Paris Saint-Germain have all but confirmed their spot in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League as they defeated FC Barcelona 4-1 in the 1st leg of their round of 16 tie at the Camp Nou.
Barca took the lead on the night after Lionel Messi converted from the penalty spot, but Kylian Mbappe was able to equalize soon after. The French phenom then gave PSG the lead midway through the second half, and that goal opened the floodgates as a header from Moise Kean and another superb strike from Mbappe pretty much put the tie to bed.
It was a dream night for Paris, and yet another nightmare for the sinking ship that is Barcelona.
Story of the match
After a tense start to the contest, Barca would open the scoring in fortunate fashion. The referee pointed to the spot when Frenkie De Jong tripped and fell over in the area. However, it wasn’t clear if there was contact from a defender or if the Dutchman just got his own feet tangled together. A VAR review confirmed the decision, and Lionel Messi slotted home the penalty kick with aplomb.
It really should have been 2-0 moments later. Messi picked up the ball near the edge of the area before cutting inside and somehow getting a pass off to Ousmane Dembele. His shot was way too tame, though, and it rolled right to Keylor Navas.
PSG made them pay for that miss as the French side equalized just past the half hour mark. All coming courtesy of some magic from Kylian Mbappe, the winger brought the ball down in the area before turning past his marker and rifling a shot into the back of the net.
The game really kicked into gear as both sides created chances of their own. Layvin Kurzawa saw his shot saved brilliantly by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and then Antoine Griezmann went just wide with an attempt on the counter.
Paris took the lead 20 minutes into the second half. Alessandro Florenzi found space on the right wing after a blistering run in behind, eventually hitting a pass back across the penalty area. Barca didn’t defend it well, and Mbappe pounced on the loose ball to slam a shot past Ter Stegen.
They would double their advantage only five minutes later, arguably putting the tie to bed before the first leg was even over. A superb free kick from Leanardo Paredes was whipped right into the danger area, and the cross made its way to an unmarked Moise Kean at the backpost. He made no mistake with the finish, heading home from close range.
Barca nearly got back into the game after a woeful mistake from Navas. Keeping possession for way too long, his attempted pass was blocked by Griezmann. It seemed like the ball was destined for the top corner, but it ended up flying just off target.
PSG put the icing on the cake near the end of the contest. Julian Draxler drove forward with the ball, taking it nearly the length of the pitch. He made the right pass at the right time, though, laying the ball off to Mbappe who curled a shot into the top corner to complete a spectacular hat-trick.
This performance shows just how far Barcelona have fallen in recent times.
Only taking the lead because of a fortunate decision from the referee, Barca got worse the longer the game went on. It’s like they didn’t even show up for the second half, which allowed PSG to pull away with relative ease.
It was ugly on both sides of the ball. Defensive mistakes haunted Barca once again, and they just couldn’t stop Mbappe and company at all. The only reason why the scoreline wasn’t worse was because of Ter Stegen, who stepped up to make a few crucial saves during the contest.
The Catalan club were lost going forward. Depending way too much on Messi, no one else was able to do anything when on the ball. Griezmann and Dembele both missed big chances, and the midfield didn’t do much to help either.
This result means Barca will almost certainly be heading out of the Champions League at the round of 16 stage, which used to be considered a huge deal. However, no one’s really surprised to see it happen this year, which is all the proof of the club’s demise that anyone needs.
On the other hand, this was a dream night for Paris.
Far from the prettiest contest, PSG showed a different side to their game. They were ruthless and clinical in the final third, scoring from almost all of their chances. The French giants could have had six or more if not for the heroics of Ter Stegen, but they won’t mind that too much as they take a huge lead into the 2nd leg regardless.
Paris were also solid at the back, limiting space for Messi to operate in. As a result, they shut down Barca entirely, which made holding on to the result pretty easy all things considered.
This was all done without the services of Angel Di Maria and star man Neymar, so just imagine how dangerous PSG will be when both return to the side.
Paris were runners up last campaign, but many will see them as favorites for this season’s trophy following the dominant showing at the Camp Nou.
Man of the match - Kylian Mbappe
The hat-trick hero on the night, his goals have all but secured Paris’ spot in the quarterfinals.
A constant threat throughout the contest, Mbappe put on a masterclass in attacking ability. Always involved in the final third, he was able to lead a PSG attack that was missing two key players with his passing, dribbling, and shooting skills.
The opener came after some very clever footwork, and his second was due to him being at the right place at the right time. Mbappe’s third and final goal was the pick of the bunch, though, as he was able to hit a first time shot into the top corner on the counter.
Some were starting to doubt whether or not Mbappe could get the job done on a consistent basis at the highest level, but this man of the match performance should answer a lot of those questions.