Barcelona 1-4 Paris Saint-Germain: Mbappe hat-trick leaves Barca requiring another 'Remontada'

By Sports Desk February 16, 2021

Kylian Mbappe scored a remarkable hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain came from behind to batter Barcelona 4-1 away from home in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

The Parisians were back at Camp Nou for the first time since their humiliating Champions League collapse in 2017 when they were thumped 6-1 after winning the first leg 4-0, and they got a semblance of revenge with an emphatic victory.

Lionel Messi reached 20 goals for a 13th successive season when putting Barca ahead just before the half-hour mark with a penalty, but PSG were far more of a threat in attack and fully deserved the equaliser that Mbappe netted with aplomb.

Mbappe doubled his personal tally in the second half and the similarly lively Moise Kean got PSG's third soon after, before the France star completed his treble with a sumptuous finish on the break that will likely put the tie beyond Barca, though they have pulled off more unlikely comebacks before.

The early exchanges passed with little drama as the two sides respectably sparred, but the contest burst into life when Barca then opened the scoring in the 27th minute, Messi finding the top-right corner with a penalty awarded after Layvin Kurzawa accidentally tripped Frenkie de Jong.

But PSG soon levelled as Mbappe brought down Marco Verratti's flicked pass and lashed in after evading Clement Lenglet.

Antoine Griezmann could not restore Barca's lead when he shot wide after a long solo run, though it was PSG who finished the half on top.

Moise Kean and Kurzawa both forced fine saves from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while Mauro Icardi headed agonisingly wide on the stroke of half-time.

PSG carved Barca open again early in the second half, Icardi teeing up Kean with a clever flick only to see Ter Stegen make a fingertip save to deny him.

The visitors finally went in front, and deservedly so, with 25 minutes to go – Mbappe slamming in from about 10 yards after Alessandro Florenzi's cutback was deflected into his path by Gerard Pique.

It quickly got worse for Barca, as Kean nodded in Leandro Paredes' inviting free-kick delivery to give Ronald Koeman's men a mountain to climb.

Mbappe rounded off an incredible night for PSG five minutes from time, curling a gorgeous first-time effort into the top-right corner after Julian Draxler led a devastating counter.

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    Koke insists Atletico Madrid's focus is not slipping in LaLiga after their lead was cut again this weekend as they drew with Real Madrid.

    Atleti are now just three points clear of second-placed Barcelona, albeit with a game in hand, as they failed to respond after Ronald Koeman's men won on Saturday.

    Luis Suarez opened the scoring in Sunday's Derbi, but Atleti's winless run against Madrid was extended to 10 league matches thanks to Karim Benzema's late leveller.

    It means Diego Simeone's side have won just nine points from six matches since the start of February, a period in which Barca have claimed 16 and Madrid 14.

    But Atleti will have the opportunity to increase their advantage again on Wednesday when they play their leftover fixture against Athletic Bilbao.

    And Koke says his team are ready to fight again, eager to improve on a run of one win in five in all competitions.

    "It is you who said the league was over and such and such," he told Movistar. "This goes until the season is over.

    "We have to focus on Wednesday's game, when we can earn points while our rivals cannot."

    As well as their long sequence without victory against Madrid in all league matches, Atleti are yet to beat their neighbours at the Wanda Metropolitano in four attempts in LaLiga.

    "We were superior, but they can score at any moment," Koke said. "Fresh people came on and the team tried to push forward, but we have had a great rival who have a lot of potential to score goals.

    "It is true that we have not been able to beat them here yet, but we have not been able to win [against Madrid] for a long time."

    Benzema's equaliser was the last of eight attempts from the former France striker, three of which drew outstanding stops from Jan Oblak, who ended with seven saves.

    "I was angry, because a few minutes earlier I was able to score but the goalkeeper made good saves," explained Benzema, whose 371st LaLiga appearance set a new Madrid record among non-Spanish players.

    "I think we played a good game. It was very difficult against a good team. I think the first half was for them and the second half for us. It was a good point."

    The point made Zinedine Zidane just the second Madrid coach to avoid defeat in his first four away games against Atleti in LaLiga history, following in the footsteps of Luis Molowny in 1986.

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    Luis Suarez scored a dazzling goal and was named man of the match, but on the day his former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard finally became a league champion, did Suarez have his own 'Gerrard's slip'?

    Championships are often decided on fine margins, and it is almost seven years since Liverpool's Premier League title hopes were brutally hit by Chelsea, when Gerrard's famous stumble let in Demba Ba to score. Manchester City snatched the silverware from the long-time favourites, and Liverpool had to wait another six years before landing the trophy.

    Gerrard has managed Rangers to the Scottish title and Suarez is attempting to power Atletico to LaLiga silverware, and on Sunday it seemed all the glory would be his after he fired the Rojiblancos into an early 1-0 lead over Real Madrid, a typically flamboyant finish from a player some thought was washed up at Barcelona barely six months ago.

