Football is unpredictable, and last night we saw why it is so. Paris Saint-Germain picked Barcelona apart. And an opportunistic Benfica snatched a 1-0 win against Borussia Dortmund when the sides met for their first leg of Round-of-16 in this year’s UEFA Champions League. Return leg to be played on 9th March.
Valentine’s Massacre at Parc Des Princes
It was a familiar fixture for football fans, 3 times in 4 years these two have met, and each time Barcelona came out on top. 4th time lucky is a thing now, I guess. But what we saw last night from PSG was pure brilliance. And in this case, luck favoured the brilliant. Unai Emery has a glittering CV, winning three Europas with Sevilla. But to make PSG a serious title contender at the biggest stage in club football, they needed something big & what’s bigger than beating Barcelona 4 goals to nil.
PSG started with high pressing football & troubled Barca’s goalkeeper from the 1st minute into the half. Verratti, Rabiot & Matuidi didn’t give an inch of space to the Barcelona midfield. Verratti controlled the tempo & Matuidi was a constant threat down the middle. The first goal came when Draxler was brought down by Umtiti 18 yds from goal. And a couple of minutes later, Di Maria struck a sweet free kick to put PSG ahead. Their second was due to some lacklustre passing from Barcelona. Losing possession in their own half & Verratti put a perfectly weighted pass in front of Draxler to double their cushion. The second half didn’t turn any tides for Barcelona as PSG continued to press higher up the pitch. 10 minutes into the half, Di Maria curled the 3rd one in as he left 3 defenders in dust. The day couldn’t have gone any better for the birthday boy. 17 mins later, Thomas Meunier dispossessed Neymar to start a counter & eventually released another birthday boy, Cavani, the Uruguayan took the shot first time and found the back of the net. No one turned up for Barcelona last night except for Neymar. Lionel Messi had an off night, to put it mildly, and so did Suarez. Quite a party in Paris, and a mountain to climb for Barcelona when these two meet again in 3 weeks.
PSG 4 – 0 Barcelona
(Di Maria 18′, 55′, Draxler 40′, Cavani 72′)
Opportunistic Benfica Beats Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund came into the match as favourites after topping their group by keeping Real Madrid at bay. And they started the match very well as they were creating plenty of chances. Aubameyang, usually a dependable striker had a dismal game. Missed a one-on-one in the early stages, missed a penalty & scuffed another easy chance and finally was subbed off in the 62nd minute. The hosts went ahead 3 minutes into the second half when Mitroglou converted a header from Luisao who marked his 500th Benfica appearance in the best possible way. Mitroglou now has 13 goals in 13 matches. Benfica go to Signal Iduna with a slender 1 goal lead & must play with utmost intensity to head into the quarters. As for Dortmund, they need their dependable striker to fire on all cylinders if they are to turn this tie around. All to play for at Signal Iduna Park.
Benfica 1 – 0 Borussia Dortmund
Tonight we’ll have another juicy set of fixtures as Real Madrid lock horns with Napoli at the Santiago Bernabeu. Also, Arsenal’s annual trip to the Allianz is something to look forward to. Can Arsenal pull off a PSG tonight?