Messi stunner not enough as Barcelona succumb to PSG lead

Date published: Wednesday 10th March 2021 9:57 - Steve Pearson


Barcelona exited the Champions League at their earliest stage in 14 years on a night where Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe both netted.

A 4-1 defeat in the first leg meant Barca needed a miracle similar to the one they conjured four years ago at the Nou Camp when they overturned a 4-0 deficit against the same opponents at the same stage, but the LaLiga giants fell behind to Kylian Mbappe’s controversial penalty on the half hour.

Aged 22 years and 80 days, Mbappe became the youngest player to score 25 goals in Europe’s premier club competition, overtaking Messi, who made sure he was not upstaged even if Barca drew 1-1 to lose 5-2 on aggregate.

The Barca captain sensationally found the top corner in the 37th minute from distance to seemingly breathe fresh life into proceedings, but then saw his spot-kick saved by Keylor Navas on the stroke of half-time.

Navas, who made more than 150 appearances for Real Madrid, made several telling interventions to deny Barca another fairytale fightback as they bowed out before the quarter-finals for the first time in 14 seasons.

PSG, who were once again without former Barca forward Neymar, banished the ghosts of the thrilling fixture in 2016-17, with Mbappe’s four goals going a long way to settling an absorbing tie in the Ligue 1 side’s favour.

There was no lack of endeavour from the visitors as they sought a route back and several chances in a breathless first half fell to Ousmane Dembele, who ultimately failed to take advantage of any of them.

Navas did well to get down low and push away a left-foot effort across goal but Dembele was otherwise guilty of poor finishing when well-set. Sergino Dest drove forward on the right but his strike was tipped on to the bar.

Mbappe had looked threatening but the opportunity to grab his landmark goal came courtesy of a contentious penalty decision, with Mauro Icardi going over in the area after Marc-Andre ter Stegen had gathered a loose cross.

Referee Anthony Taylor’s check with the video assistant referee highlighted Clement Lenglet brushing the heels of Icardi and, despite Barca’s protests, Mbappe gratefully converted the spot-kick, sending Ter Stegen the wrong way.

If it was supposed to be a knockout blow then Messi was unaware. The Argentinian shifted on to his left foot before letting fly from 30 yards, an astonishing strike that sailed past Navas and into the top corner.

Messi, however, would then fluff his lines after Layvin Kurzawa’s high boot on Antoine Griezmann in the box, with Navas rewarded for guessing the right way as the resulting penalty came off his legs before rebounding off the bar.

Barca had 16 shots at goal in the opening 45 minutes and they were on the front foot from the off after half-time although PSG were largely comfortable in repelling the intricate attacks around their area.

Messi managed to find space in the centre of goal eight yards from goal but a last-gasp intervention from Marquinhos managed to subdue the danger as the Barca talisman got his feet in a tangle.

Sergio Busquets had spent the evening making a nuisance of himself at set-pieces and his near post header from a corner had to be palmed away by Navas before the hosts scrambled clear.

Even as it became clear there was to be no way back for Barca – they needed three goals just to force extra-time – they continued to pour forward in the hope of at least winning on the night.

In the event they almost lost late on as Mbappe bore down on goal only to uncharacteristically slash his effort high and wide, but it hardly mattered as last year’s Champions League runners-up made it safely through.

While this was an encouraging display from Barca – who elected Joan Laporta as their new president on Sunday – their focus now turns back to their domestic fortunes.


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