Paris Saint-Germain vs. Bayer Leverkusen: 6 Things We Learned

Jonathan JohnsonFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2014

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Bayer Leverkusen: 6 Things We Learned

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    Paris Saint-Germain reached the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the second consecutive season thanks to a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in their last 16 second-leg encounter on Wednesday.

    After thumping the Bundesliga side 4-0 in the first instalment, it finished 6-1 on aggregate.

    PSG coach Laurent Blanc made heavy changes to his side for the game, and they eventually paid off with the hosts coming behind to secure their passage in relatively convincing style.

    Although far from their brilliant best shown in the opening leg, goals from Marquinhos and a rejuvenated Ezequiel Lavezzi cancelled out Sidney Sam’s sixth-minute opener. Emre Can’s second-half sending-off only confirmed Leverkusen’s miserable exit.

    However, despite PSG's victory on the night and comfortable progression over the two games, Blanc was not happy with his side's attitude.

    "In the first half we began badly. My instructions were to attack and dictate the play. We were not aggressive enough, much less than I expected," he revealed after the match. "

    We left too much room for this Bayer team. Consequently they broke the deadlock. It woke us up, we levelled, but if I remember the first half, Salvatore [Sirigu] kept us afloat."

    "In the second half it was a little better, but tonight Paris did not deliver a memorable performance. It's hard to tell your team to ignore the result of the first leg – it's complicated. We always had this in our minds, that we still had this four-goal lead."

    "A Champions League game is still a game at a very, very high level. Today it was not a great performance from us, but we were powerful enough to win the match."

    In reaching the Champions League quarterfinals, Blanc has now equalled Carlo Ancelotti’s performance from last season. The Parisians will feel confident whoever they are drawn against in the last eight, but also must realise that they will not have it as easy as they did over the past two legs.

    For Leverkusen though, their humiliation is over. Although they were much improved at the Parc des Princes from their drubbing three weeks previously, they still lacked the necessary quality to progress.

    Here are six things we learned from PSG’s 2-1 win on the night and 6-1 aggregate triumph.

PSG’s Loss of Focus

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    Although it was eventually alright on the night for PSG after an early scare from Sidney Sam’s sixth-minute opener, Laurent Blanc will have a number of questions to ask his team who approached the match with an extremely casual attitude.

    Knowing that they had done most of the hard work in the first leg at the BayArena, the French champions looked unfocused. A number of players were making sloppy passes and uncharacteristic errors of judgment, visibly far from fully concentrated.

    Against a more difficult opponent, this tendency to switch off could prove costly for PSG, especially if they are not sitting on a handsome lead going into the second leg of their quarter-final clash.

    However, the Ligue 1 leaders went unpunished by their Bundesliga opponents and await a greater challenge.

Leverkusen Keep It Respectable

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    Michel Euler/Associated Press

    After making a number of changes from the heavy first-leg defeat at home, Leverkusen put in a respectable return performance in the French capital.

    Though the final score was 2-1 to PSG, making it 6-1 on aggregate, Sami Hyypia’s men showed far more character than they did in the first leg and threatened a comeback for a short period.

    0 - Bayer Leverkusen have never progressed further than the last 16 of the Champions League since they were finalists in 2002. Fail.

    — OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 12, 2014

    Despite losing their discipline at times, particularly after Emre Can was rather harshly dismissed for a second bookable offence in the second half, the team did enough to make their strong travelling contingent proud.

    Coach Hyypia was encouraged by what he saw from his side, as he revealed after the match at the Parc des Princes.

    "I hope everyone saw that we delivered a good performance. I am quite happy with the attitude my team showed against Paris," he said. "Overall, I feel we can leave here with our heads [held] high. Coming into the match nobody believed in us, but I am glad we showed that we can perform."

PSG Defensive Frailties Exposed

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    As well as a questionable collective mentality, also exposed in the match were PSG’s defensive frailties.

    Not much has been made of them so far this season, but the Parisians were more solid at the back under previous coach Carlo Ancelotti.

    In Ligue 1, the French champions have conceded 18 goals, which is the joint-best defensive record and the exact same number conceded at the exact same point as last season. But it is in Europe where PSG need to worry.

    They have conceded in six of their last seven home games in the Champions League. That sort of charitable approach at the back will not see the side from the capital progress past the last eight.

    6 - Paris SG have failed to keep a clean sheet in six of their last seven home games in the Champions League. Hospitable.

    — OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 12, 2014

    Ironically, though, centre-back Marquinhos has now scored three goals in this season’s edition, the highest number of any defender in the whole competition.

    Had Salvatore Sirigu not been in such inspired form between the sticks though, Leverkusen could easily have won on the night and the young Brazilian would have been lambasted for not helping to keep goals out at one end rather than hailed for scoring at the other.

    3 - Marquinhos has scored three goals in the Champions League this season, more than any other defender. Skilful.

    — OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 12, 2014

Leverkusen Penalty Woe

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    Although it would only have made it 2-1 on the night, meaning that they would still have needed four more goals just to advance on aggregate, Leverkusen must shake their habit of missing penalties in Europe.

    Sami Hyypia’s side have missed five of their last 10 spot-kicks, and to stand any chance in Europe’s elite club competition, they must take any and all chances that come their way.

    PSG 1-1 LEV (30') - Leverkusen have now missed 5 of their 10 penaltis in the Champions League. First penalty saved by a PSG's goalkeeper.

    — MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) March 12, 2014

    Captain Simon Rolfes saw his penalty saved by the excellent Salvatore Sirigu, passing up a potential avenue back into the tie.

    Although it would have only provided consolation on the night, an away win or a draw to sign off in Europe would have been morale boosting after a recent collapse in domestic form.

Sensational Sirigu

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    Michel Spingler/Associated Press

    Playing in a club record-equalling 18th Champions League match, Salvatore Sirigu was exceptional for PSG on the night. Aside from Sidney Sam’s sixth-minute opener for Leverkusen, the Italian was in superb form and made a string of superb saves, as well as stopping Simon Rolfes’ first-half penalty.

    The 27-year-old Azzurri international has come in for criticism at times this season, but his performance on a surprisingly busy night is a reminder of his shot-stopping excellent ability.

    Sirigu might not be the best when it comes to crosses, but in terms of getting in the way of goal-bound efforts, he is not second to many.

Are Leverkusen Champions League Material?

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    Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

    Following their 4-0 thumping at home to PSG in the first leg that contributed to an aggregate score of 6-1 at the end of the second leg, the question of whether or not Leverkusen are good enough for the Champions League can be asked.

    Taking into account their recent implosion in the Bundesliga as well, they are evidently not.

    Domestically, Sami Hyypia’s third-placed side are competitive and one of the best teams in Germany. In Europe, however, the Werkself have looked poor and below the quality needed to go any further than the last 16.

    Leverkusen’s 4-0 thumping from PSG was not their only heavy defeat in Europe; they also lost 4-2 at Old Trafford to an ailing Manchester United side who then beat the Germans 5-0 at the BayArena.

    Leverkusen missing out on the Champions League next season might not be such a bad thing in the long run.