Xavi fumes at ‘disaster’ ref after PSG beat 10-player Barca in CL epic

Luis Enrique returned to Barcelona to knock his former club out of the Champions League as Kylian Mbappe inspired Paris Saint-Germain to a pulsating 4-1 second-leg victory, winning 6-4 on aggregate.

They fought back from 3-2 down in the first leg and 1-0 down on Tuesday night to progress to the final four, where they will face Borussia Dortmund for a place in Wembley’s final.

Barcelona extended their lead on the night when Raphinha converted Lamine Yamal’s cross (12). But the game turned on referee Istvan Kovacs’ decision to send off Ronald Araujo for a professional foul (29) on Bradley Barcola.

PSG were ruthless in making their numerical advantage count as they hauled themselves back into the tie through Ousmane Dembele before half-time (40).

Referee Istvan Kovacs, left, shows a red card to Ronald Araujo
Referee Istvan Kovacs, left, shows a red card to Ronald Araujo

Enrique’s side didn’t take their foot off the gas upon the restart as Vintinha levelled the contest with a fine strike (54) before a rash challenge from Joao Cancelo in the box allowed Mbappe to put the French club ahead on aggregate (61).

With Barcelona committing players forward in the closing stages, Mbappe stretched PSG’s lead after pouncing on a poor clearance from Jules Kounde after Marc-Andre ter Stegen had saved his initial effort to cap a breathless night at the Estadio Olimpico de Montjuic.

Barcelona's Joao Cancelo conceded the crucial penalty
Barcelona’s Joao Cancelo conceded the crucial penalty

Xavi complained bitterly to referee Kovacs and ended up being shown a red card himself, which did not stop him going back to the pitch at the final whistle to voice his frustration again at the Romanian official.

“The referee was really bad. I told him his performance was a disaster. I don’t like to talk about referees, but it had a clear impact in the season and it has to be said,” Xavi told Movistar Plus.

“We are very upset and angry because the red card was the decisive factor in the match. With 11 (players) we were in a good position, playing well and in command.

Kylian Mbappe scored twice in a Champions League classic
Kylian Mbappe scored twice in a Champions League classic

“It’s too much to flash a red card in a game like this. There was another game after that… It is a pity that the work of the season was ruined by an unnecessary expulsion.”

PSG will now play Dortmund in the semi-finals, having already met them in the group phase of this season’s competition. The German team also performed a turnaround in their tie with Atletico Madrid, responding to last week’s 2-1 defeat in Spain with a 4-2 win in their second leg, resulting in a 5-4 aggregate triumph.

How PSG made extra man count…

PSG's Vitinha celebrates with PSG's Achraf Hakimi
PSG’s Vitinha celebrates with PSG’s Achraf Hakimi

Barcelona got off to the perfect start when Raphinha got in front of Achraf Hakimi to meet Yamal’s inviting cross. In providing the assist aged 16 years and 278 days, Yamal became the youngest player to register a goal involvement in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

But when Araujo brought down Barcola outside the box as he ran onto Nuno Mendes’ pass, the hosts were reduced to 10 men and had over an hour to limit PSG to a single goal.

That came when Dembele arrived at the far post to meet Barcola’s low cross in front of Joao Cancelo, temporarily silencing the crowd that jeered the former Barcelona player throughout.

Barcelona's Raphinha celebrates his early opener
Barcelona’s Raphinha celebrates his early opener

Dembele again impressed for PSG against his old club
Dembele again impressed for PSG against his old club

Vitinha drilled the French champions into the lead on the night and Barcelona’s frustration extended to their manager Xavi, who was sent off for kicking some water bottles.

The Spanish club’s misery was complete when Mbappe was on target from the penalty spot after Cancelo had brought down Dembele inside the box.

As Barca tried to find a goal to take the game to extra-time, Mbappe made the most of a counter attack to score from close-range and wrap up a semi-final place against Borussia Dortmund.


Player of the match – Ousmane Dembele

Ousmane Dembele hauls PSG level on the night
Ousmane Dembele hauls PSG level on the night

Dembele scored in consecutive UEFA Champions League games for the first time since October 2020 (with Barcelona), with the Frenchman the first player to score away against Barca after previously playing for them in the competition since Zlatan Ibrahimovic, also for Paris, in December 2014.

Dembele told Canal+: “Everyone believed (we could qualify), even if we lost the first leg 3-2. We didn’t give up, we knew we were going to score goals here. A big shift from the whole team.

“We worked the entire week, tactically, with the coach. His tactics were perfect. Even though we conceded the first goal, we didn’t let our heads drop. We continued to believe.”

Analysis: Araujo red card very harsh

Araujo, left, and PSG's Fabian Ruiz argue after the red card
Araujo, left, and PSG’s Fabian Ruiz argue after the red card

Analysis by Sky Sports’ Tim Sherwood:

“It was a huge decision from the referee to send off Araujo. When Raphinha puts them further ahead, you think Barcelona are in control. They were starting to pass the ball and keep it away from PSG.

“All of a sudden, Araujo got the wrong side of Barcola and he brings him down. He puts his arm on his shoulder but I thought it was a very harsh red card.

“VAR looked at it but it was never going to get overturned. He decided it was a red and the game just changed. Dembele haunted his old club and then Mbappe stepped up. It was a disastrous challenge from Cancelo on Dembele for the penalty.

“I think it’s going to be an uphill task for Dortmund. It is a 50-50 game but the winners of this competition comes from the other side of the draw.”

