Paris – Saint German (PSG) notched three points in the second round of the Champions League Tuesday night, with a dramatic 3-2 win against a disjointed FC Barcelona in Paris. Barça Manager Luis Enrique pointed out mistakes by his squad, but insisted the blame lay on his shoulders. “Favorites have to prove it on the pitch,” he said. “When you lose, it’s about the team, but the final responsibility is for the coach.”
The ailing PSG were missing several key players, all out with injuries. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, former Barça striker, looked on from the stands with a heel injury. This left Uruguayan Edinson Cavani to manage the front line, alongside Javier Pastore and Lucas. Also out were Eziquiel Lavezzi, and the Brazilian Tiago Silva, seen pacing after halftime. Another former Barça player, Defender Maxwell, held the back with David Luiz, Marquinhos and Van der Wiel, and Goalkeeper Sirigu. Matuidi, Thiago Motta, and Verratti composed the midfield.
Meanwhile, Enrique called all his stars to the pitch, choosing mostly veterans for the duel. Pedro Rodriguez returned alongside Messi and Neymar, in place of the youngster, Munir. Most notable change however, had to be GoalKeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in place of Claudio Bravo. Both sides chose a 4:3:3 set up, with Barça lining up Alba, Mathieu, Mascherano, and Alves for the defensive line, behind Iniesta (Captain), Busquets, and Rakitić in midfield.
The French team set out immediately on the attack, stunning Barça’s defense for a goal in the 10th minute by newly signed, David Luiz. The €50 million summer signing, answered his critics with the first goal against Barça. The Brazilian had begun the season with less than stellar performances. Messi answered with his own goal a minute later.
Barça Defender Mascherano added, “We couldn’t get into the game immediately, and a few mistakes cost us.” The squad held most of the possession but simply could not penetrate the defensive line. Both Messi and Neymar were heavily marked, while the rest of the team had trouble connecting. Messi was on point throughout, performing several amazing assists unfortunately, without any result.
In contrast, PSG did well to find holes in the Barça defense. Barça lost possession several times, and then had trouble keeping pace with the PSG attackers. “This day had to come,” Rakitić said, reported on the team’s website. “We took the initiative, a draw would have been better, but we’ll learn from this.”
PSG Midfielder Marco Verrati, scored a beautiful header in his first goal for the squad, off a corner kick. “These are the games you dream of as a kid,” a joyous Verrati told reporters following the match. Barça had numerous attempts on goal but continued failing on set pieces. “Scoring two goals away is good, but if you concede three? The mistakes on set pieces made it hard from the start.” Busquets explained, “I think we pushed hard and had chances. Result is unjust to me, but PSG are a great team.”
In the post-match press conference, Enrique concluded, “We were up against a rival who is at the same level as us, and they handled the pressure better than we did. We had a few clear chances at the end when we could have equalised…as I’ve said they’re one of the favorites to win the Champions League.”
PSG now sits in the top place with 4 points in Group F following the second round of the Champions League. Barça holds second with 3 points, ahead of Ajax and APOEL who drew 1-1 in their match today.
Final – Paris Saint-German 3-2 FC Barcelona
PSG – David Luiz 10’, Verrati 26’, Matiuida 54’
Barca – Messi 12’, Neymar 56’