PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN 2-2 FC Barcelona
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Thiago Silva
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It was an evening to be proud, elated and hysterical to those affiliated with Paris Saint-Germain. They can drink in the realisation that the club are not only competing on this grand stage of European football but they are deservedly there by merit. The performance last night in the 2-2 draw against Barcelona was nothing short of heroic and it was the accomplished Blaise Matuidi who fittingly got the elusive equaliser with the last kick of the game.
Here we were, up against the most complete football team on the planet and matched them for large parts of the game. David Beckham as I speculated in my match preview started in central midfield alongside Matuidi with Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi providing the pace down the wings. Beckham’s involvement was as simple as it could be. Nothing spectacular, just straight forward passing but the psychological benefit he gave to his peers was invaluable. Those 105 previous Champions League appearances is what got him the nod ahead of Marco Verratti and in the first-half it proved to be a wise choice from Carlo Ancelotti. The team, led by Thiago Silva at the back – who was spectacular all night – was assured, disciplined, tactically astute and a tantalising threat on the counter-attack. For 35 minutes we matched Barcelona, offering the better openings going forward as well as looking more dynamic in the final third. Barca bossed possession when they had it, conducted neat intricate passing and looked to weave open pockets of space around our penalty area. Full-backs Dani Alves and Jordi Alba provided the width for them which was ideal for us to exploit the spaces they left behind.
All in all, it made for a cracking first-half that was well balanced. Lucas Moura was without question the best player on the pitch in the first-half. He kept picking the ball up and ran at the Barca players who were running scared at times resulting in a number of fouls. Sergio Busquets, a fabulous player, was one who was booked for a late tackle on the Brazilian maestro.
But, in a flash, Barcelona swung the tie in their favour thanks to the planet’s greatest player Lionel Messi. One lapse in concentration from PSG allowed Alves to produce a riveting ball to the Argentine who eluded the Parisiens to find the space and slot the ball home past Salvatore Sirigu. Just after that he nearly made it 2-0 with a curling effort before having to go off at half-time due to a hamstring injury which looks as if it will rule him out of the second-leg.
That goal knocked the stuffing out of us somewhat and it showed in the early sparring after the interval. The Catalans were dominating possession as they sought after a second to kill the game off. But, Ancelotti freshened things up with Jeremy Menez and Marco Verratti who made a difference, giving us some much needed energy. Beckham who was replaced by Verratti was evidently tired but he put in a hell of a shift. Amazing for a player just shy of his 38th birthday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not having the best of games. Perhaps trying to do a little too much by himself to prove a point to his former employers but it was he who levelled the scoring ten minutes from time. The Swede who was miles offside tapped the ball home after Silva had headed the ball off the post to the sheer elation of everyone in blue.
The Parc was shaking on its very foundation and we dared to dream of getting a winner. However, Barca looked to have broken our hearts as they were awarded a penalty after Salvatore Sirigu brought down Alexis Sanchez in the box. Xavi stepped up and slotted the ball coolly with minutes to play.
Just after that there was a telling moment when skipper Thiago Silva went over to a despondent Matuidi to have a word with him and raise his spirit. It would turn out to be invaluable as the Frenchman shook everyone in the stadium with an injury time equaliser, volleying Zlatan’s header back which deflected off a Barca leg and trickled past a helpless Victor Valdes sparking emotional scenes. It was in fact the last kick of the game which has kept us well and truly in this tie.
Even if we had lost last night, it would not have mattered. The performance was truly heroic, one that the people connected to the club can look back at with pride. We not only proved that we can compete with the giants of European football, but we can match them. To do it against Barcelona makes it all the more sweeter.
Next week will be a mountain to climb and so much more. A win at the Camp Nou will send us through but it is not quite that straight forward. But, with Messi possibly missing that game, can we dare to dream of making the impossible, possible?
Let us just enjoy this result for now.