Messi to rescue for Barcelona

Lionel Messi stepped off the bench to rescue Barcelona's UEFA Champions League bid as they advanced to the semi-finals on away goals at the expense of Paris Saint Germain after drawing 1-1 in the second leg and 3-3 on aggregate.

Last Updated: 10/04/13 at 22:57 Post Comment   

Pedro celebrates after scoring for Barcelona

Pedro celebrates after scoring for Barcelona

With the Argentina ace deemed only fit enough for a place on the bench following his hamstring injury in the first leg, Barcelona lacked their usual swagger and PSG took a deserved lead in the 50th minute through Javier Pastore.

But the introduction of Messi in the 62nd minute changed the mentality and belief of the home side, with their talismanic forward the architect of Pedro's equaliser just nine minutes later.

Former England captain David Beckham was another star name who had to make do with a place among the substitutes having started last week, with Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta selected in central midfield as Blaise Matuidi was suspended following his yellow card at the Parc des Princes.

Xavi had a number of the home fans in Camp Nou on their feet in only the second minute as his free-kick curled up and over the wall and away from the diving Salvatore Sirigu only to ripple the side-netting, and that was as close as they came in a rare 45-minute spell where they failed to get a shot on target.

As ever, there was plenty of possession for the home side, but their passing lacked penetration and Victor Valdes was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers in the first half, with Lucas providing the main threat for the visitors with his powerful runs.

The Barca goalkeeper had to be alert in the 14th minute to deny Lucas' low drive from the edge of the box and was called into action again as the half-hour mark approached to push a powerful header from the Brazil international up and over the bar after an excellent deep cross from Ibrahimovic.

PSG took a deserved lead in the 50th minute after a lightning counter-attack with Zlatan Ibrahimovic linking superbly with Pastore, although the chance looking to have gone as the latter took the ball wide before lifting his shot over Valdes and into the net.

Pastore had a chance to double their advantage eight minutes later when he was again played in by Ibrahimovic, only to skew his shot horribly wide, with Barca coach Tito Vilanova turning to Messi to change the game.

His arrival lifted the crowd and his team-mates, with Andres Iniesta cutting into the box after a one-two with David Villa before curling in a shot which Sirigu pushed away and Messi could not get the rebound out from under his feet.

But there was no stopping the diminutive ace in the 71st minute as he unlocked the PSG defence to feed David Villa, with the forward rolling the ball back into Pedro's path to drill his shot home.

Carlo Ancelotti turned to Beckham as the clock ran down but his only contribution was to pick up a booking for dissent, with another moment of Iniesta magic seeing Barcelona go close as he turned Christophe Jallet inside and out before drilling into the side netting.

BarcelonaTeam StatisticsParis Saint Germain
1Goals1
01st Half Goals0
2Shots on Target8
9Shots off Target5
12Blocked Shots3
7Corners5
11Fouls16
2Offsides5
1Yellow Cards3
0Red Cards0
89.3Passing Success77.5
4Tackles23
75Tackles Success73.9
63Possession37
60Territorial Advantage40
617Total Passes351
20Total Crosses13
134Lost Balls121
56Recoveries60
64.11st Half Poss.35.9
63.42nd Half Poss.36.6

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may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

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ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

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