Bayer Leverkusen vs. Paris Saint-Germain: 6 Things We Learned
Bayer Leverkusen were forced to live out their worst nightmares on Tuesday when they came up against a superior Paris Saint-Germain side that chose to take no prisoners. In the end, it was 4-0 to the visitors in this first leg of the Champions League knockout round.
Sami Hyypia's side began the game in terrible fashion when they conceded a goal after only three minutes, when a quick and clever counter attack from PSG found Blaise Matuidi in the box and ready to pounce. The clock had not even hit five minutes, and Leverkusen's chances of progressing in the competition had already skyrocketed.
Unfortunately, Laurent Blanc's side were far from finished. Following a contentious penalty that uprooted the only genuine period of Leverkusen domination, none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic first doubled the scoring with the penalty kick and then trebled his sides' lead with an outstanding shot from outside the box.
The second half was a quieter affair, as the visitors grew content with their lead and Leverkusen chose to consolidate their three-goal disadvantage instead of asking for more.
Aside from the odd chance from Stefan Kiessling and some very bright attacks from 17-year-old Julian Brandt, who came on for the disappointing Son Heung-min at half-time, it was a bland and unthreatening response from the Bundesliga club.
Alas, the trouble didn't end there for the struggling home side. Emir Spahic, the very defender who gave away the penalty in the first half, was sent off when a flailing challenge brought Lucas Moura down illegally. Leverkusen were down to 10 men with half an hour left on the clock.
PSG did eventually get their fourth goal, via a wonderfully placed shot from new signing Yohan Cabaye on the eve of full time, but even for them the fun was over. PSG had thoroughly embarrassed the Bundesliga side and will look forward to the return tie in Paris.
Here's what else we took from the game.
Leverkusen Learn Their Level Again
Our hearts go out to fans when we consider just how often Leverkusen seem to get it completely wrong at this stage of the Champions League.
Many will question the performances of certain players, which seems perfectly justified, but as we've seen against Manchester United throughout this campaign and Barcelona in the past, the strong Bundesliga side seem to just capitulate when they reach a certain level of expertise.
Leverkusen Punished by Poor Penalty Decision
It may come as a surprise to some, but Leverkusen actually looked as though they might have been able to make something of this tie against PSG, following the opening goal, due to some clever football throughout the 30 minutes before the second, killer goal.
Alas, it was the penalty decision—one in which defender Emir Spahic was supposedly handling Ezequiel Lavezzi in the box whilst off the ball—that allowed PSG back in to the game and ultimately deflated any comeback from the Bundesliga side.
It left many fans to question just what if.
Zlatan Punished Leverkusen
If Leverkusen weren't punished by a poor penalty decision, then it was none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic who rammed the facts down their throat with a spectacular left-footed shot just moments after the re-start that put his side three goals to the good.
He doesn't always look like the most active forward in world football, but in games like this one, we see the true extent of his talent. Leverkusen couldn't get near him and paid for it with two goals.
PSG Won the Midfield Battle
Leverkusen will look to all aspects of their side when they try and pick up the pieces after this hollowing defeat, but it will be in midfield that Coach Hyypia should consider a change if he hopes to keep the aggregate score below double figures.
Lars Bender is an outstanding player and one for the future, but his fellow midfielders Gonzalo Castro and Simon Rolfes let the side down in their inability to keep up with their opponents.
PSG finished the game with an incredible 64 percent of possession and a pass completion rate of 92 percent. Those are far from the kind of stats that a challenging Leverkusen should have allowed.
Leverkusen's Back Line Isn't Good Enough for This Competition
Whether it was Andres Guardado being out of position for the first goal, Spahic's foul for the second, Roberto Hilbert's clumsy defending on the right or indeed the aforementioned centre-backs sending off in the second half, Leverkusen consistently let themselves down through their disappointing back line.
Of course this isn't anything new. Yes, the Factory Squad have amassed admirable defensive records in the Bundesliga under Hyypia, but it's clear that the coach has had to compromise much of his team to keep these defenders from being exposed. Which just isn't good enough at this level.
PSG Look Like Formidable Challengers for the Trophy
Although Leverkusen never seemed like genuine contenders to overcome the rich French side over the course of two legs, the battle between the two clubs should have offered others a chance to see what PSG could really do.
Well, as we've seen this side do against the likes of Olympiacos, Anderlecht and Benfica in the Champions League this season, they look set for better things—and with a bit of luck, possibly the trophy. Laurent Blanc's team have awhile to go before they're challenging for the title of Europe's best, but they made a strong case for it on Tuesday.
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