Match Reviews

UEFA Champions League: Paris Saint-Germain 1-3 FC Barcelona: Match Review

Barcelona will go into the second leg of their quarter-final match-up again Paris Saint-Germain with a commanding 3-1 lead. Led by a stunning Luis Suarez brace after Neymar opened the scoring, Barcelona seemed to be well on their way to a clean sheet victory, but a late Gregory van der Wiel lucky goal left PSG with a glimmer of hope. As PSG will be getting some key players back for the game at the Camp Nou it is not all over just yet, but, clearly, this tie is Barcelona’s to lose.

Paris Saint-Germain
FC Barcelona
Possession 36% 64%
Total Shots 8 11
Shots on Target 5 6
Corners 4 4
Fouls 10 12
Offsides 6 1
Yellow Cards 1 2
Red Cards 0 0

With several players unavailable due to suspension or injury, Laurent Blanc had quite a selection headache on his hands. The midfield was especially affected, but the midfield trio of Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi and Adrien Rabiot was still very much able to cause problems. In attack Zlatan Ibrahimović was missing and was replaced by Ezequiel Lavezzi. Luis Enrique didn’t have such problems as only Dani Alves was out of the game due to a suspension. Martin Montoya started in his place. Javier Mascherano started alongside Gerard Pique in the heart of the defense, with Jeremy Mathieu relegated to bench duties. Xavi was absent in the midfield where Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitić positioned themselves in front of Sergio Busquets.

PSG kicked off the match from the center circle, but it would be Barcelona who would have the first attack. The attack wasn’t successful though as the Parisians quickly showed that their defensive line, albeit shorthanded, would be difficult to punch through. With the most creative part of PSG’s midfield missing it was widely expected that the hosts would simply sit back and would look for their chances on the counter attack. And that was indeed the case. PSG defended with all eleven players in their half, but when they won the ball back they were lightning quick to attack in numbers. In fact, the first scoring chance for either team came on a PSG counter, with Matuidi finding Javier Pastore in space in the box, but the Argentine missed the ball completely, actually clearing the ball away in the process.

Barcelona, meanwhile, patiently passed the ball around the Paris Saint-Germain defense, hoping to stretch out their defensive line. It was a long process, at times even slightly boring, but it proved to be a good tactic. Barcelona first find their way through in the 10th minute. Alba was played behind the defensive line, but in the crucial moment the left-back slipped, and the chance went begging.

Four minutes later it appeared that Barcelona managed to break the deadlock, with Messi once again unleashing a curling left-footed shot that beat the goalkeeper. But the shot lacked a tiny bit of accuracy as it hit the post and bounced back into play. Another two minutes later Neymar had his first chance of the game, but he missed the target.

In the 18th minute, however, Neymar didn’t make the same mistake again. PSG lost the ball in midfield, springing a quick counter attack by Barcelona. Iniesta found Messi in the middle and with the right side of the PSG defense trailing the play Messi was able to find Neymar wide open on the left side. With acres of space, Neymar made his way closer to Salvatore Sirigu who he calmly beat to the far side to score the all-important away goal.

Even though the right side of the defense was lagging far behind on that play, it was Thiago Silva who was struggling on the pitch. He could barely move, picking up what appeared to be a thigh injury at some point earlier in the game. Silva had such problems with the injury that he left the pitch a minute before the substitution was announced. The not-fully fit David Luiz replaced him.

Neymar would have another chance in the 26th minute, when the Brazilian made a lovely run into the danger area, but his shot lacked power to beat Sirigu. But that ended up being the last Barcelona chance in the first half. PSG, on the other hand, would create a couple excellent scoring opportunities the rest of the way as the French side ended the half on a high note. The first actually came after a Barcelona corner kick with Matiudi leading the charge. The midfielder passed the ball forward to Lavezzi who passed the ball in the middle to Edinson Cavani who had tons of space. With Pique late returning back, Mascherano was left on an “island”, but with a last ditch sliding tackle the Argentine was able to dispossess the Uruguayan, injuring himself in the process. Mascherano would, however, be able to return.

