Messi misery as PSG down Barcelona to reach Champions League quarterfinals, Liverpool ease past Leipzig

Posted by News Express | 11 March 2021 | 724 times

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Lionel Messi scored one stunning goal but then had a penalty saved as Barcelona failed in their attempt to produce a second Champions League comeback for the ages against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, a 1-1 draw taking the French side through to the quarterfinals 5-2 on aggregate.

Kylian Mbappe had netted a hat-trick as PSG stunned Barca 4-1 in the first leg last month, and he extended their advantage in this last-16 tie by netting a first-half penalty in the second leg to put last season's runners-up ahead on the night.

But Messi made it 1-1 with a ferocious strike from 30 metres and the Argentine had the chance to put the visitors ahead after Antoine Griezmann was fouled in the area, only for the outstanding Keylor Navas to tip his spot-kick onto the bar.

Barcelona certainly went for it, but there was to be no repeat of their infamous recovery against the same opponents at the same stage four years ago, when they lost the first leg 4-0 but triumphed 6-1 in the return.

Their coach Ronald Koeman will nevertheless be encouraged by the way his team played on a cold, wet and windy night at an empty Parc des Princes.

Barcelona have been a club in crisis for some time but they have a new president in Joan Laporta, who will hope to restore calm at boardroom level, and they can still hope to finish the season strongly domestically.

Meanwhile PSG are, in the end, safely through to the quarterfinals as they look to go one better than last season and win the Champions League for the first time.

They will feel this tie marks another step forward in their quest to become Europe's dominant force, after three defeats at Barcelona's hands in knockout ties since the Qatar Sports Investments takeover of a decade ago.


Victory was achieved despite Neymar missing both legs due to injury, with Mbappe providing enough stardust on his own.

Yet after lighting up the first leg, the French World Cup-winner found the going tougher in the return, and coach Mauricio Pochettino will face some questions about his side's approach.

A repeat of 2017 might have seemed impossible, but there were jitters, with Barcelona dominating almost from the first minute and squandering chance after chance in the opening half-hour.

Poor decision-making from Ousmane Dembele did not help the away side, although the Frenchman also saw one ball across the face of goal just escape the outstretched leg of Messi.

As an impromptu fireworks display broke out just outside the stadium, Navas then produced his first superb save midway through the first half when he turned Sergino Dest's shot onto the frame of goal, and it was against the run of play that PSG took the lead.

Clement Lenglet just caught the heel of Mauro Icardi in the area in the 28th minute, a foul that was almost invisible on first viewing but was confirmed by English referee Anthony Taylor after a VAR review.

Mbappe made no mistake from the spot for his fourth goal in the tie and his 26th of the season altogether.

Barcelona kept coming though, and Messi equalised with a shot from range that was like a tracer bullet that whistled into the top corner, not the kind of goal the Argentine scores often.

It was his 25th this season, and he could have scored again in first-half stoppage time as Layvin Kurzawa was penalised for catching Griezmann in the box.

However, Messi was denied by Navas, the former Real Madrid goalkeeper dousing Barcelona's hopes as he continued to do in the second half.

The five-time champions kept pushing after the restart, but Navas notably saved well from a near-post header by Sergio Busquets, allowing PSG to earn a draw on the night that they scarcely deserved but a win on aggregate that was always likely after the first leg.

Elsewhere on the night, Liverpool eased past RB Leipzig into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-0 win in Budapest Wednesday that coach Jurgen Klopp said helps his side put their Premier League woes to one side.


Repeating their rapid-fire double act from the first leg, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane again struck within four second-half minutes to give the Reds a 4-0 aggregate win and keep alive Liverpool's hopes of rescuing their miserable domestic season with European glory.

After six successive defeats at Anfield and dropping to eighth place in the Premier League, Klopp's men looked relieved to be away from home, with the second leg also played in the Hungarian capital due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

"They were outstanding. We had to switch off the Premier League stuff to get here and to try. To give it a proper try," Klopp told BT Sport.

"The boys really enjoyed themselves tonight which is important," said Klopp.

"It is a big result for us," said Salah.

"We lost a few games in the Premier League, the team is not in the best shape but we want to fight in the Champions League," he said.

"It's been tough in the Premier League, everybody can see that. The last couple of years we were winning, we were flying. This year we had a couple of injuries so we were unlucky, we are trying to fix that but it is hard," he added.

While the Reds showed attacking intent from the off, they squandered a string of chances throughout the first half.

"First-half we created massive chances and didn't score which is a thing we have in 2021," said Klopp.

Unmarked at a corner, Diogo Jota should have opened their account in the 18th minute but the Portuguese striker headed straight at Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi who tipped over.

Midway through the period, an acrobatic scissor kick by Thiago Alcantara released Salah on the left but his left-footed effort was blocked by Gulacsi with Mane unable to convert the rebound.


Then on the half-hour, the onrushing Salah couldn't finish from close range after meeting a cross by Trent Alexander-Arnold who was sent clear on the right by a slide-rule pass by Mane.

Roused at last by the narrow escapes, Leipzig began to venture beyond Liverpool's high line and managed to carve out some chances of their own.

Kevin Kampl forced a save from Alisson Becker with a curler from distance, while a minute later Swedish playmaker Emil Forsberg, back from injury, clipped a snapshot just wide of the post.

Still, with Brazil's Fabinho back in the starting side and directing affairs in midfield, the better chances fell to Liverpool.

Jota again fired straight at Gulacsi just before the break and then into the side-netting on the whistle after a slip by French defender Dayot Upamecano.

Leipzig, flying domestically on the back of six straight Bundesliga wins but nervy in Budapest, urgently needed a goal to rattle Liverpool but continued to lack penetration in the second half.

In truth, Julian Nagelsmann's men, who dumped Tottenham out at this stage of the competition last year and Manchester United in the group stage this season, rarely looked like claiming an even bigger scalp by turning the tie around.

Their last opportunity arrived on 65 minutes but Alexander Sorloth's header from a cross by Hwang Hee-chan spun over Alisson's fingertips only to rebound off the bar.

Soon after, Salah and Mane ruthlessly took advantage of the let-off by securing Liverpool's berth in the last eight.

In the 70th minute, the Egyptian fired a shot past Gulacsi, then four minutes later Mane turned a cross by substitute Divock Origi past the hapless Hungarian.

"The best thing that the boys did is that no one could see how good Leipzig can be," said Klopp. 

"We defended them really well because they are a monster. They usually are so powerful," he said.

"We want to win football games, we feel it now for the first time in a while and it is a massive difference." (AFP)

Source: News Express

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