Valencia C.F 1-2 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
1970 PSG Men Of The Match: Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi & Lucas Moura
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For 89 minutes Paris Saint-Germain had orchestrated the near perfect game plan in Valencia last night only to undo much of the good work in a crazy finale.
Frenchman Adil Rami pulled a goal back for the hosts in stoppage time before Zlatan Ibrahimovic was given a straight red card for a challenge on Andres Guardado.
Nevertheless, despite those disappointments, the performance itself can go down as one of the best European victories in the last two decades. To go to the Mestalla and perform so admirably and work as a unit can only be applauded.
The game plan was simple. Absorb the pressure from the hosts, allow them to have the ball and bide our time before hitting them on the counter-attack when we regained possession. As simple as that and it worked an absolute treat.
The main protagonists were Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore and particularly Lucas Moura who gave his best performance to date in a Parisien shirt in the first-half. His elegant, ballet like style allowed him to glide past Los Che’s players for fun, especially Guardado who struggled to contain him. Pastore was exceptional, not only did he link-up with Lavezzi on a number of occasions, his desire to track back, press and do his utmost to win the ball back was second to none. He ran his socks off and it is evident that he was doing a job for the team. Lavezzi as I have said time and time again is getting better with each game he plays for the club and it was he who opened the scoring in the 10th minute. Linking up with his Argentine compatriot Pastore, El Flaco produced a delicate flick for Lavezzi as he bore into the box, dropped his shoulder and rifled the ball past goalkeeper Vicente Guaita. Beautiful, beautiful goal it has to be said.
The Spaniards responded positively in truth. They kept the ball well, dominated possession but without really exerting our defence. Salvatore Sirigu was a mere spectator for much of the first-half and his goal was rarely tested.
When we got the ball down and played, my word we could play. Some of the football was fantastic and all the more impressive to do this away from home, in Europe, in a Champions League knockout fixture. I said in my preview that a lot of these players will be playing in a pressure cooker that they are not used to but they showed their capabilities last night – thriving in fact. Marco Verratti was dictating the passage of play in the middle of the park with his partner in crime Blaise Matuidi conjuring up another sterling performance. Bad news however is that Verratti will miss the second-leg after picking up a booking that earns him a suspension.
Lucas, was proving to be one of the stars of the night. As the first-half drew to a close he set-up the second goal for Pastore. Jinking down the right, he made Guaradado sell himself with the tackle before ushering into the box and pulling the ball back for Pastore to finish with aplomb. Another first-half goal, 2-0 up at the break, things could not get any better.
After the break Valencia asserted themselves more and they had to. They needed something to give them hope in the return-leg in Paris and the introduction of Nelson Valdez and Sergio Canales certainly did that. They were much more of a threat with them in the side, especially Valdez from dead ball situations.
We carved open Los Che on a number of occasions on the break but we just could not kill the game off. Clement Chantome – who came off the bench for Lucas – had a goal disallowed for offside after Ibra had an effort well saved by Guaita.
In hindsight, had that stood not only the game would have been over but also the tie. But, there are fine margins in football and a lapse in concentration at the back in the 89th minute allowed Frenchman Adel Rami to elude the defence and head home a Valdez delivery.
It was so frustrating because the defence had repelled the minimal attacking threat Los Che posed and to be outdone by a set-piece at the end was gut wrenching. More importantly, it gives them hope at the Parc des Princes.
To give them even more hope is the absence of Zlatan after he was sent off. The challenge in my opinion was not malicious in the slightest but I can understand why the referee came to his conclusion. The Swede did go over the top of the ball and as we know in European competition, you are asking for trouble.
It is a blow but as I said the performance as a whole and the result could not have been any better. It is without question one of the finest Parisien performances in recent memory (in Europe). Certainly one of the best in nearly two decades that is for sure.
So many positives to take, the football was stellar at times and Carlo Ancelotti proved once again that he is one of the world’s elite coaches.
We are not in the last-eight yet, but we have an almighty chance of being there after this result.