolate Sabitzer again in the box. From a tighter angle, he shifted right and attempted a shot on goal, but Emre Can, who was covering his team-mate, blocked his effort.

Again, the rebound fell to a PSG player. Barcola picked up the pieces on this occasion, and the 21-year-old laid a pass back for Hakimi, who had found space in the left side of the box.

His side-footed, driven effort looked set to nestle into the near-post side-netting but, again, it cannoned off the post and away from goal. Nuno Mendes grabbed the rebound, but his cross flew past the head of a diving Mbappe.

Chance 3

After Mbappe and Hakimi went close from the edge of the area, PSG continued piling on the pressure. Five minutes later, midfielder Fabian Ruiz perhaps should have put his side on level terms.

fabian ruiz miss

Marquinhos, PSG’s captain, received the ball in the right half-space and immediately shaped to cross into the box.

The Brazil defender whipped his cross perfectly in the “danger zone” between the penalty spot and the six-yard box, dropping into Fabian’s path in an awkward position between foot and head height.

Fabian goes with his head but could not divert his effort goalwards. His team-mates’ exasperated expressions suggested they thought he should have done better with this 0.36 xG opportunity. Of the 44 shots PSG had over the two legs, only eight were on target.

Chance 4

With Dortmund rocking, PSG continued to attack their goal.

dembele miss 1 gif

In a similar position to where he went close beforehand, Mbappe advanced into the box against Sabitzer, who it seems was instructed to track the Frenchman’s attacks from wide left into the box.

Ousmane Dembele, who lined up as a right winger, drifted into a central position and attacked the space between Dortmund central defenders Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck. Mbappe spotted his run and lifted a pass into his club and international team-mate, who had advanced into a goalscoring position around eight yards from goal.

However, Kobel came out quickly to close the angle. Dembele did get a shot away, but Kobel saved with a strong left hand.

Chance 5

Within 10 minutes, Dembele was involved in potential goalscoring action again.

dembele miss 2

Vitinha, impressive in Enrique’s midfield after an indifferent loan spell with Wolves during the 2020-21 season, lifted an excellent pass beyond Dortmund’s defence, setting Hakimi free.

With a decent first touch, Hakimi would have had Mbappe in support ahead of the Dortmund defence, setting up a high-percentage goalscoring opportunity. However, his touch was loose, forcing him further down the line and allowing the Dortmund defence to catch up.

However, Dembele, who had halted his run from deep, was free on the edge of the area which gave Hakimi a chance to play a cut-back.

Hakimi’s pass was well-weighted, but Dembele failed to wrap his foot around the ball and lifted his shot over the bar. PSG had failed to score in Dortmund but it would surely be a different story in the second leg, right?

Chance 6

As in the first leg, PSG did not really get going at the Parc des Princes until the second half. But shortly after half-time, they should have levelled the tie through Warren Zaire-Emery.

zaire emery gif

In the 46th minute, Mbappe faced up Jadon Sancho from a corner, who had gone tight to his opposite number while right-back Julian Ryerson sat deeper.

His whipped cross was intended for Portugal international striker Goncalo Ramos, who could not divert his effort from close-range goalwards. However, his touch lifted the ball over everyone except Zaire-Emery, who was waiting to convert at the far post.

With time to set himself, the 18-year-old looked like he would score, but his right-footed shot hit the post and went wide. Special mention to Emre Can, who quickly closed the gap to Zaire-Emery and made the chance more difficult.

Chance 7

Shortly after Hummels had put Dortmund ahead on the night, Mendes was inches away from pulling one back.

nuno mendes gif

After Hummels had headed clear on the edge of the box, the ball landed at Mendes’ feet, who took a touch to take it within 25 yards of the goal.

The Portugal international left-back then fired a ferocious left-footed shot towards the bottom-right corner of the Dortmund goal that had Kobel beaten.

You will not be shocked to learn that it… hit the post.

Chance 8

While Marquinhos played the role of provider in the first leg, he had a golden opportunity to score in the second.

marquinhos header gif

With 10 minutes of the game remaining, Lee Kang-In delivered an excellent set-piece delivery from the right wing intended for the exact position Marquinhos had expertly played in Fabian in the reverse fixture.

The Brazil defender, who is generally excellent in the air, leapt highest in the box and looked set to halve the aggregate deficit. His header, however, flew just wide of the far post.

Chance 9

The crossbar contributed to preventing this next opportunity, but Kobel’s save to direct it there was outstanding.

kobel save mbappe miss gif

Dembele started the attacking move by playing a deep cross to Kolo Muani, who jumped over the ball and headed it down into the ground and across the six-yard box. Kobel met the ball at the peak of the bounce and got a hand to the ball to divert it away, but it only landed as far as Hakimi, around eight yards from goal.

Hakimi hooked it square to Mbappe, who was closer to the centre of the goal, and he struck a powerful volley into the ground. Despite falling to the ground, Kobel managed to get a hand to the ball and push it onto the crossbar.

Chance 10

As the second leg approached the 90th minute, PSG understandably began to resort to hit-and-hope efforts from outside the box.

Vitinha proved himself excellent from long range in the quarter-final, scoring from 25 yards in the second leg against Barcelona, and almost did it again in the 87th minute of this game.

vitinha gif

Vitinha received the ball about 30 yards from goal and shimmied away from Sabitzer onto his right foot. With no apparent passing angles to a team-mate, Vitinha fired a powerful shot towards Kobel’s top left-hand corner.

The shot beat Kobel, but it cannoned off the bar. It was the sixth and final time PSG had struck the woodwork across the two legs.

While Reus has no doubt forgotten about the chances Dortmund gave up across both legs, PSG will be rueing their series of missed opportunities.

With Mbappe set to depart this summer, failing to beat Dortmund in the Champions League semi-final may go down as one of the club’s greatest-ever missed opportunities to lift the major honour that continues to elude them.

(Header photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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