PSG 2 – 2 Barcelona
PSG scored a last gasp equalizer to keep themselves in the tie in a very entertaining match against the tournament favourites. Messi opened the scoring for the Catalonians, before being injured shortly after. Ibrahimovic controversially equalized in the second half, but Xavi put Barca back in the lead after Sanchez was fouled. It was not to be the last action as Matuidi scored a deflected equalizer with the last kick of the match to set up an interesting second leg in Spain in a couple of weeks.
PSG knew exactly how Barcelona would play, and they didn’t disappoint. It took PSG three minutes to even touch the ball. They did however, create the first clear opening, after some neat passing put Lavezzi in the box. The Argentine twisted and turned before Busquets got back to tackle him. The tackle though, was dreadful, the ball being kicked past Valdes in the Barca goal and cannoning off the foot of the post. Barca responded form the early scare like they always do, by keeping the ball. Unfortunately for them, PSG were defending stoutly, and restricted them predominantly to long shots, namely from Xavi and Iniesta.
PSG were always going to threaten on the counter attack. Lucas and Lavezzi, two of the fastest players in Europe, against Alba and Alves, two of the most advanced wing backs in Europe was always going to be a good battle. David Beckham also began to show people why he was in the starting line up, almost acting like a quarter back, hitting accurate long balls throughout the half. Lucas, PSG’s best player in the half, repeatedly going past Alba, and causing problems, won a free kick right outside the box in Beckham territory. Ibrahimovic had other ideas, and blasted the set piece through the wall, producing a rare sight, Victor Valdes pulling off a good save. The big Swede was presented with a better chance courtesy of Lucas moments later, after the latter ran seventy yards past two players. He crossed the ball to Zlatan, who scuffed his shot wide, when you’d expect him to hit the target.
After a lull in play you could almost be mistaken from forgetting Messi was even on the pitch. That changed, after a Barca corner wasn’t dealt with, and the ball found its was to Alves. The Brazilian the curled an exquisite ball over the PSG defence for Messi to run onto unmarked. The La Liga top scorer gave the pass what it deserved and stroked it into the bottom corner. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for PSG, as they didn’t deserve it. Barcelona however, always pose a significant threat, no matter how badly they seem to be playing. Messi nearly compounded their misery by narrowly curling an effort over just before half time. Their fortunes changed significantly however, as after his missed effort, Messi tweaked his hamstring, and had to be substituted.
Fabregas replaced the Ballon D’or winner at half time, as Barca resumed where they left off, controlling the ball without creating clear chances. PSG continued to look threatening on the break, with Beckham continuing to play well in his quarter back role. Zlatan Ibrahimovic also became a lot more involved early on in the second half, miscontrolling a good cross from Jallet. Before playing a delightful ball through the defence for Matuidi, that Pique snuffed out.
Barca should have doubled their lead midway through the half, but Sanchez dallied too long when found in the box. He had an almost identical chance minutes later, this time opting to hit it first time, he scuffed it however and it didn’t trouble anyone. PSG were finding themselves a little stretched, maybe starting to show signs of tiredness., and running out of ideas. The team from Paris started conceding silly fouls, Barca in kind however, started doing something else they were famous for, trying to get players booked. First Iniesta, Villa and then inevitably Alves, claiming injuries after the slightest of touches.
PSG made some changes, including taking off the tiring Beckham, and started to build some pressure. A couple of contentious decisions occurred soon after, resulting in a deserved equalizer for PSG. Firstly a cross in the Barca box resulted in Mascherano and Alba clattering into eachother. While they were both laying down injured, the ball made its way to Ibrahimovic, who was played onside by the stricken pair. Again the Swede scuffed it shot and it was saved, this resulted in frankly ridiculous appeals from Barcalona. They claimed that their two players, who injured each other mere seconds later, warranted having the ball put out for them, even though they turned out to be fine. From the resulting corner, followed a free kick for PSG in a dangerous position after a foul from Villa. From the set piece Silva thumped a header against the inside of the post, Ibrahimovic from a clear offside position bundled the ball home to make it 1 – 1, resulting in much Barca protesting again.
Tempers started to flare after this, wtih both teams making fouls, receiving bookings, and generally complaining about everything they could. The match was seemingly decided soon after, when Sanchez was put through by Xavi. Sirigu came too meet him, biut couldn’t get there quick enough, and even though the Chilean’s touch was taking him very wide, the referee had no choice but to give a Penalty. Up stepped Xavi to slot it home for 2-1 to the visitors, and seemingly no way back the French team.
The match was not finished though, into the final seconds of the match, Jallet lobbed a hopeful ball into the box, which was expertly nodded down by Ibrahimovic for Matuidi to shoot. Although he didn’t catch it as cleanly as he would’ve wanted, it went through two players and wrong footed Valdes, who looked distraught to see it trickle in. This turned out to be the last action of a thoroughly enjoyable match.
PSG will still have some hope going into the second leg, but needless to say, Barcalona will be heavy favourites. The odds have improved for the them though, with the possible absence of Messi. As well as the definite absence of Mascherano to an already weakened defence, could give them a decent chance.
Man of the match : Thiago Silva – was absolutely dominant in all aspects of his game, and deserved to be on the winning side. The sort of player Barcelona desperately need.