LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The wait is finally over for Paris Saint-Germain.
After 110 Champions League matches, the French powerhouse has made it to the final of Europe’s top club competition.
No other club to reach the final had to wait longer, with Arsenal holding the previous record by going 90 matches from 1971-2006 before being able to play for the title.
And there was no need for late drama for PSG this time as Ángel Di María scored a goal and set up two others in a comfortable 3-0 win over Leipzig in the semifinals on Tuesday. PSG had needed two late goals to come back against Atalanta in the quarterfinals last week.
“We’re very happy. It’s a first for the club,” Di María said. “We worked hard and played a great game. We want to make history for the club. We succeeded tonight and we’re in the final, that’s very important. We have to continue like tonight to make our dream come true.”
PSG became the first French league club to reach the Champions League final since Monaco in 2004, and it can become the second French team to win the title after Marseille in 1993.
PSG will face either five-time champion Bayern Munich or fellow French club Lyon. They meet on Wednesday in the other semifinal of the mini-tournament being played in Lisbon because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Marquinhos and Juan Bernat also scored as the Qatari-owned French club moved a win away from finally capturing an elusive European crown.
Neymar, who set up one of the goals with a neat backheel flick inside the area, is also a step closer to fulfilling his goal of winning the Champions League away from former club Barcelona.
He and his teammates celebrated at midfield after the match, chanting and dancing for a few moments. Back home, PSG supporters poured onto the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue, the traditional site for victory celebrations, lighting it up with hurrahs and smoke torches.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex praised the team on Twitter, citing PSG’s “experience, talent and team spirit” for the victory.
“Paris is magic!” he tweeted.
The result ended a surprising run for the Red Bull-backed Leipzig, the young German club that was making only its second Champions League appearance.
“The ticket for the final for Paris is well deserved,” said Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann, the youngest ever in a Champions League semifinal at 33. “In the first 10 to 12 minutes we did well and had good situations. It was hard to come back into the game after the second goal because Paris have a lot of quality. It’s hard to accept but football is like this.“
PSG looked in control from the start at Benfica’s Stadium of Light, with Marquinhos and Di María scoring in the first half and Bernat adding to the lead in the second.
PSG has been dominant in France but the main goal for its Qatari owner has been to win the Champions League title and earn its place among Europe’s elite. The club was eliminated in the tournament’s round of 16 in the last three seasons, and in the quarterfinals four straight times before that. Its last semifinal appearance had been in 1995, when it lost to AC Milan.
“It’s a dream come true,” PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said. “We want to be in the final of the Champions League, we want to win the Champions League. We know that we are going to achieve it one day. I don’t know if this year, but every year we fight for it, so thank God that we are here in the final.”
Leipzig, which eliminated Atlético Madrid in the quarterfinals, was trying to make its mark in Europe under energy drink company Red Bull, which in 2009 bought the license rights from fifth-tier club SSV Markranstaedt and financed the new team’s steady promotion through the lower leagues in Germany.
PSG was back at full strength in attack with Kylian Mbappé and Di María returning to the starting lineup. Mbappé didn’t play from the start in the quarterfinals as he recovered from injury, while Di María was suspended on accumulation of yellow cards.
Di María delivered a perfect free kick into the area for Marquinhos to open the scoring in the 13th minute with a header into the far corner. The Brazilian midfielder also scored the crucial 90th-minute equalizer against Atalanta.
Di María added the second from inside the area in the 42nd after a nice flick by Neymar in a buildup that began with Leipzig goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi making a bad pass. Di María’s second assist set up Juan Bernat close-range goal in the 56th.
PSG was denied by the woodwork three times in the first half alone, with Neymar, Mbappé and Di María coming close to scoring. It also had a goal disallowed for a handball.
PSG has scored in its last 34 Champions League games, matching the record set by Real Madrid from 2011-2014.
The French club didn’t have Keylor Navas in goal because of a muscle injury, but substitute Sergio Rico was hardly threatened by the Leipzig attack.
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