Barcelona and Luis Enrique were handed a lesson in football in Paris as the Parisians embarrassed the Catalans. PSG looked like a well-oiled machine while Barcelona looked out of sync in defense, midfield and attack. Angel Di Maria led PSG’s onslaught with a pair of long range goals and Julian Draxler and Edinson Cavani added one each to put the French side in a commanding position before the second leg.
Paris Saint-Germain came out of the gate playing very aggressive football, waiting Barcelona high up the pitch. PSG’s high press caused numerous problems as the Catalans couldn’t pass the ball out of their defensive zone. The hosts were dominating the ball and were in complete control of the game. In the opening five minutes Barcelona only once carried the ball over the midfield line – an attack that was stopped quickly by a foul by Adrien Rabiot, albeit for a yellow card.
PSG besieged Barcelona’s defensive line from the opening minute and Marc-Andre ter Stegen was constantly under pressure. The young German made his first excellent play in the fourth minute when his “sweeper keeper” capabilities stopped a 3-on-1 counter attack in the making. Two minutes later Sergi Roberto did well to block Cavani’s effort.
Just after the ten minute mark, Blaise Matuidi was played behind the defense for a one-on-one chance, but his shot was excellently saved by ter Stegen. The rebound fell to Cavani whose attempt was again blocked. The following rebound found Rabiot who fired on target, but ter Stegen was back in position to make another save.
Barcelona slowly started to see more of the ball, but their attacking appetites took a hit as Neymar was forced to the sideline for treatment for an apparent knock, but the Brazilian was able to continue. Barcelona’s appetites took another hit in the 18th minute when Di Maria found the back of ter Stegen’s net. Samuel Umtiti committed a foul on the edge of the area and the Argentine set himself up. His shot found its way through the Barcelona wall, giving ter Stegen no chance to make the save.
After conceding, Barcelona took control of the ball, but PSG’s organized defense allowed very little space and almost no good looks on goal. Barcelona didn’t fire the first shot on Kevin Trapp’s goal until the 27th minute, but the shot came on an opportunity that should’ve resulted in an equalizer. Andres Iniesta started the counter attack with a steal before Neymar led Barcelona forward. The Brazilian found Andre Gomes in space on the right side. Alone in front of the keeper, Gomes aimed between Trapp’s legs, but the German was able to redirect the ball just wide on the post.
While Barcelona might have now had more possession, their play was slow and without much imagination. The hosts on the other side were quick and decisive in attack, resulting in more work for ter Stegen. In the 34th minute he had to make a good save on his compatriot Draxler who fired from the left side. Six minutes later, however, Draxler won the duel of the Germans. Lionel Messi turned the ball over and PSG launched an immediate counter attack. Jordi Alba allowed Draxler to get behind him and Marco Verratti noticed that, sending a perfect ball through the Barcelona defensive line and Draxler promptly put the hosts up 2-0.
Barcelona struggled to regain composure in the handful of minutes remaining, but PSG failed to make the Catalans pay even more. The referee whistled for halftime and the break couldn’t have come at a better time as Barcelona needed to regroup and refocus. Tactical/personnel changes were also needed as PSG were outplaying Barcelona in every single facet of the game and changes were needed if the second leg would be more than a mere formality.
But changes didn’t come during the break, and it took Barcelona only 15 seconds to turn the ball over for the first time in the second half. PSG threatened quickly thereafter, but ter Stegen wasn’t called into action as Rabiot’s shot/pass missed.
PSG’s hard work in defense and quickness and decisiveness in attack continued to be the highlights of the game. Barcelona’s lack of ideas, slow play and poor passing, among numerous other problems the Catalans displayed, the lowlights. It was a recipe for disaster for Barcelona and Enrique and Barcelona’s hole became even deeper in the 55th minute when in a matter of seconds PSG went from their goal to scoring. The play featured important contributions from Rabiot and Matuidi and it ended with Di Maria extending PSG’s lead with a perfectly placed 20-yarder.
Both managers then made one substitution each in a matter of minutes. First, Lucho took Gomes off the pitch and replaced him with Rafinha. Two time goal-scorer Di Maria went off to a deserving ovation for PSG, Lucas Moura took his place. Unai Emery was forced into a second change in the 70th minute when Verratti picked up an injury.
Barcelona continued to control the ball more than the hosts, but to very little effect. PSG defended masterfully, cutting off Barcelona’s prolific attacking trio from each other and the rest of the team. At this point Barcelona’s best hope was to score an away goal and hope for a better day in the return leg, but hope was one thing and reality another as PSG would further extend their lead in the 72nd minute. Thomas Meunier received the ball on the right side deep in his area and was inexplicably allowed to carry it without opposition deep into Barcelona territory before sending a perfect weighted pass to Cavani who powered the ball first-time into the back of the net.
Barcelona could’ve taken a glimmer of hope from the game in the 84th minute, but the frame of the goal prevented the away goal. Ivan Rakitić, who entered the game as a substitution moments earlier, sent the cross from a corner kick to the far post where Gerard Pique sent the ball back across goal. On the near post Umtiti looked destined to score, but from close range could only hit the post.
Barcelona unleashed one more last ditch flurry, but it was all for naught and Barcelona deservedly lost by a large margin. History has shown that Barcelona is capable of beating any opponent by any margin, but based on recent form a turnaround is difficult to envision. Either way, Barcelona will have to quickly forget about this demolition job if they want to keep their (slim) La Liga hopes alive as they take on Leganes on Sunday.