It will take another “comeback” to FC Barcelona to eliminate Paris SG, after the clear victory at Camp Nou des Parisiens (4-1) with a hat-trick from Mbappé, Tuesday February 16 in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
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A foot in quarters? PSG paid dearly to know that this advantage is not comprehensive insurance. Nobody in both camps forgot the “remountada” of 2017 (4-0, 1-6) at the same stage of the competition, but the champions of France were clearly superior and did everything necessary to slaughter their nemesis.
In an empty Camp Nou, this time, animated by the voices of Catalan and French radio reporters, PSG, even without Neymar or Angel Di Maria, knew, without fear, a late goal, a penalty from Lionel Messi (27e, sp).
Kylian Mbappé has taken on his responsibilities as chief “ghostbuster”. He scored a beautiful goal (32e) as his team pitched, just after the Catalan scoring opener. Then he gave the advantage to his people (65e) and carried the blow (85e), accompanied by Moise Kean (70e). On the day he took the whole stage for a big performance, he finally exceeded his score by just one knockout goal with PSG.
He overtook Pedro Miguel Pauleta (109) with this hat-trick (111 goals) and climbed to the third step of the podium for the club’s top scorers, behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic (156) and Edinson Cavani (200).
Mbappé was well helped by an excellent Verratti, omnipresent in the role of left piston who did not in any way reduce his recovery activity. It is also a great victory for Mauricio Pochettino, whose 4-3-3 taught Ronald Koeman a lesson. The Argentine coach also had the good idea to come out at the break Idrissa Gana Gueye, warned early (20e) and passed close to a second yellow (43e). Ander Herrera replaced him (46e).
Opposite, Messi was below his level, facing one of the contenders to welcome him next summer. Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé, around him, were too neutral. “Grizou” missed the 2-1 after a 50-meter block (36e), and almost scored when Keylor Navas missed a feint in front of him (82e), but that’s about it for Barca. Gerard Pique, back after two and a half months of injury, suffered against the Parisian trio.
However, the story started badly for PSG, with the penalty for a foul by Layvin Kurzawa on Frenkie de Jong, considered severe by the Parisians but confirmed by the VAR. Groggy, Paris may have seen his Barcelona ghost pass by, but Dembélé missed a break point by hitting too softly in an offering from Messi (29e).
Mbappé, the alarm clock
Then Mbappé sounded the alarm clock, and PSG marched on their opponent. The world champion scored a superb goal, in four delicious movements: deep pass from Marquinhos, suave handover from Kurzawa, love of direct pass from Verratti to leave the final reply to “Kyky”, three subtle mini-checks before a strike under the bar.
Ter Stegen prevented the closet door from closing too soon on Barça, ahead of Kurzawa (35e) or Kean (37e), but broke in the second half. Mbappé doubled the bet by taking back a good cross from Alessandro Florenzi, then scored the magician’s hat trick on a gap from Julian Draxler, who entered for the last quarter of an hour (73e) instead of Verratti.
Kean headed him on a free kick perfectly shot by Leandro Paredes and where the ghosts were this time in the Barcelona defense. PSG even had opportunities to go to at least six, the fateful figure of the comeback, on a heel from Icardi for Kean (50e), a ladle a little too long from Herrera for Mbappé (55e) or a strike a bit too large from the world champion (68e).