March 11 – Paris Saint-Germain doesn’t do things the easy way. Last year’s Champions League finalists had to dig deep in a 1-1 draw to progress to the last eight of the competition and prevent another FC Barcelona miracle.
PSG sat on an insurmountable 4-1 lead from the first leg, but played some alarming football in the return match at the Parc des Princes, once again seemingly shaken by demons from the past. Stretched, tentative and visibly nervous at everything FC Barcelona did in search of a comeback, PSG spent 90 minutes living in fear.
Not even a Kylian Mbappe penalty conversion at the half-hour mark could settle PSG’s nerves. Barcelona were dominant, assured and simply sharper. The visitors sensed that they could score a lot of goals, but spent too much time around the box getting their execution wrong. Ousmane Dembele quickly turned into an anti-hero, demonstrating that two-footedness is not always an advantage.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team had a no frills approach, lurking on the counter, but they were second best for most of the match. Barcelona applied their novel 3-4-3 formation, with intent and aggression. Dembele found joy in behind full-back Alessandro Florenzi but no final product. PSG’s other full-back Layvin Kurzawa struggled to keep Sergino Dest at bay.
In the 37th minute, Messi equalised with a stunning strike, but he missed from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time. Even so, there was a sense the tie was still alive. Barcelona kept pressing PSG back, but some last-ditch defending and stellar saves from Keylor Navas, Paris’ best player on the field, prevented Barcelona from scoring a second goal and kickstarting a true comeback.
In the end, the Catalans couldn’t roll back time. This was another damning elimination for Barcelona following last year’s 8-2 exit against Bayern Munich, the previous year’s 4-0 by Liverpool and the 4-1 at Roma in 2018.
PSG march into the quarter-finals where they will be joined by 2019 winners Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s team eased through following a 2-0 win against RB Leipzig thank to goals from both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. The 2018 Champions had defeated the Germans with the same scoreline in the first leg.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1618619359labto1618619359ofdlr1618619359owedi1618619359sni@o1618619359fni1618619359