PSG's first quarter-final appearance in the Champions League since 1995 didn't come without a fight
Paris Saint-Germain squeezed past Valencia 3-2 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw at Parc des Princes on Wednesday night, and they made hard work of it.
After falling behind to a screamer from Brazilian attacker Jonas, the introduction of Kevin Gameiro was the catalyst that PSG needed to drag themselves into the quarter finals of the Champions League. But it was barely more than that.
The hosts created little going forward and faced a stern Valencia side who were determined to make up for the disappointing showing a fortnight ago at the Mestalla. However, they couldn’t muster a second goal and it is the French side who progress.
It was deserved over the two legs by Carlo Ancelotti’s side but both sides’ cagey opening to the match didn’t help produce the same sort of spectacle as the last meeting.
Ancelotti's side are still a work in progress abroad and domestically
Arguably Ancelotti’s side are showing more promise in the Champions League than Ligue 1 right now, following the comments made by Leonardo that PSG are better suited to “Europe than the league”. But that was not evident here.
PSG looked devoid of confidence, they looked under-pressure (perhaps a result of Leonardo’s careless comments or the desired outcome) and scared of their under-strength opponents.
For all of the star talent on show, only a raw base of a team is present currently. Further development is needed on top of that before we can even begin to think of Ancelotti’s team as the finished article.
PSG are a team not built for Ligue 1 or Europe on this evidence.
PSG's Ibra-dependence is still in evidence
The performance emphasised how much Ibrahimovic is missed when he is not there.
The focal point of attack when played and a glaring absence when not on the pitch, PSG missed his influence and the presence that he brings with him to games.
There was no physical threat whatsoever to the Valencia backline and, given his goals and assist ratio in the competition this year, his creativity was needed too.
When he plays, the team go through him and as a result, they play with more confidence and familiarity. Take him away from them and there is little threat going forward.
Moura is still adapting to French and European football
Whilst his start to life in the capital may have been impressive, Moura is still finding his feet in France and that fact must not be forgotten.
This game, where he was expected to take on the attacking and creative burdens of the team, he showed that he is not ready to fully step out of the shadow cast by the likes of Ibrahimovic.
Moura can dominate and dictate a game; there is no doubt about that. But for now, he needs to continue to do that alongside the likes of the Swede and Lavezzi before he matures enough to handle that sort of pressure.
It was his second match in the Champions League; he can’t be expected to replace Ibrahimovic as the team’s focal point in a big European match when he is still learning the differences between continental and domestic football in Europe.
Beckham was an unused substitute v Valencia
Ancelotti picking a half-fit Thiago Motta over David Beckham can mean two things.
Either the Italian got his priorities correct and concentrated on winning the match instead of indulging PSG’s latest muse with a short run-out. Or, Ancelotti won’t put faith in him in the biggest games because of his reservations over his effectiveness.
Gameiro was picked ahead of Beckham from the bench to add more energy and Motta was picked to start despite only just coming back from injury, same for Thiago Silva.
The pair are obviously indispensable whilst, though he is important, Beckham just is not in the same category when it comes to the crunch.
Ancelotti had the chance to bring Beckham on with 10 minutes to play, but the Italian opted against it and the unnecessary addition of pressure that would bring.
It was clear he had learnt from taking the risk to hand him his 15-minute debut vs OM and opted to make the more logical decision to ensure the club’s progress.
As PSG struggled to break down Valencia, the Spaniards grew in confidence
Without an early lead, PSG struggle to take control of games.
Against Valencia they started well, but after a few initial frustrations the team become lazy. After that, it is easy for the opponents to get themselves back into the tie as we saw with Sochaux and Reims and now los Che.
PSG need to deal with this and either ensure that they score in a barrage of early chances, or can concentrate for longer as the start of tight, tense games to ensure that they don’t cede control to the opposition.
It happened for Jonas’ goal and likely won’t be the last this season.
Lavezzi's goal was a relief after his torrid miss v Reims at the weekend
Gameiro let Ancelotti and PSG off the hook with his impressive cameo performance, but it cannot paper over the cracks that the club need a new attacker.
Whilst there is huge emphasis on Ibrahimovic, Menez’s absence was felt too as he gives the team a direct threat that compliments those of Moura and Lavezzi.
The French international would have been a welcome option alongside the Argentine and would have likely negated the need to play Clement Chantome out of position on the right of midfield.