Raphinha and Christensen conjure slim benefit as Barcelona edge PSG

Raphinha and Christensen conjure slim benefit as Barcelona edge PSG

On a gripping, frantic night time on the Parc des Princes, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona produced a recreation that felt like the alternative of the “Barca DNA” Xavi had spoken about within the build-up to this quarter-final first leg.

By no means thoughts management, patterns and a battle for house. This was an more and more wild recreation, constructing from a mannered begin right into a second half of sweeping mob-handed assaults, feather-light defending and possibilities that merely got here and went, posts clipped, pictures blocked in desperation.

By the tip Barcelona had in all probability accomplished sufficient to deserve their 3-2 lead heading again to the Camp Nou for the second leg. However no one who watched the wilder elements of this recreation would see something apart from extra targets on each side there. Frankly, this might have been something.

Safety across the Parc des Princes had been considerably beefed up earlier than the sport in response to the menace from the fear group Islamic State. Drones circled the sky. Closely tooled-up police occupied the corners. Paris 2024 continues to be planning a mass city-centre Olympic opening ceremony 100 days from now. It retains on being scaled again. Anticipate a bit extra of that from right here.

Inside its brutalist concrete partitions the Parc was rocking at kick-off, drenched in a prolonged pre-match Star Wars-themed son-et-lumière present that concerned enjoying the Imperial March quite a bit, and climaxed with the unfurling of an infinite militaristic Yoda banner at one finish. And why not?

Barcelona had Frenkie de Jong again from damage in central midfield, with the massively thrilling teenager Lamine Yamal beginning. PSG had Marquinhos masking at right-back once more and Marco Asensio beginning via the centre of the assault.

The house staff got down to stretch the pitch early on, wingers staying very broad, making an attempt to disrupt the central yellow field. But it surely was Barça who had the primary actual sight of purpose, Raphinha galloping on to a straight punt from Marc-André ter Stegen, instantly in big inexperienced acres of house, however crowded out by Gianluigi Donnarumma in extremis.

After some laboured spells of PSG possession, it was Raphinha who received a nook on the precise with 20 minutes gone that ended with the ball cleared off the PSG line, Robert Lewandowski leaping above Donnarumma’s flailing fist to ship a looping header in the direction of purpose. Nuno Mendes was there to hook the ball clear. Moments later Raphinha dropped deeper, forcing a full-stretch palm across the submit with a low skimming drive.

PSG stored the ball for lengthy durations, however this was stodgy possession, at all times funnelling the ball in the direction of the 2 apparent retailers, Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé. Luis Enrique has been a convincing coach of PSG. The followers love him. The staff is on a 27-game unbeaten run. Denuded of its basking superstars, this PSG venture has begun to resemble an precise sport-style team-type object in the previous few months. However it’s nonetheless a linear, straight-line affair, baroque attacking riches sacrificed for power, bodily presence and a extra fundamental set of patterns.

Barça appeared a much more supple attacking unit. They usually duly took the lead on 35 minutes with a purpose made and scored by their three-man entrance line. Lewandowski carried the ball throughout the midway line, broke a flimsy problem and shuttled a move out to Yamal on the precise. His cross was deflexed again in the direction of Raphinha, who completed superbly, lofting the ball past the masking blue shirts and into the highest nook. With De Jong and Ilkay Gündogan beginning to take management in midfield, a 1-0 half-time lead was well-deserved.

Ousmane Dembélé celebrates after scoring PSG’s first purpose of the sport early within the second half. {Photograph}: Anadolu/Getty Photos

Luis Enrique rejigged through the break, bringing on the jet-heeled Bradley Barcola for Asensio and shifting Dembélé to a roving No 9 position. It labored nearly instantly, Dembélé drifting out to mix with Mbappé on the left, reducing inside and lashing a thrillingly highly effective left-footed shot excessive into the online previous Ter Stegen.

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Inside 5 minutes of the restart the sport had turned on its head fully. This time the purpose was superbly constructed, Fabián Ruiz enjoying a stunning little delayed move to fulfill Vitinha’s run via the within left channel. No person in a yellow shirt adopted the run or blocked the channel. Vitinha slid the ball into the nook of the online with out breaking stride to make it 2-1 to PSG.

Confronted with this sustained aggression Barcelona’s whole defensive construction had merely dissolved like an over-dunked digestive biscuit. For some time they had been clinging on, thrown by the stronger angles created by Dembélé’s runs from the centre to the flanks. Barcola veered in from the precise like a downhill slalom skier, a splendidly straightforward footballer in full flight, and noticed a strong shot palmed up on to the bar.

Xavi responded by sending on João Félix and Pedri, and simply as shortly Barcelona had been degree once more. This was a phenomenal purpose, albeit one conceived and executed beneath zero stress from the PSG midfield and defence. Pedri had time to lookup and loft a fragile move proper down the centre. Raphinha’s volley into the nook on the run was a dreamy, high-craft piece of ending.

By this stage Barcelona had Gündogan enjoying up entrance with Lewandowski, with Félix and Pedri simply behind, and a massively participating sense of delicate chaos within the air. Dembélé shimmied via on the left unimpeded by something near a defensive problem and clipped a shot on to the submit. However with 76 minutes gone it was 3-2 to the guests, Andreas Christensen (having solely simply sneaked on to the pitch) heading straight in from a nook along with his first contact of the ball, once more unmolested by any sort of apparent defensive consideration.

Barça held on to their lead on the demise, however solely simply. This one nonetheless has loads of street left to run.

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