    How he has been revived this season under Diego Simeone, and what a moment it would be were he and Atletico to carry off the title in Spain this year.

    But this game at the Wanda Metropolitano finished 1-1, and Suarez will know he is partly responsible for the home side not seeing out victory.

    In the 87th minute, Atletico had a glorious chance on the counter-attack to go 2-0 in front. Suarez, in plenty of space inside the Madrid half, could not find the pass that would have sent Saul Niguez through on goal, instead pushing his team-mate wide, and the chance was snuffed out.

    Within seconds, Madrid were encroaching on the Atletico penalty area, Karim Benzema on the ball. His pass to Casemiro was carefully returned to the feet of the Frenchman, who burst beyond the penalty spot and finally found a way past Jan Oblak.

    Kingpins, that's what Suarez and Benzema are to their teams. Like Gerrard at Liverpool. They are the players whose influence is felt throughout the team, the squad, the club and beyond.

    Suarez walked off with an apologetic look at full-time, tracked to the tunnel by television cameras. He had the game in his hands, and he dropped it. Madrid are still in this title race, and five points behind feels an awful lot better than the prospect of eight adrift, which was looming as Suarez picked his pass to Saul.

    This was a result that would have been cheered in Barcelona, if they were paying attention in Catalonia and not all-consumed by the elections for a new club president.

    Maybe a Madrid win would have been an even better result for Barcelona's title prospects, but nobody among the Blaugranas would dare admit that.

    Barcelona sit second, just three points behind Atletico now, and Simeone's team must still visit Camp Nou. How Suarez must be relishing that, and how he must be relieved that Atletico remain in the box seat in this three-team battle.

    He was excellent for large parts of this game, hitting the target with four of his six shots and typically delighting in winding up the opposition.

    Benzema, by contrast, looked far from sharp until the final half hour, when the player who was returning from a three-week injury lay-off found something extra.

    Zidane had labelled Benzema "a joy for football" before this game, but by the break he had registered three attempts, none of which hit the target; a tame shot and two stray headers.

    This game seemed ripe for Atletico to end their nine-game winless run in LaLiga games against Madrid (D5 L4), with Marcos Llorente's skilful evasion of Nacho and Suarez's world-class finish from the pass that followed a real treat for the eyes. It was the Uruguayan's 10th goal in 13 LaLiga games against Madrid.

    It was Suarez's 17th goal from his 29th shot on target this season in LaLiga, and by early in the second half the expected goal (xG) rating for each side showed Atletico were leading by 1.2 to 0.4.

    Slowly, though, the chances began to flow for Madrid, Oblak making a string of magnificent saves, including two in quick succession from Benzema, who was coming into his own as others tired. Finally, Benzema got his reward for persistence. It finished a 1.8-1.8 draw on xG, 1-1 on the scoreboard.

    And now Atletico are 10 league games without a win against their neighbours.

    "We know how difficult this championship is," Simeone said in his pre-match news conference, pointing to how Madrid and Barcelona have been gradually reeling in Atletico in recent weeks.

    It may get a whole lot harder now.

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    Bruno Fernandes converted a penalty after 101 seconds following a clumsy foul by Gabriel Jesus, while Luke Shaw was the unlikely scorer as the visitors doubled their lead in the 50th minute.

    The result means Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has once again come out on top against Pep Guardiola, in the process becoming the first United boss to win each of his first three away trips in all competitions at the Etihad Stadium. 

    City may still hold an 11-point cushion at the summit but missing out on setting a new club record of 29 games unbeaten will sting, particularly considering the opposition. This is their first setback since a 2-0 reverse at Tottenham on November 21, 2020. 

    United had not scored in their three previous outings leading into the contest, yet were gifted the chance to end that barren run when Jesus – retained in the Guardiola's starting XI following a brace in the 4-1 win over Wolves – carelessly clipped Anthony Martial. 

    The Brazilian was nearly bailed out by compatriot Ederson, yet the goalkeeper was only able to palm Fernandes' low effort from the spot into the net. 

    Initially flustered at falling behind for the first time in 20 league games, City eventually recovered from the early setback to assume control of proceedings. 

    Oleksandr Zinchenko tested Dean Henderson – again playing with David de Gea away on paternity leave – while Rodri struck the angle joining crossbar and post with a rising drive early in the second half. 

    However, it was United who grabbed the pivotal second goal in the game. Shaw carried the ball from deep and then continued his forward run after giving possession to Marcus Rashford, allowing the left-back to take the return pass and drag a low shot through Rodri's legs and into the far corner. 

    City huffed and puffed but were unable to find a way to blow the United defence down, not aided by managing to put just five of their 21 attempts on target. While seemingly destined to finish the campaign on top of the table, they were second best to their rivals here.
     

     

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