PSG hold off wasteful Barcelona to banish demons and progress to final eight
Champions League last 16 second leg, Parc des Princes - Paris Saint-Germain 1 (Mbappe P 30') Barcelona 1 (Messi 37') PSG win 5-2 on aggregate
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and FC Barcelona at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 10, 2021
Paris Saint-Germain held off Barcelona in a thrilling match in the French capital to progress to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
The tie finished 5-2 on aggregate, but the second leg was far less comfortable for Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG than that scoreline would suggest, with Barcelona playing some of their best football for some time as they went in search of an unlikely comeback.
That lively performance from the visitors started straight from the first whistle, and they created a host of chances in the first half, with Ousmane Dembele both the biggest threat and most profligate in attack for Barca.
But the opening goal, when it came, was for PSG – with the video assistant referee spotting a foul on Mauro Icardi, and Kylian Mbappe taking advantage from the penalty spot.
It was a sucker punch for Ronald Koeman’s side, but they carried on where they left off, racking up a host of further chances (nine on target in the first half alone) before Lionel Messi slammed home a brilliant long-range strike to pull it back to 1-1.
Barca had an opportunity to put even more pressure on PSG right on the cusp of half-time when referee Anthony Taylor handed them a chance of their own from the spot. But Keylor Navas went the right way and got a leg to Messi’s penalty, diverting it up and away via the crossbar, leaving the Spanish side needing three goals without reply in the second half.
The visitors threw bodies forward in the second half in search of a repeat of their 2017 comeback (with Neymar watching on in a PSG facemask from the stands) but the goals just wouldn’t come as the Catalan club suffered their earliest Champions League exit in 14 years.
PSG will discover their quarterfinal opponents in nine days’ time, with the draw set to be held at UEFA’s HQ in Nyon on Friday 19 March, with the ties scheduled to be played over the first two weeks of April.
Talking Point – Dembele left to rue what might have been
Ousmane Dembele was simultaneously Barcelona’s most dangerous player and their most disappointing on a night that could have been so different for the Frenchman.
The chance to spearhead a comeback in Paris would have been a special prospect for Dembele, and he tore the PSG defence to pieces at times. But he just couldn’t find the finishes that his side needed and the 23-year-old steadily lost his composure in the final third, with his performance coming to a disappointing head when he failed to make contact with a cross from just three yards out as any remaining glimmer of a comeback chance was extinguished.
This could have been the night when Dembele stepped up on the big stage for his club in his home country. But as it was, it was an evening that summed up his Barcelona career – lots of promise but ultimately a disappointment.
Man of the Match – Keylor Navas (PSG)
The PSG keeper was really put to the test, but time after time he had the answers. His save from Messi’s penalty was excellent, albeit slightly fortuitous, and he produced a number of other top stops. Probably the pick of the bunch came early on as he tipped Dest’s shot onto the crossbar with a brilliant reaction stop.
The former Real Madrid man will have revelled in the challenge of denying Barcelona, and without him the Parisians could have been in real trouble.
Paris Saint-Germain's Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas (L) celebrate after saving a penalty kick taken by Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (P
Barcelona: Ter Stegen 7; Dest 7, Mingueza 4, Lenglet 6, Alba 7; Busquets 7, De Jong 7, Pedri 7; Messi 8, Dembélé 7, Griezmann 7. Subs: Firpo 7, Trincao 7, Pjanic 6, Braithwaite 5, Moriba 5.
23’ – So close! Dest is picked out down the Barca right and cuts into the box, unleashing a powerful shot form an angle that Navas tips onto the bar!
25’ – How are Barcelona not ahead!? Dembele again causes the trouble down the Barca left and this time he slides a cross towards Messi, but the skipper can’t quite stretch enough to get the decisive touch and another golden chance goes begging. The goal really does feel like it’s coming, and at this rate if Barca get one then they could quickly get two or three more.
28’ PENALTY! – The referee goes to check the footage and it’s a spot-kick to PSG! Barca will feel that’s very harsh, but he was clipped.
30’ GOAL! – Kylian Mbappe scores from the spot and is that the tie in the bag for PSG? It’s 1-0 on the night and 5-1 on aggregate.
34’ – Dembele again is the extra man, but his shot is straight into the grateful arms of Navas. The Frenchman could have had a hat-trick already tonight, and that was the best chance of the lot.
37’ GOAL! – Oh Lionel Messi, you absolute beauty! The Barcelona captain unleashes a thunderbolt from range that swerves into the top corner with Navas nowhere near it. 1-1.
45’ PENALTY! – Griezmann is caught just inside the box by Kurzawa and it’s a spot-kick to Barcelona. This is huge!
45’ – Messi goes low but Navas goes the right way and makes a great save with his legs up onto the bar and away. It remains 5-2 on aggregate and that is a sickener for Barcelona!
61’ – What a chance! The ball falls to Messi inside the six-yard-box, but he’s crowded out by a throng of PSG defenders and he just can’t get a meaningful shot away, with Griezmann similarly shut down as the ball trickles to the Frenchman inside the box.
75’ – Alba steers a ball right across the face of goal, but Dembele somehow fails to get a touch after making a terrific run. He has had so many chances tonight.
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Stats and Facts
This is the earliest Barcelona have been knocked out of the Champions League since 2007. Liverpool, who beat them that year, went on to make the final.
It is the first time in 16 years that neither Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo will be in the Champions League quarters.
Messi had scored eight consecutive penalties in the Champions League before his first-half miss in this game.
Mbappe’s goal saw him become the youngest ever player (22 years and 80 days) to reach 25 Champions League goals, beating the record set by Messi.