Paris: Paris Saint-Germain overcame the absence of their injured talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic to beat Barcelona 3-2 in a thrilling Champions League Group F encounter at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday. The Catalans, who had not even conceded a goal all season in seven matches before this one, fell behind inside 10 minutes when David Luiz prodded in his first PSG goal.
Paris' midfielder Blaise Matuidi (L) celebrates at the end of the UEFA Champions League football match Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) vs Barcelona at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. Pic/AFP
Barcelona needed just two minutes to draw level thanks to a marvellous Lionel Messi strike, but Marco Verratti headed the hosts back in front after 26 minutes and Blaise Matuidi added another in the 54th minute. Neymar reduced the deficit, yet Paris held on for their first win in the group after a 1-1 draw at Ajax two weeks ago, while Barca failed to build on a narrow 1-0 win over APOEL of Cyprus in their first outing.
"We were up against a rival of the same level as us and we had the kind of difficulties that are normal in such a game," said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. "In the end I think we could have drawn and it would have been a fair result." PSG coach Laurent Blanc added: "I am very satisfied. It was an extraordinary match and what I will take away from it was our collective performance.
"I think for those who like Paris Saint-Germain and French football it was a good evening." Barcelona arrived in France in fine form but this was billed as their biggest test since the arrival of their new coach in the summer, even if their hosts were without Ezequiel Lavezzi and captain Thiago Silva as well as the prolific Ibrahimovic. Edinson Cavani spearheaded their attack, while Barcelona again had Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal in Europe rather than La Liga regular Claudio Bravo.
But their previously watertight defence looked fragile against a PSG side who started with all guns blazing and were soon rewarded. Daniel Alves gave away a free-kick for stopping a Paris attack with his hand, and the home side struck from the resulting delivery, Luiz controlling Lucas's ball in from the left before turning and poking the ball into the far corner from eight yards.
Barcelona's defence had finally been breached for the first time this season after 640 minutes, but their response was immediate. - Trademark brilliance - Indeed, the celebrations were still ongoing when the Catalans drew level thanks to a moment of trademark brilliance, Messi exchanging lightning-quick first-time passes with Andres Iniesta and Neymar before giving Salvatore Sirigu in goal no chance with a left-foot strike into the far corner.
It was the Argentine's 68th Champions League goal, putting him level with his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo in the all-time standings and to within three of the competition's all-time leading scorer, Raul. However, PSG were not deterred, and while Neymar lifted the ball just over the bar following a lofted pass by Messi, the home side soon regained the advantage.
Again the goal came from a set-piece, and this time Barcelona's defence looked especially unsure of themselves, ter Stegen flapping at Thiago Motta's right-wing corner and Ivan Rakitic allowing Verratti, the smallest player in the PSG side, to head home at the far post to score his first goal for the club. Barcelona trailed despite having almost 60 percent of the possession in the first half, with Messi curling a free-kick just over the bar a minute prior to the break.
PSG were simply the more clinical of the two teams and extended their advantage nine minutes after the restart, a Gregory van der Wiel cross from the right flashing all the way across the penalty box for Matuidi -- who scored in the last meeting of the clubs here 18 months ago -- to convert.
Again Barcelona needed just two minutes to respond, Neymar getting his seventh of the season with a delightful control and calm side-footed finish into the net off the right-hand post. They then camped around the penalty box as they looked for a leveller, but Marquinhos produced a crucial block to prevent Jordi Alba from equalising before substitute Munir El Haddadi fizzed in a shot that grazed the right post and went wide.