BY PETER D.BIRTON
Neymar’s brace ensures Barcelona’s passage to the last four in the semi- finals of the champion’s league. The display against Paris Saint Germain to win 5 -1 on aggregate, was quite convincing.
With a 3-1 deficit it was a tall order for PSG to overturn this score line. Even with the presence of their vice -captain and talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic back, they had little, if any realistic chance of going to the later stages of the Champions League.
From the off, it was clear to see this was going one way only. The first passage of play was around 25 passes before PSG intercepted. It took over a minute before they even touched the ball. Not what you need at the Nou Camp when your 3-1 down.
David Luiz went in with a rash challenge on Ivan Rakitic, which saw the first yellow card given. This action just made him vulnerable for the remainder of the game
Five minutes into the game, Neymar makes a mazey run from is half line to dazzle past 3 defenders before Gregory van der Wiel wins the ball.
A few minutes later, PSG string a few passes together, as Ibrahimovic wins the ball on the halfway, and links with ex Barcelona player Maxwell, who touches it on to Marco Verratti, who chips back to the left flank for Maxwell to play into Javier Pastore, before Pastore lost possession.
Andres Iniesta looks threatening each time he has the ball.
15 minutes into the game, Iniesta on the left side intercepts the ball to find Neymar who runs at the PSG midfield, finding Messi, whose shot is blocked by Maxwell.
If 13 is normally seen as an unlucky number, it wasn’t for Andres Iniesta, as the ball goes into the back of the net in the 13th minute. Javier Mascherano plays a loose ball in his half, but Iniesta is there to cover, but then has the audacity to turn and run at the feeble PSG defense and plant an eye of needle pass for Neymar to go past and beat PSG Italian goalkeeper, Salvatore Sirigu. Different class, hard to defend against that!
In the 17th minute, Ibrahimovic thought he had equalizer with a nice link up play with Pastore’s flink the outside of the foot to Maxwell who tried to find Ibrahimovic, who was well offside.
Brazilian wing back Dani Alves was causing a nuisance for the PSG defense and on the 33rd minute it paid off, when he pinged in a lovely left footed cross for Neymar to have a simple header for his second goal. Neymar had fair too much space in the box, Though David Luiz undoubtedly a good player, but in the center half position he can turn off at times, and this was the instance tonight.
Barcelona continued in their dominance of possession and PSG didn’t provide any real threat, Verratti came close early after the restart, and that was it in terms of chances for PSG until Edison Cavani tried a shot which ended into side netting in the last period of the game. Pique and Mascherano were competent at the back for Barcelona when they needed to. It was too easy for Barcelona in the second half, as the game lost its momentum.
Neymar came to Barcelona with an extreme price tag, nearly 60 euros. He struggled to adapt at first, but has shown consistent improvement. He just keeps getting better and is showing the world he has the ability to be great for Barcelona. He surely deserves the man of the match title for this game.
Barcelona sailed through to the next round, and kept the treble alive. 2 points ahead of Real Madrid at the top of Liga BBVA and the Copa del Rey against Athletic Bilbao next month. Luis Enrique can be proud of the work he has done to put his team in a position for more success, especially on his 50th game in charge
PSG need to lick their wounds and build for next season and Laurent Blanc has to find a way to get them pass the quarter finals next season. PSG is a work in progress and they have the collateral to strive to be among the Elite. Thiago Silva is slowly developing into the one of the best all round defenders globally and don’t be surprised if he is a Barcelona player next season