Paris Saint-Germain surely sealed their place in the Champions League quarterfinals after recording a resounding 4-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the first leg of their last-16 tie at the BayArena.
The writing was on the wall from just the third minute when Blaise Matuidi put the visitors in front. From there it only got worse as Zlatan Ibrahimovic slotted in a penalty and then thundered a sensational shot into the net all before half-time. If any doubt about the outcome of the tie remained, Yohan Cabaye scored with two minutes remaining to complete the rout against what was then the 10 men of Leverkusen after Emir Spahic had been shown a second yellow card just before the hour mark.
The Ligue 1 leaders came into tie as heavy favorites, yet not even they could surely have anticipated just how comfortable it would be. But after going behind, a Leverkusen side based around keeping things tight at the back and who had lost four out of their last six matches, never looked like recovering.
Leverkusen had lost 5-0 at home to Manchester United earlier in the season and they similarly froze this time around. With the match still in its formative stages, experienced midfielder Simon Rolfes gave the ball away deep inside his own half and Marco Veratti slipped a ball through to Matuidi, whose low shot squeezed through Bernd Leno in the Leverkusen goal.
The home side gradually began to garner more possession, but showed little sign of threatening their opponents. And in the 39th minute, they fell two goals behind courtesy of a contentious penalty. From Maxwell’s cross, Ezequiel Lavezzi went down under challenge from Spahic and, despite few appeals, the referee pointed to the spot and gave the Bosnian defender his first booking. Ibrahimovic made no mistake in stroking home the penalty.
If that finish was simple for Ibrahimovic, the Swede then showed once more just how capable he is of the spectacular. Matuidi received a cross with his back to goal and just managed to help it back to Ibrahimovic just outside the box and the in-form striker unleashed an unstoppable drive with his left foot into the top corner. It was his 10th goal of the Champions League and 34th overall in what is shaping up to be perhaps the best season of his glittering career.
Spahic was then shown his marching orders to make Leverkusen’s task even more arduous after a clash with Lucas Moura. And the punishment was then complete in the 88th minute. Lucas gathered Maxwell’s cross from the byline and knocked the ball back for Cabaye who placed a side-footed shot superbly into the top corner.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.