Manchester City forward Riyad Mahrez has leapt to the defence of Paris Saint-Germain forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe after the pair were slated for their role in the French side’s Champions League exit.
PSG wasted a slew of chances in the second leg defeat at the Etihad Stadium while City made the most of their few opportunities, Mahrez grabbing both goals to send Pep Guardiola’s side to the final in Istanbul against Chelsea.
Neymar took a beating in the French media for not pulling his weight in defence in both games, as did Mbappe, who was left on the bench for the second leg due to a calf injury.
PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and Neymar were both criticised for their displays against Man City
Mahrez kept his composure in front of goal to net both of City’s goals in the 2-0 second-leg win
Mbappe was given a rating of just 3/10 by newspaper L’Equipe following City’s 2-1 win at the Parc des Princes and Neymar was then awarded the same mark after the second leg.
Mahrez, however, said the pair were being unfairly criticised for the their performances.
‘I saw Neymar defend a lot, Mbappe also in the first leg,’ Mahrez told L’Equipe.
‘I think we were a little better than the Parisians overall. We did not qualify simply because two players defended less.’
City are looking forward to their first ever Champions League final after many agonising eliminations to the likes of Monaco, Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon.
Mbappe was criticised for not working enough in Paris. He missed the return leg in Manchester
Mahrez had a few confrontations with Neymar in the game but said the Brazilian defended well
Mahrez emphasised the importance of every single player working their socks off to get the team to within 90 minutes of football’s holy grail, also crediting coach Guardiola’s role in instilling a selfless attitude that runs deep in the squad.
‘Pep really imbued us with this aggressiveness when you lose the ball,’ he added.
‘To be a very, very high-level player, you have to make that kind of effort. Me, I don’t defend very well, but I do. I’m doing it to help my team-mates. At a very, very high level, if you don’t defend, you can penalise your team.
‘If you are [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Lionel] Messi, Neymar or Mbappe, and you have such extraordinary qualities, maybe you can ignore certain defensive tasks, but when you look at Paris, we say to ourselves that it is difficult to win the Champions League if everyone is not defending.’
Despite attempting to turn the fire away from Neymar and Mbappe, Mahrez criticised PSG for losing their heads in the second half, when Angel Di Maria was sent off for treading on Fernandinho’s foot before a number of visiting players vented their frustration in defeat by lashing out at their City opponents.
He added: ‘We played well second half and we could have scored more. They lost their nerve and started to kick us and after the red card it was more comfortable.’
Mahrez emphasised how Pep Guardiola has made his side aggressive when they lose the ball