PSG opened up the knockout stages of the Champions League with a 2-1 win at Valencia. The away victory gave PSG the inside track to the round of eight, but they will have to take care of business at home without Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Despite the absence of star defender Thiago Silva, the PSG defense was able to keep Roberto Soldado and company at bay until the closing moments. While the defensive side of the ball deserves praise for most of its work, it will be Ibrahimovic and his injury-time straight red card that will garner the post-match attention.
With the game in cruise control at 2-0 with a few minutes left, PSG’s defense let down its guard and Adil Rami tapped in to cut the deficit in half. It was two minutes into injury time that saw Ibra knock over a defender in the corner, then continue to play to win the ball. The ref issued a straight red.
In a space of four minutes, PSG went from being in total control of this tie to being in danger of missing out on the round of eight. Marco Veratti’s yellow card in the opening half means he will also miss the return match in Paris.
If not for the late-match meltdown, PSG’s South American influence in the attack would have dominated the discussion.
Carlo Ancelotti surprised many by handing Lucas Moura his Champions League debut. Placed out on the right wing in PSG’s formation, the young Brazilian’s pace and ball skills were a nightmare matchup for Valencia.
With Moura impressively carving out acres of space on the wing, Ezequiel Lavezzi opened the scoring with a nice individual effort. Lavezzi took on the Valencia defense before unleashing a drive into the back of the net.
Moura was a continual thorn in the side of Valencia, frequently creating chances, and he eventually broke down the defense in assisting on Pastore’s goal. Moura’s influence in his 50 minutes on the pitch was monumental. The kid looked like the real deal.
Unfortunately, much of Moura’s work turned out to be all for naught, as PSG bungled the last five minutes. Ancelotti will have to get his boys in the right frame of mind for the next game.
The late blunders have given Valencia an opportunity to advance after a match in which they were less than stellar. PSG will be kicking themselves for losing their grip on this matchup. If Valencia advance in Paris, Ancelotti’s seat may be in flames.
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