PSG 2-3 Barcelona, Champions League: Recap

Barcelona have taken a big step towards a spot in this season’s Champions League semi-finals thanks to an epic 3-2 comeback victory against Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday night. After a great first half the Blaugrana collapsed in the first 15 minutes of the final period and looked in danger of suffering a bad defeat, but found a way back in the game and will take a massive result back home ahead of next week’s second leg.


The opening 10 minutes belonged to PSG, who as expected took the initiative early at home, pressed high up the pitch and had almost all of the possession. But they ran into a very well organized Barça backline, and despite a couple of shots on target the home side never came close to bothering Marc-André ter Stegen in the Blaugrana goal.

The Catalans had a clear plan to absorb the early pressure and not concede in the opening stages, and they successfully dealt with Kylian Mbappé by always having two or three bodies around the French superstar while João Cancelo took care of Ousmane Dembélé almost by himself on the other side. With their two main threats completely nullified PSG were stuck, and Barça gained full control of the game once they started having more of the ball.

The Blaugrana came very close to the opener in three different occasions in the first 25 minutes with a header from Robert Lewandowski that was cleared off the line by Nuno Mendes, a shot by Lamine Yamal that went agonizingly wide after a deflection and a powerful effort from Raphinha that required a very good save from Gianluigi Donnarumma.

As we approached halftime Barça’s control started to become dominance, but they needed a goal to reward their good play. And that goal came with 10 minutes left in the period with an attacking move that started with Ter Stegen, included a wonderful piece of hold-up and link-up play by Lewandowski, and ended with a cross from Yamal that was deflected by Donnarumma and fell perfectly at the far post to Raphinha, who scored with his weaker right foot and put the visitors in front.

PSG tried to apply some pressure in the dying seconds of the half but continued to struggle to break down the Barça defense, and the halftime whistle came to end a very impressive half by the visitors. Xavi Hernández and his troops were by far the better side, but they needed to keep up the good work against what was expected to be an improved PSG performance after the break.


Luis Enrique made an attacking substitution at halftime with young attacker Bradley Barcola replacing Marco Asensio as PSG came out with a very aggressive attitude and looked to suffocate Barça with their high pressing to force mistakes and get an early goal.

And the plan worked perfectly: PSG needed just five minutes to complete a stunning comeback, with a rocket by Ousmane Dembélé and an easy goal by Vitinha conceded after poor giveaways in midfield and very bad defending from a Barça team not nearly as concentrated as they were in the first half.

Barça looked completely lost at the hour mark so Xavi made two changes: João Félix came on for Yamal and Sergi Roberto was replaced by the returning Pedri, who made an instant impact with a spectacular pass over the top of the defense that became an assist for Raphinha’s second goal as the Brazilian scored a gorgeous first-time volley to bring Barça back to life at a crucial point in the game.

Pedri’s introduction had a massive impact beyond the assist: the Spaniard got on the ball constantly and controlled the rhythm of the game almost by himself, helping Barça settle down and regain their composure. PSG had to defend deeper but remained a huge threat on the counter, and it was simply impossible to predict a winner as we reached the final 20 minutes.

Xavi made two more changes with 15 minutes to go as Ferran Torres and Andreas Christensen entered the party, and once again the substitutes had a massive impact on the game: a counter-attack in which Félix looked for Ferran created a corner, and from that corner came a perfect cross by Gündogan and a header from Christensen with his first touch to put Barça ahead.

The visitors had the lead again going into the dying moments, and they decided to retreat and defend very deep to protect the advantage. Fermín López came on for Gündogan to add some fresh legs for the finish, and Barça looked to find the perfect opportunity to score a fourth on the counter.

The fourth goal never came but Barça achieved the more important goal of securing the win, and the final whistle came to end a wild first leg and set up a spectacular return match in Montjuïc next week.

Barça were in danger of almost being out of tie in the first few minutes after the second goal, but the character shown to come back in the game and Xavi’s perfectly timed substitutions helped secure a memorable victory.

The job is not done, and there are clearly things to work on, but Barça are a lot closer to the semi-finals than anyone thought they would be when PSG took the lead in the 50th minute. This truly is a brilliant win, and without a doubt Barça’s best European night in almost a decade. Well done, boys!

PSG: Donnarumma; Marquinhos, Hernández, Beraldo, Mendes; Lee (Zaïre-Emery 61’), Vitinha, Fabián (Ramos 86’); Dembélé, Asensio (Barcola 46’), Mbappé

Goals: Dembélé (48’), Vitinha (51’)

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Cubarsí, Cancelo; Roberto (Pedri 61’), De Jong (Christensen 75’); Yamal (Félix 61’), Gündogan (Fermín 86’), Raphinha (Ferran 76’); Lewandowski

Goals: Raphinha (37’, 62’), Christensen (77’)

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