FC Barcelona 1-1 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN (3-3 Aggregate – Barca Through On Away Goals)
1970 PSG Men Of The Match: Lucas Moura, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore, Thiago Motta & Marco Verratti (I really could not single one out. Collectively, they were outstanding).
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They were heroic, admirable, wonderful, superb. I could go on and list umpteen other adjectives to describe Paris Saint-Germain’s performance in the Camp Nou last night. Without question, the grandest performance of any Parisien team playing away in Europe for nearly 20 years and without question the most striking performance of a side since QSI took over. The 1-1 draw on the night was not enough to take us through into the semi-finals but in the greater scheme of things, we feel like winners.
We were just 20 minutes away from pulling off what we all thought was impossible. Knocking out the world’s most revered team in their own back yard in the best club competition on the planet. For an hour we played the most expansive, beautiful football from an opposition team at the Camp Nou in Europe for a very long time. Adorning our all white third strip, you could have mistaken us for any of those great Real Madrid teams that have picked up nine European cups, we were that good.
The football was intricate and fluid. We played from the back with patience, not being intimidated by Barca’s pressing. But, our most impressive trait was on the counter attack. We had the Catalans running scared at times. As I said in my match preview yesterday, Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi were the key for us in that respect and they certainly delivered. Lucas well and truly announced himself to the world with a performance worthy of this competition. He was unplayable in the first-half. His pace was electric as he ran at the Barca defence and he had them run ragged.
The whole set-up of the team was just spot on. Thiago Motta started in central midfield with Marco Verratti just beside him. Motta, for a player who has been plagued by injury all season, was absolutely superb. His cool head not only kept the play in the middle of the park ticking over, he also got the best out of the young Verratti. It was quite possibly the Italian’s best performance in a PSG shirt to date and without doubt the most important thus far in his career. A night like that could be the making of him. We know the ability he has but for a 19-year old to put in a performance like that against Barcelona’s midfield takes some doing. He was everywhere, harrying Barca when they had possession, closing them down and abiding to the tactics. It was just a real mature performance.
Javier Pastore, an excellent display as well by the Argentine. Playing out wide and sometimes coming infield, his link-up play was wonderful. So nimble on the ball he was able to make little one-twos with his peers whilst performing his duties in a defensive sense to a tee. His goal in the 50th minute typified just how well he played. Thriving on confidence he and Zlatan Ibrahimovic linked up with the Swede threading a lovely ball for him to bore in on goal and coolly slot past Victor Valdes to the adulation of the Parisien faithful dotted all around the Camp Nou.
It was that goal that triggered Tito Vilanova into making a change. Lionel Messi, who started the night on the bench, changed the whole complexion of the game. Just his presence lifted everyone in Catalan colours all around the ground. The decibels rose, the Barca players had another spring in their step and they started creating chances which were a rarity up until that point. It was little Messi who jinked past a couple of white shirts, played the ball into David Villa in the box who pulled it back for Pedro to smash home. Just like that, Barcelona were in the driving seat again. And it was all down to one man – the greatest player on the planet.
After that, we tried our utmost but the wind had been taken out of our sails. We had created so many chances but was only able to take one. Nevertheless, to go the Camp Nou, play the way we did, create the chances we did and give Barcelona the biggest scare they have had in Europe for some time deserves credit. In two games against them, we did not lose. That is worthy of any kind of praise. Not many teams have done that down the years, emphasising just how much this PSG side has grown. That it is able to compete with a team like the Catalans.
In the end, our Champions League adventure is over for this season but this is just the beginning for us in the competition. We will take the experience from this campaign and build on it for the next. When you put it into context; despite an eight year absence from Europe’s top table, we have got into the latter stages, come up against the favourites, not lost in two games against them, played some of our best football to date and only went out on away goals. It is mightily impressive.
Bring it on again next season!