Kylian Mbappe scored from the penalty spot but Paris Saint-Germain were held to a 1-1 draw by Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday in a game overshadowed by reports claiming the France star is so unhappy at the club he wants to leave in January.
PSG would have qualified for the last 16 from Group H with two games to spare by beating the Portuguese giants at the Parc des Princes.
They took the lead when Mbappe slotted in a penalty five minutes before half-time, only for Joao Mario to level from the spot for Benfica just after the hour mark.
The sides are level on eight points at the top of the group, five ahead of Juventus and Israel’s Maccabi Haifa, who claimed a stunning 2-0 win over the Italians earlier on Tuesday.
PSG, who are top of Ligue 1, should still advance comfortably to the knockout phase but all is far from rosy in the French capital.
The club was unsettled ahead of this match by reports that Mbappe wants away already, a little over four months after turning down a move to Real Madrid to sign a new three-year contract in Paris.
“I found it bizarre that such a story should come out just a few hours before such an important match for the club,” coach Christophe Galtier told broadcaster Canal Plus.
“He gave a very good response by scoring a goal. He was creative, dangerous and he could have scored a second.”
– Club denial –
The story in question was published by Madrid-based sports daily Marca and later by several French media, but PSG firmly denied any suggestion that their superstar striker could depart during the next transfer window.
“I am with Kylian Mbappe every day and he has never spoken to me about leaving in January,” PSG’s football advisor Luis Campos told Canal Plus ahead of the game.
Mbappe’s apparent unhappiness appears to stem from the club’s failure to sign a new centre-forward during the close season, with Robert Lewandowski among the players linked with the Qatar-owned outfit before eventually choosing Barcelona.
PSG also missed out to West Ham United for Italy striker Gianluca Scamacca.
Mbappe, 23, hinted at his frustration after playing for France last month, saying he has “much more freedom” when on international duty playing off Olivier Giroud.
At PSG he forms part of an all-star front three, sharing the limelight with Neymar and Lionel Messi, although the latter was absent on Tuesday with a calf problem.
Messi had scored PSG’s goal in a 1-1 draw in Lisbon last week and without the Argentine they lacked some inspiration.
Starting from a position on the left of the attack, Mbappe appeared isolated at times and only showed flashes of his brilliance before the penalty came late in the first half.
Juan Bernat was fouled by teenage Benfica defender Antonio Silva in the box, and Mbappe sent goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos the wrong way from the spot.
It was his 12th club goal in 13 games this season, one more than Neymar and four more than Messi.
He is also now PSG’s all-time top scorer in the Champions League with 31 goals, one more than Edinson Cavani.
Mbappe came close to scoring again early in the second half with a curling shot that ended up just the wrong side of the far post, and instead Benfica equalised in the 62nd minute.
English referee Michael Oliver awarded a penalty after reviewing images of Marco Verratti’s needless challenge on Rafa Silva just inside the area, and Joao Mario smashed in the spot-kick to secure a point.
“To get a draw is a top performance from the players,” said Benfica coach Roger Schmidt.
Mbappe did have the ball in the net again with an acrobatic volleyed effort late on, but the goal was disallowed for a clear offside, before he was substituted off in the dying minutes after hurting an ankle.
“He had to grit his teeth to carry on at the end because he was on the receiving end of a nasty tackle which could have led to a sending off,” said Galtier.
“But Kylian gave a response to the rumours.”