Paris St Germain buried the ghosts of their embarrassing 2017 exit as they drew 1-1 at home with Barcelona on Wednesday (March 10) to complete a 5-2 aggregate victory that sent them into the Champions League quarter-finals.
Four years after Barca claimed a memorable 6-1 win to overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit in the last 16, PSG lacked inspiration but their 4-1 advantage from the first game in Spain was sufficient this time. Kylian Mbappe, who scored a hat-trick at the Nou Camp, opened the scoring with a penalty against the run of play before Lionel Messi levelled with a superb long-range goal, but the Argentine had a spot-kick saved by Keylor Navas on the stroke of halftime.
The French champions were on the back foot in the second half as Barca piled on the pressure but Barca exited the competition before the semi-finals for the second year in a row. Barca’s exit ensured it will be the first time since 2005 that neither Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo will be in the Champions League quarter-finals after Juventus were also knocked out in the last 16, on Tuesday.
“We suffered a lot in the first half, and psychologically it was a test for us. I gathered that the past was something that was talked about a lot here,” PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said.
“We were better in the second half, we were more competitive.”
Barca coach Ronald Koeman tried to remain upbeat. “We are departing this Champions League in a very different manner from the way we did last season. In this game, we hit our level and that`s the road we have to follow,” said Koeman, referring to the team’s 8-2 aggregate defeat in the quarter-finals by Bayern Munich last year.
PSG, without injured forward Neymar, looked nothing like the team who reached last year’s final or hammered Barcelona three weeks ago, but they did keep their composure at the back. Barcelona stamped their authority early on, finding space for Ousmane Dembele, but the Frenchman was twice denied by Navas and he skied an effort over the crossbar in the opening 20 minutes.
Sergino Dest went close for Barca with a powerful angled shot that Navas deflected on to his left-hand post and Dembele broke down the left flank but his cross just evaded a sliding Messi. It was PSG, however, who went ahead on 31 minutes as Mbappe converted a penalty awarded following a VAR review after Clement Lenglet appeared to step onto Mauro Icardi`s heel.
Six minutes later, Messi unleashed a 25-metre missile that flew into the top corner to equalise in style with his 120th goal in the Champions League. The Argentine had a chance to put the visitors in front just before the break when Barca won a penalty following a Layvin Kurzawa foul on Antoine Griezmann, but Navas deflected the Argentine’s spot-kick onto the bar and away.
Barca were still all over PSG in the second half and it took a desperate tackle by Marquinhos to prevent Messi scoring from point blank range before Navas cleared a Sergio Busquets header. Barcelona gradually ran out of steam, however, and must now turn to their bid to win the La Liga title, where they trail leaders Atletico Madrid by six points.