Paris Saint-Germain did just enough to secure progress into the Champions League quarterfinals as they came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Valencia at the Parc des Princes and claim a 3-2 aggregate win.
The 2-1 victory PSG secured in Spain three weeks ago in the end proved decisive as Valencia were unable to do enough to overturn the deficit, despite Jonas opening the scoring early in the second half in Paris. Ezequiel Lavezzi equalized shortly after to restore composure to the home side and they were able to hold out for a prized if unconvincing win.
As well as conceding a late goal in Valencia, PSG had also lost Zlatan Ibrahimovic to suspension after the enigmatic Swede saw red both figuratively and literally in injury time. Without his presence in attack, through whom so much of PSG’s play tends to go, the home side struggled for cohesion going forward throughout the second leg.
But with Valencia needing to score twice, manager Carlo Ancelotti was clearly more concerned about his PSG side not conceding and left Lavezzi isolated up front for much of the contest.
PSG sat back for large periods, handing the initiative to Valencia to try and break them down but Ernesto Valverde’s side struggled to mount any attacks of note. When they did get going their final ball was desperately lacking.
The best moment for the visitors in the opening period came after some neat link up play created half a chance for Roberto Soldado. The striker had a clean sight of goal on the edge of the box, but his effort lacked power and produced a fairly comfortable save from Salvatore Sirigu.
Valencia’s only other openings of note in an instantly forgettable 45 minutes resulted in shots from around 20 yards from Jonas, the first of which was parried away by Sirigu before the Brazilian failed to make good contact after a pullback from the right.
While PSG did very little with the ball, Lucas Moura gave occasional glimpses that his lighting-quick feet could pose a real threat. Early on it was the Brazilian’s trickery and pace that created a glimpse of goal on the right but he fired wide from an improbable angle.
It remained, though, very much a case of whether Valencia could capitalize on PSG’s lack of impetus. Within 10 minutes of the second half, out of nowhere, they did.
A poor square pass by substitute Gregory van der Wiel 25 yards from his own goal allowed Tino Costa to steal possession from Blaise Matuidi. Jonas took over and this time hit a far crisper shot than his earlier efforts that may have got a slight deflection off defender Alex before flying into the net off, with Sirigu's fingertips unable to keep it at bay.
Ancelotti immediately responded by bringing on a more orthodox No. 9 in Kevin Gameiro and the move paid almost instant dividends. The France international’s industry had already added something to the PSG side before he stole possession on the halfway line and drove into the penalty area. Although Gameiro ran into two Valencia defenders, the ball rolled favorably into the path of his forward colleague. Lavezzi’s initial attempt was blocked low down by Guaita but the ball fortunately bounced straight back to the Argentinian and he made no mistake at the second time of asking.
Although the goal gave the Parc des Princes crowd a lift, it did not change the fact that Valencia still needed another goal, although now the outcome would be extra time.
Predictably, it was the Spanish outfit that controlled possession for the remaining minutes, but despite the finely poised score line Valencia never truly looked like taking the match into extra time.
Ancelotti’s unsubtle tactics had proved successful on the night, but the return of Ibrahimovic for the second leg of the quarterfinals is likely to come too late to see PSG progress any further in this season’s Champions League.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.