PSG continued to press and oftentimes Barcelona struggled to carry the ball out of their defensive third. With the hosts relentlessly harassing the Barcelona ball carrier, the visitors often left PSG with a short field. But where PSG were most dangerous was on set pieces, and they had a few chances to score from one of them. But Barcelona defended them excellently, showing some ingenuity along the way. A brilliant example of that came in the 33rd minute when just before the free kick would’ve been taken from the left side all Barcelona defenders took two steps toward midfield, while the Parisians took two steps forward. In the process six PSG players were caught offside. Marc-Andre ter Stegen was also very comfortable with dealing the high balls sent into the area.

PSG would continue to buzz around the Barcelona penalty box, but the Catalans were able to clear out the danger every single time. With two minutes of added time played, referee Mark Clattenburg whistled for halftime, with Barcelona going into the break with the lead.

The hosts started the second half in very positive fashion, quickly taking a couple long range shots to test ter Stegen. First one, the more dangerous one, came in the 49th minute from the left side from where Pastore tried his luck with a powerful effort that skipped just a couple feet before ter Stegen, but the Barcelona goalkeeper was able to punch the ball away. The very next minute Rabiot took a shot at tying the game up, but his try was too central to cause any danger. But on that play Iniesta picked up an injury, needing a stretcher to get off the pitch. He was carried off on his side with the midfielder holding his back.

With PSG continuing to press high up the pitch Barcelona had a tough time creating chances. When the Catalans were able to carry the ball into the opposing half they looked threatening, but continuously the final pass was lacking. But PSG had a similar problem on the other side, though they were able to hold onto the ball in Barcelona’s third better than Barcelona managed to on the opposite side.

Needing a goal, Blanc in the 65th minute decided to utilize just about the only attacking option he had on the bench, Lucas Moura, who replaced Rabiot. However, it would be Barcelona who would score next. Montoya sent the ball forward to Luis Suarez who would take it away from there. First he nutmegged Luiz, then made his way past Marquinhos and Maxwell before putting the ball into the back of the net. Sirigu was able to get his hand on the ball, but it was not enough to keep the ball from crossing the line.

Two minutes later, PSG had an excellent chance to pull one back, from a corner kick. The initial cross was poorly cleared and the ball came to Cavani who unleased a thunderous drive from 15 yards out. The ball seemed destined for the top corner, but somehow ter Stegen was not only able to get a hand on the ball, but was strong enough to prevent the ball from finishing in the back of the net.

With a commending two goal lead in hand Lucho decided to close down space by bringing in Mathieu in place of Rakitić. Now in desperate need of a goal to remain in the tie, PSG pushed even further up the pitch, but that gave Barcelona a lot of space on the counter attack. And Barcelona were able to take one of their following chances, in the 79th minute, and again it was Suarez who was the main figure. This time the pass came through the middle from Mascherano. Suarez picked it up cleanly and once again sent the ball through the legs of Luiz to get one-on-one with Sirigu. The first time Sirigu might have had a chance to make the save, but this time he had no such luck. The shot was simply so perfect that three goalkeepers couldn’t have saved it.

But Barcelona were caught napping a bit after that wonder-goal as PSG were able to score what proved to be only a consolidation goal. Van der Wiel picked up a loose ball on the right side and fired a shot that would’ve been easily saved by ter Stegen, but Mathieu deflected that ball enough for it to leave the Barcelona goalkeeper in no man’s land, with the ball ending in the back of the net.

PSG had another great opportunity in the last minute of regular time with Lavezzi and Cavani going alone on goal. At the last moment Adriano Correia, who replaced Montoya immediately after Suarez’s second goal, tackled Lavezzi. The loose ball, however, came to Cavani, who fired a good shot, but Mathieu made a diving block. The ball, though, continued to follow the Parisians as Matuidi had a follow-up chance but he whiffed on the shot.

The last chance of the game would be for Barcelona as Messi would have a go on goal from a free kick from a position close to his favorite spot. He fired a good shot on target, but Sirigu was there to punch the ball away. After another three minutes the whistle blew, and Barcelona will therefore take a healthy two goal advantage into the return leg in which PSG will have to score three goals to get into a position to knock Barcelona out of the competition.

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