PSG 2 Barcelona 2: Thiago Silva heroics make up for ineffective Zlatan Ibrahimovic
What a glorious night in Paris. In their first Uefa Champions League quarter final since 1995, Paris Saint-Germain were fantastic. They played with vibrancy, passion, intelligence, cohesion. Their opponents, Barcelona – who have won the competition four times and triumphed in their last six quarter finals – welcomed coach Tito Vilanova back to the sidelines after his two-month absence due to cancer surgery, and as expected, they enjoyed the lion’s share of the ball.
For 79 minutes at the Parc des Princes, it looked as if the Spaniards would go back to the Camp Nou with a 1-0 advantage courtesy of a first half Lionel Messi strike, but Carlo Ancelotti’s PSG side had other ideas.
PSG’s resistance to buckle was largely down to the heroics of captain Thiago Silva. The Brazilian centre back was a colossus and a driving force in PSG’s resolve and persistence.
Despite being labelled ‘fat and overrated’ by Marseille’s ever outspoken Joey Barton prior to the match, Silva showed exactly why PSG shelled out a mammoth €42million last summer to acquire his services from AC Milan.
It was Silva’s header that acted as the catalyst for PSG’s fight back. The 28-year-old rose above the Barcelona defence and sent the ball crashing against the post, leaving Zlatan Ibrahimovic to stab home the rebound. The Parc des Princes erupted.
Although replays showed the goal shouldn’t have stood due to Ibrahimovic’s offside position, PSG got the bit of luck they deserved.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, there was sense of stick or twist for PSG. Should they go for the winner or settle for the 1-1 draw?
They ended up doing neither and their indecision cost them. Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez latched onto a ball in the area and the onrushing PSG ‘keeper Salvatore Sirigu brought the Chilean down. The penalty was awarded and Xavi coolly converted.
For many, at that point, the tie was over, but not for Matuidi and PSG. With seven seconds remaining on the clock, Matuidi shot from the edge of the box and a deflection fooled Barcelona ‘keeper Victor Valdes and PSG were level.
The referee blew the whistle for full time and both PSG and Barcelona walked off the pitch pretty satisfied with the end result, a 2-2 draw.
Much of the talk prior to the game in Paris inevitably fell on the shoulders of former Barcelona player Ibrahimovic. The Swede has enjoyed a whirlwind season for PSG, and looks well on his way to securing his 10th domestic title, with PSG currently seven points ahead of Marseille in Ligue 1, but for the main, the 32-year-old largely disappointed.
Similar to Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, more often than not in the big games, Zlatan fails to live up to his billing as one of the best and most gifted players in the world. Last night, Ibrahimovic was careless in possession and for the majority of the game looked ineffective, with energetic strike partner Ezequiel Lavezzi looking far more dangerous against Barcelona’s backline.
Admittedly, Ibrahimovic still managed to grab an assist and get on the scoresheet, so claims the Swede was poor may seem harsh, but perhaps that is testament to how the 6ft 5in forward has played this year.
It is frustrating to see a player with a seemingly infinite amount of ability have it abandon him on his side’s biggest night of the season. Is Ibra’s voidance of his mercurial play in the big games a case of over-arrogance, is it the quality of the opposition shackling his swagger, or is it even a lack of belief in himself?
Like Rooney, Ibrahimovic’s ability is unquestioned, but there seems to be something lacking when the audience demands and expects the most.
Despite PSG’s talisman not playing to his usual charismatic and world class level, the home side showed they have abundant talent in other areas of the pitch.
As well as the faultless Silva and industrious Lavezzi, midfielders Blaise Matuidi and Javier Pastore impressed, and David Beckham defied his ageing years to put in a composed performance.
With the tie level at 2-2 and Lionel Messi probably out of the second leg due to injury, PSG are still in with a chance of qualifying for the semi finals of the competition, but they will need a repeat performance from captain Silva and more from their talisman, Ibrahimovic, if they are extend their Champions League run.Tagged in: Barcelona, football, PSG
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