Charlton deserve credit for world-class Nick Pope's mind-boggling display v Paris Saint-Germain
By Alessandro Schiavone at Parc des Princes
PSG 1-1 Newcastle United (Isak, Mbappé)
Ex-Charlton goalkeeper Nick Pope played arguably the finest game of his European career as Newcastle United were bitterly pegged back by PSG in the 98th minute. To do better than against AC Milan in the Champions League curtain raiser was already hard enough. But Pope went one step beyond this time, dealing with every single effort on target from open play.
Had it not been for the former Addicks man’s monumental display and host of world-class saves, this game would have been well and truly over before the hour-mark. With the Magpies down to the bare bones and just when they needed him most, he was as sharp as anyone, delivering one of the most remarkable performances by any English goalkeeper in the history of the competition. And in the end, he was only beaten by a penalty. Frustrating but at the same time he can leave the Parc des Princes with his head held up really high and global recognition coming his way. His teammate Kieran Trippier went as far as hailing him as "one of the best goalkeepers in the world" in a post-match interview with this outlet.
And it's easy to see why. Early on he had to be at his best to deny both Kylian Mbappe’ backheel flick and Ousmane Dembele’s curled strike. But he kept his best for the second half, showing to the world that he has turned into one of the most talented no.1’s and a man for the big occasion. He then continued his one-man show by speeding off his line to block Dembele’s weak poke before repeating the feat minutes later with a sublime reflex save for the ages to further frustrate the wasteful Barcola. Even Mbappe appeared resigned to his fate, putting his laces through to the ball and hitting Pope at the near-post.
Yet just when Newcastle thought they had all three points in the bag, Livramento gave away a penalty. He was unlucky when Dembele’s cross first hit his body before ricocheting off his arm. After a forensic VAR check, the referee pointed to the spot. And up stepped Mbappe who levelled the game with the last kick.
But that doesn’t change the narrative and Pope gets 10 out of 10 by Capital Football . Today, he commands the same authority and respect on Tyneside as Pope Francis in Rome and worldwide. And if he is where he is Charlton, who first took chance on him back in 2011, deserve a massive chunk of the credit for his development. They saw something in him and despite sending him out on loan on six occasions they continously refused to pull the trigger and kept him on their books. Now it's easy to jump on the Charlton Athletic bandwagon but in those days, few clubs (in fact none) were as persuaded as the southeast Londoners that he had a real chance of making it. Clubs with enough self-respect would probably have walked away after welcoming him back from his first couple of indifferent loan spells with his reputation the same as when he left. And for that alone, those days at The Valley will remain the making of Pope Nick I, the new sovereign of the city of Newcastle, made in Sparrows Lane.
PSG XI: Donnarumma; Hakimi, Skriniar, Danilo, Hernandez; Ugarte, Ruiz, Lee; Dembele, Ramos, Mbappe
Subs: Letellier, Tenas, Mukiele, Vitinha, Soler, Asensio, Barcola, G. Ramos
Newcastle XI: Pope; Trippier, Lascelles, Schar, Livramento; Guimaraes, Joelinton, Miley; Almiron, Isak, Gordon
Subs: Dubravka, Karius, Dummett, Hall, Huntley, Parkinson, Ndiweni