Mbappe has rescued PSG numerous times this season in the French league, most notably last Friday, and he did so once more on the grandest stage.
Mbappe darted inside two opponents down the left and fired the ball through goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’ legs after receiving a back-heeled pass from Neymar’s replacement in the fourth and final minute of injury time.
Courtois had been the standout up until that point, denying Mbappe early in each half and then save Lionel Messi’s penalty in the 61st minute, a record seven-time Golden Ball winner. Mbappe was fouled by right back Dani Carvajal, and the penalty was granted.
Courtois guessed well and came to a smooth stop to his left.
During his golden spell with Barcelona, Messi scored 26 goals and added 14 assists in 45 games against Madrid, but he did not score in several games until joining PSG last summer.
PSG brought on Neymar for the final 20 minutes as the Brazil star returned from a damaged ankle, while Madrid’s star forward Karim Benzema recovered from a hamstring injury to face Messi and France teammate Mbappe.
Mbappe’s contract expires at the end of the season, and he’s been linked with a move to Real Madrid, which had a 180 million euro ($204 million) offer turned down by PSG last summer.
Now, the Spanish behemoth might receive perhaps the most dangerous attacker in the world for nothing.
The subplots were in place, but the first half, with the exception of a few glimpses of ability from Mbappe, did not live up to the expectations.
The second half got off to a brighter start, with Courtois making a wonderful one-handed save low to his right to deny Mbappe, who had been set up by right back Achraf Hakimi’s quick pass.
PSG has never won the championship, and Madrid, the 13-time champion, hasn’t made it to the final since accomplishing a triple trick of European Cups in 2018. Carlo Ancelotti was pitted against the team he used to manage, having been signed during the outset of the club’s Qatari-backed ownership as the major name to win the Champions League.
The away-goals rule, which is used to decide two-legged matches in European club competitions if necessary, has not been employed for the first time in 57 years.
Manchester City was rather unlucky, as the runner-up from the previous season defeated Sporting 5-0 in Portugal.
The second legs are scheduled on March 9, but Casemiro, a Madrid midfielder, is suspended after receiving a yellow card late in the first half.
PSG got off to a great start, with Mbappe’s left-wing cross being blasted over by Angel Di Maria in the fifth minute.
Mbappe continued to get behind the defence down the left flank, and he latched onto Messi’s pass in the 17th minute, but Courtois saved well from close range.
In the end, his tenacity and faith were the deciding factors.