PSG benefit from silly Barcelona duo as Mbappe makes Champions League anonymity irrelevant

Jason Soutar
Kylian Mbappe celebrates as Marc-Andre ter Stegen sits on the floor
Kylian Mbappe celebrates as Marc-Andre ter Stegen sits on the floor

Kylian Mbappe was nowhere near his best for the second week in a row against Barcelona but he scored the goals to send Paris Saint-Germain into the last four of the Champions League, which makes 180 minutes of mediocrity irrelevant.

He did have two silly Barca players to thank, mind.

France captain Mbappe was anonymous at best as PSG fell to a disappointing 3-2 home defeat to a Xavi masterclass at Parc des Princes last week but he eventually carried his team-mates over the line despite being fairly underwhelming once again.

Before we get into all of that, we must give an early mention to Ronald Araujo. What a silly, silly boy you are.

The Uruguayan may deserve the benefit of the doubt because he had a decision to make in a split second with a very fast footballer running in on goal, but we are not giving him that. His first-half red card turned the tie on its head with Barcelona leading 4-2 on aggregate.

Raphinha – who was the star of the show last week, scoring his first two Champions League goals – opened the scoring on the night to put Barcelona two goals up in the tie for the first time. PSG were threatening but Barcelona were able to keep to the anti-tiki-taka game plan that served them well in Paris six nights ago.

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That was until it became 10 against 11 when it was absolutely avoidable.

With Barcola running in on goal, Araujo decided the best thing to do was take him down just outside the box, which was the worst thing he could have done. Barcola was not guaranteed to score his one-on-one with Marc-Andre ter Stegen and had the foul taken place two yards further forward, Mbappe was not guaranteed to convert the penalty.

Even if PSG did make it 4-3 on aggregate, you would still fancy Barcelona to qualify with all 22 starters on the pitch.

With the score differential at two and Luis Enrique’s side a man up, you knew the Blaugrana would do very, very well to stop the visitors from scoring two with no reply.

Eleven minutes after Aruajo’s 29th-minute red card, former Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele converted a cross from the bright Barcola to set fear amongst all those in the famous red and blue. Xavi’s side looked incredibly exposed, even for being at a deserved disadvantage.

It was not Mbappe forcing the issue, although he had two big chances in the first half; Barcola and Dembele were carrying the PSG attack while Vitinha and Fabian Ruiz were trying to influence what felt like an inevitable comeback for the Parisiens.

It was Vitinha who got PSG ahead on the night and level on aggregate, with Mbappe still not stepping up and Barcelona close to waving the white flag.

And then the second silly sod of the night emerged to give Mbappe the chance to stamp his authority on the tie and keep his dream of bringing the Champions League to Paris for the first time alive.

Dembele failed to properly control a pass which meant he was going nowhere dangerous with the ball, in our eyes anyway. Joao Cancelo obviously felt there was an imminent danger to Ter Stegen’s goal as he blindly dived in and gave the referee no choice but to award a penalty, which only one man was going to take.

Up stepped Mbappe and he had his moment, smashing his spot-kick into the top corner and giving Ter Stegen no chance whatsoever. As far as great penalties go, that one is right up there. Kylian Mbappe scoring in Barcelona while wearing an all-white kit, by the way? Something tells me we will be seeing more of that.

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No matter how poorly Mbappe played in the 150 minutes that preceded his first goal of a tie with eight of the bad boys, he scored the goal to put his side ahead on aggregate. Was he helped by Araujo and Cancelo? Yes. Will he give a toss? Not on your Nellie. It was a clutch goal from a clutch player.

Barca tried to level things up on aggregate but were wounded by the fatal red card after 29 minutes. 3-1 down on the night, they were battered, bruised, demoralised, and their manager had been sent off for losing his temper. It was a foregone conclusion.

Salt was well and truly rubbed in the Barca wounds in the 89th minute when none other than Mbappe ensured PSG would reach the last four of the Champions League, where they will face group rivals Borussia Dortmund. Any solace in that, Newcastle fans? Didn’t think so. I’d still be pissed off as well.

We were in the process of calling Jules Kounde the third silly Barca boy as it looked like he assisted his France team-mate, but the replays showed that his clearance bounced off Fermin’s bum and straight into the path of a very grateful Mbappe, who went from being PSG’s worst player across both legs to being the reason they are two games away from Wembley.

Mbappe’s dream of leaving Paris for Madrid after bringing the Champions League to the French capital remains alive. Any chance of Xavi staying on beyond the end of 2023/24 has now dissipated.

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