February 17 – Paris Saint-Germain stormed past FC Barcelona with a brilliant Kylian Mbappé hat-trick in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Nou Camp to knock the Catalans all but out of the competition.
It was Barcelona’s first knock-out Champions League match since the harrowing 8-2 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of last season’s competition and in an absorbing, box-to-box first half the hosts got off to a good start when Lionel Messi converted a penalty in the 27th minute.
The PSG win pushed them up in the betting markets to third favourite with odds around 5/1, on sites reviewed by Bettingsider24. Liverpool’s win also saw their star rise, now being priced at around 6/1 to win the competition, though Bayern Munich and Manchester City remain clear favourites (they play their round of 16 matches next week).
From the moment Mbappé danced past Clement Lenglet with nifty footwork and equalised from close range, Barcelona collapsed. The visitors exploited Barcelona’s lacklustre defending with both Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele failing to pick up PSG’s full backs. In midfield, Barcelona left Paris too much time and space on the ball, allowing Marco Verratti to dictate the play.
It was only a matter of time before PSG would score again. In the 65th minute, Mbappé drove home for a second before he completed his hattrick with a pinpoint finish following a swift counterattack in the 85th minute. In between his goals, former Everton player Moise Kean found the net to hasten Barcelona’s demise.
Mbappé is only the third player alongside Andrey Shevchenko and Faustino Asprilla to record a hattrick against FC Barcelona in the Champions League. His magnificent performance upstaged Messi, considered one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and could be a signpost of things to come.
“It is clear that he is a great footballer, today he has shown it with this hat-trick,” said PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino. “The great players are creating a path and these three goals put him in the media spotlight.
“We had no doubts and we are happy for him, it’s normal, there are going to be rumours [about him leaving]. What is clear is that he is happy in Paris and we all want to find the best way.”
PSG’s 4-1 win was all the more remarkable because Pochettino’s team were without Brazilian star Neymar and Angel Di Maria. The return leg will be played on March 10 at the Parc des Princes.
On Tuesday, Liverpool defeated RB Leizpig 2-0 away from home to take an important step towards qualification for the last eight.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1614343667labto1614343667ofdlr1614343667owedi1614343667sni@o1614343667fni1614343667