Bayer Leverkusen 0-4 Paris Saint-Germain
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Marco Verratti
I said before the game that I was quietly confident that Paris Saint-Germain would get a result in Leverkusen. Nevertheless, I expected a real tough game against a good, organised team that would look to match our midfield trio. But, it was an absolute blitz from the French champions who killed the tie off within 40 minutes and made it conclusive in the dying embers thanks to Yohan Cabaye’s first goal for the club. To get a 4-0 win away in Germany against their second-placed team is stunning.
But, I was amazed at how poor Bayer were last night. True, their form had been hit and miss of late. They also had the debacle surrounding Sidney Sam who will be on his way to Schalke in the summer, which lead to coach Sami Hyypia dropping him at the weekend. But regardless of all that, they were backed by a rowdy German crowd and they have good players in their side. I did say we could take heart from their star man Simon Kiessling only scoring one in the past 10 games and I was ultimately right. He hardly had a sniff all game and neither did his teammates. Salvatore Sirigu was a mere spectator for most of the 90 minutes.
We did put in a real professional performance. It was the perfect European outing. Blaise Matuidi got us off to the best possible start with a goal within three minutes. That did Leverkusen’s confidence no favours but Blaise’s persistence paid off. He dispossessed Simon Rofles before laying the ball to Zlatan Ibrahimovic who in turn found Marco Verratti and the Italian slipped the ball through for Blaise to get in behind the defence to finish past Bernd Leno. It was the best start we could have hoped for.
The midfield was superb and ultimately dictated the rhythm of the game. Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and of course Matuidi just did their usual thing. Kept the ball with precision, looked to get it out wide when the opportunity arose and harassed Bayer when they had possession. Little Verratti was the standout performer for me. His ball retention was exquisite and he was tenacious during the whole match. He is getting better each week but that tendency to play out of danger was evident as he was dispossessed on a few occasions in dangerous areas. When he gets away with it though, it is a joy to watch.
We were handed a slice of luck however when we were awarded a penalty in the 38th minute. Ezequiel Lavezzi was brought down by Emir Spahic and the contact did look minimal. Up stepped Ibra to convert and make it 2-0.
Minutes later, he produced another startling strike to put the game and tie to bed. He rifled past Leno on his left foot after Matuidi showed tremendous endeavour to hold the ball up before laying it back to the number 10 to shoot from the edge of the box (his 10th goal in the competition). It capped a terrific half for us and one that Laurent Blanc could not have envisaged before the game.
We never got into our full flow during the whole game in truth. After the break we were just content with keeping the ball. For large parts it was like a training exercise. To make matters worse for B04 they were reduced to 10-men when Spahic was given a second yellow card for protesting a foul that was given against him on Lucas. The hosts were left to chase shadows from then on as Les Parisiens retained possession.
To put the icing on the cake, Cabaye made it 4-0 with two minutes to go. Ibra picked out Maxwell whose ball eluded everyone. Lucas picked it up and laid it back for the former Newcastle man to coast into the top corner. It was a lovely goal that rounded of a terrific night for the club.
It certainly makes people sit up and take note. Yes, Bayer were poor but to go there and win so comprehensively, killing the tie off before we even got back to Paris, takes some doing. The players deserve an awful amount of credit for their professionalism in the game. However, we did get a slice of luck with the award of the penalty but even so, we deserved the win.
The Germans will be playing for pride in the second-leg in two weeks. I would say we have one foot in the last-eight but we are undoubtedly there already. It would take an enormous capitulation which just is not going to happen.
We can head to Toulouse on Sunday with an enormous sense of pride following this result.