BLAUGRANAS DETHRONE THE PRINCES
Ibrahimovic scored on his return to the Camp Nou but a goal each from the Barca’s front three ensured a stylish comeback and a comfortable 3-1 victory.
The Catalans welcomed the Les Parisians to the Camp Nou in the final round of the group stages of the Champions League. Only a point separated these two teams at the top of the table but with assured qualification for both. It was all a matter of topping the group and avoiding the likes of Chelsea and Bayern Munchen to be drawn as opponents in the next round.
The match began after the diplomatic handshakes and Ibrahimovic received a warm reception from the players if not from the home fans. Looking at the team sheets it was quite clear that both the teams were not going all out for a win but yes winning was a priority for them and they would indeed be opportunistic for it. Barca had made five changes in the starting line-up as compared to the one in the first leg of the fixture while PSG had made six. Pedro was elected to play in the right midfield with the South American trio of Suarez, Messi and Neymar up front. PSG notably had brought on Ibrahimovic and Tiago Silva both of whom were missing in the first leg at Parc Des Princes.
Both the teams adopted the 4-3-3 formation but the difference lied in their implementations of it.
Early into the game Messi had a chance on the free kick which went flying over the crossbar.
The deadlock between the two teams was broken by Ibrahimovic in the 15th minute as the Swede was completely unmarked in the box when he received a layoff from Matuidi who was fed with a low cross from Lucas running down the right flank. Ibra struck the ball comfortably into the bottom corner of Ter Stegen’s goal. He seemed to absolutely relish the moment of having scored against his former club with whom he had quite a controversial relationship.
The lead was short-lived as Barcelona leveled within just 4 minutes as Luis Suarez found himself at the end of a Mascherano long ball. Luis Suarez cleverly crossed from the byline to Lionel Messi who displayed his poaching abilities by scoring the Blaugranas’ first goal of the night.
Through the first half, Cavani got a chance to test Ter Stegen with his shot. Ter Stegen got the better of it as it lacked the power and direction good enough to trouble him.
Neymar seemed to have taken a knock or a hamstring in the midst of the game inside the opponent penalty area while he was trying to close down the PSG defenders who were trying to build play from the back. But it was just a temporary hassle as he endured quite well within the next few minutes. In the 41st Minute, Neymar received a ball from captain Iniesta who had individually battled to steal it. Neymar ran a few steps before cutting in to the centre and hitting a Magical curling effort into the far post which left Sirigu stunned in mid air.
Just a minute before the stroke of half-time, PSG spun up an attacking move as Ibrahimovic laid a ball to the left flank to Blaise Matuidi who sent a delightful cross into the feet of Lucas who came running into the centre channel but ended up hitting it wide to the left of goal.
The stoppage time of first half again saw PSG playing direct from defense to forwards as Ibra and Cavani tried to chase down a long ball but ended up committing a foul in the pursuit of going past the backtracking Barca defenders.
The second half was an entertaining affair as the game had become end-to-end with neither side wasting time keeping possession in the final third. Barca seemed to quit pressing and invite PSG into their own half.
PSG were showing intent in the second half as they desperately tried to sneak in an equalizer. Ibrahimovic got down to the ground very easily when Pique blocked him inside the penalty area probably to convince the ref to award a penalty. Soon thereafter Lucas witnessed an Adrenaline rush as he juggled the ball over a defender with his right foot and tried to hit it first time with his left but his shot was comfortably blocked. Later Ibrahimovic headed a corner kick way off target.
Barca on the other hand found chances to counter-attack. Messi’s run down the centre led to a through ball to Neymar on the right flank who crossed in from the byline but the cross not only went over Sirigu but Suarez and Pedro as well. Shortly thereafter Suarez cut in from the right to hit a goal which was disallowed as he used his hand to control the pass made to him.
The first substitution of the game happened when Javier Pastore came on for Verrati in the 62nd minute.
A brilliant aggressive effort from Lucas from the right saw him battling physically past Pique and Mathieu very close near the goal. There was a lot of haste in front of the goal with Ter Stegen joining in to gather the ball but Lucas smartly delivered a cutback to Edinson Cavani whose first time shot got saved and deflected. Matuidi found the ball loose in all the confusion and hit it onto an open goal but unfortunately his shot got deflected off a Barca shirt before it could even challenge Ter Stegen. Laurant Blanc made a change in the 75th minute by bringing on Lavezzi for Matuidi who had a brilliant game overall. He was the tireless worker of PSG this evening and the notion of bringing him out after Suarez’s goal indicated that PSG had decided to give up this battle of pride in order to provide rest to such a key player for their coming away game against Guingamp in the Ligue 1.
Luis Enrique brought on Ivan Rakitic for Pedro in an attempt to refresh the tiring midfield.
Enrique then brought on Xavi for Iniesta in the 73rd minute. Xavi responded to a freshly handed Captaincy from a departing Iniesta by showing his immediate energetic influence on the field.
In the 89th Minute Messi found time enough to cut slightly to the left of a defender and pull off a curling effort into the near post. The ball just went wide and into the side netting.
Suarez finally found his second goal for Barca in the 77th minute as he arrived at the end of Sirigu’s parry of a Neymar shot. Barcelona comfortably led 3-1.
Enrique performed a substitution late into the game by bringing off Bartra for Adriano.
The 92nd minute of the game gave Ibra an opportunity to hit a nail to Barca’s celebrations but his direct free kick was slightly off target.
The final minutes of the game didn’t see much of an attacking intent from PSG and the game ended with the Catalans winning the tie and sealing the top spot in their group, a must to make the world believe that they still are good enough to top the group stages.
Ter Stegen; J Mathieu; Pique; Mascherano; Bartra (Adriano min 90+1′); Busquests; Iniesta (Xavi min 73′); Pedro
Rakitic min 68′); Neymar; Suarez; Messi;
Paris Saint Germain->
Sirigu; Van Der Wiel; Maxwell; David Luiz; Tiago Silva; Tiago Motta; Matuidi (Lavezzi min 75′); Verrati (Javier Pastore min 62′); Cavani; Ibrahimovic; Lucas;
Ibrahimovic (15th min Barca 0-1 PSG); Messi (19th min Barca 1-1 PSG); Neymar (41st min Barca 2-1 PSG); Suarez (77th min Barca 3-1 PSG);