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De Bruyne demonstrates his importance to City

"Sometimes one player can change a team," said Manuel Pellegrini of fit-again Kevin De Bruyne, whose display in Paris has given Manchester City a chance of reaching their first semi-final.

Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring his second goal in Europe this season
Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring his second goal in Europe this season ©Getty Images

The Paris Saint-Germain fans expecting a midweek stroll were clearly looking at the wrong set of Manchester City results. The English club may have wobbled of late, but their recent woes coincided with the absence of Kevin De Bruyne – and the Belgian schemer underlined the point on a frenetic night that left the visitors favourites to reach the semi-finals.

This was football to quicken the pulse, a rollercoaster game strewn with twists, turns and telling lapses that ended in a 2-2 draw neither coach could quibble with. Laurent Blanc and Manuel Pellegrini rued mistakes in the aftermath, but there was quality too, and the moment of purest expertise was delivered by a fit-again De Bruyne on 38 minutes. Slamming the ball beyond Kevin Trapp from wide on the right, the 24-year-old stunned the home crowd.

How his team-mates have missed him. De Bruyne was removed from the equation with a knee injury towards the end of January, and City won just two of their seven league contests during his convalescence, a run that ended their Premier League title ambitions. T

Kevin De Bruyne has scored in his last two games
Kevin De Bruyne has scored in his last two games©Getty Images

he stuttering Sky Blues looked to be heading in one direction only, but De Bruyne returned with a goal and a spring in his step during Saturday's 4-0 defeat of Bournemouth, and was no less explosive at the Parc des Princes.

"Sometimes one player can change a team," commented Pellegrini, whose hopes of signing off by leading City to a first UEFA Champions League semi-final – and potentially beyond – have suddenly increased. "He was important before his injury and thankfully he returned the same way."

Once again fielded in the No10 role behind Sergio Agüero, De Bruyne took the pressure off David Silva as City's chief orchestrator before fatigue brought about his withdrawal with 13 minutes remaining. Worryingly for Paris, the former Wolfsburg ace is likely to be even sharper in Tuesday's second leg. "I felt a little bit better than the [Bournemouth] game," he explained. "I'm happy with the way it's going and physically I'm getting a little bit better."

Highlights: Paris 2-2 Manchester City

Had events unfolded differently in the summer, De Bruyne could even have been playing for the hosts on Wednesday. Contact was made as Paris looked to add a new dimension to their attack – a player to shine on just this sort of European occasion – but ultimately they opted to pursue long-term target Ángel Di María, whose own contribution was more muted.

"He's a brilliant player," added Joe Hart, City's second returning hero. Indeed, while De Bruyne opened the scoring, it was the England goalkeeper who provided the platform. Although his was a less faultless display, Hart struck an early blow for the visitors with a penalty save from Zlatan Ibrahimović. Had they conceded then, Pellegrini's side could have crumbled.

Instead, Hart's stop set the tone for a defiant display. Back from a calf problem sustained during the Manchester derby on 20 March, the 28-year-old guessed correctly as he dived low to his right, though he denied trying to put the Sweden striker off with a few choice words. "I'm stupid, but I'm not crazy," he joked. "I'm pretty sure he's one player that you're not going to change his mind or make him do something he doesn't want to."

Joe Hart saves Zlatan Ibrahimović's early penalty
Joe Hart saves Zlatan Ibrahimović's early penalty©AFP/Getty Images

Ibrahimović eventually got his name on the scoresheet, and the manner of Paris's first goal was less of a laughing matter. Having only just gone ahead, City gifted their rivals a goal as Fernando dawdled in defence following Hart's goal kick, with his hurried clearance striking an alert Ibrahimović and sending the ball into the net.

"It is what it is," said Hart, later beaten by former City trainee Adrien Rabiot before Fernandinho made the most of slack defending at the other end to level the tie. "We've got to be confident as a team that we can pass the ball to each other, and sometimes stuff happens."

With De Bruyne back on the prowl and both sides dangerously prone to losing focus, expect plenty more stuff to happen next week.

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