Xavi: Sending off cost us the game

Araujo protests his innocence but is sent off
Araujo protests his innocence but is sent off

Barcelona boss Xavi: “When it was 11 against 11, we were well organized. The match changed completely. We had a chance to make it 2-2 when Gundo (Ilkay Gundogan) hit the post and Robert (Lewandowski) had a chance to make it 2-0 when he shot over.

“Big chances but when you are chasing a match with 10 men, it’s always much harder. I’d have loved to see what would have happened if it stayed 11 against 11. I think we’ve dignified ourselves in this Champions League campaign and Barcelona will be back to try and be even better next time.

“We weren’t sure about what changes to make when Ronald was sent off. Pedri was coming back from a muscle injury but we wanted the type of control of possession and good use of the ball he brings and we wanted the running power of Raphinha.

“We chose to replace Lamine, sadly so that Inigo could come on. Those are the kind of consequences which follow being reduced to 10 men, I’m afraid.”

Enrique: Our pressing was key to victory

PSG's Vitinha celebrates after levelling the tie
PSG’s Vitinha celebrates after levelling the tie

Paris Saint-Germain boss Luis Enrique: “This has been super difficult playing against Barcelona. In sentimental, emotional terms for me. And in football terms I’d like not to have to play them too many more times. I’m super contented to have gone through though.

“The best feeling when you are a player or a coach is seeing that your work makes people happy. There’s nothing better than that. You can’t buy that feeling. The feeling of getting something special for the club is great. Now we need to cope with the final and try to get ourselves to the final.”

On his team: “He (Mbappe) was a leader from start to finish, and when a team senses that a player as important as him is ready to bring everyone with him, you make the most of it. I’d like to speak about Vitinha, too: he battles, he has the quality in his final ball. Dembele was superb as well, even if it was difficult for him to play here too.”

Mbappe proves the difference again – Opta stats

  • Only Cristiano Ronaldo (23 goals in 39 games) has netted more away from home in the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League than Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappé (15 in 12 games) with the Frenchman netting more in the competition against Barcelona than against any other side (6).
  • Paris Saint-Germain boss Luis Enrique is the first ex-Barcelona manager to eliminate the Spanish side from a UEFA Champions League knockout stage tie and only the third Spaniard to do so after Rafael Benítez with Liverpool in 2006-07 (round of 16) and Vicente del Bosque with Real Madrid in 2001-02 (semi-finals).
  • The only two instances of Barcelona conceding 4 or more goals in a home UEFA Champions League/European Cup knockout game have come at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain, who also beat the Spaniards 4-1 at Camp Nou in February 2021 in the Last 16.
  • In their 16th UEFA Champions League campaign, Paris Saint-Germain have reached the semi-finals of the competition for only the fourth time, also doing so in 1994-95, 2019-20 and 2020-21.

What’s next?

Barcelona visit LaLiga leaders Real Madrid in El Clasico on Sunday April 21. Kick-off 8pm. Barca can close the gap on Real to five points with a win.

PSG return to Ligue 1 action, which they lead by 10 points, at home to Lyon on Sunday. Kick-off 8pm.

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Hits and misses: Dembele relishes role as scourge of Barcelona

Dembele relishes role as scourge of Barcelona

Ousmane Dembele sparked PSG's impressive comeback
Ousmane Dembele sparked PSG’s impressive comeback

Barcelona ran out at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys armed with a 3-2 triumph from their first meeting in Paris and when Raphinha capitalised on Lamine Yamal’s skilful approach work to fire in the opener, they had sight of the last four.

But that all changed in the 29th minute when defender Ronald Araujo was sent off for tripping winger Bradley Barcola on the edge of the area, VAR confirming the on-field decision for a red card.

PSG didn’t look back. The pressure built on the home goal and Barcelona self-imploded. Joao Cancelo, culpable for Ousmane Dembele’s goal before the break, then brought down the same player inside the box as Kylian Mbappe completed an impressive turnaround.

Xavi had hoped his Barcelona farewell would end with silverware at Wembley following a 13-game unbeaten run since he confirmed his summer departure back in January. But here he was dismissed for kicking pitchside water bottles as hopes of a fairytale ending went down the drain.

For Dembele, jeered throughout by the home supporters, this was the sort of performance which made him Barcelona’s second-most expensive signing when he joined for £135m in 2017.

When the 26-year-old moved to PSG last summer, he was earmarked as Mbappe’s replacement, but he is only just starting to replicate the attacking output required to be mentioned in the same breath as the player who, with 48 goals, has equalled Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the 10th-highest scorer in Champions League history.

For now, PSG are more than happy to have them both in search of their Holy Grail.
Ben Grounds

Xavi blows lid but Barcelona have themselves to blame

Xavi struggled to contain his emotions at full time
Xavi struggled to contain his emotions at full time

Xavi Hernandez berated the referee and said his performance cost Barcelona a chance to fight for a place in the Champions League semi-finals – but there was little in the way of injustice to the Catalans’ elimination.

Barcelona were in control when they were reduced to 10 just before the half-hour after last man Araujo was shown a red card for a foul on Bradley Barcola.

Xavi complained bitterly to referee Istvan Kovacs. “I told him his performance was a disaster.” A frank admission, but Barcelona were incapable of managing the game.

Joao Cancelo, who was deemed surplus to requirements by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, demonstrated why he is better at going forward than defending in two moments which cost Barcelona the tie.

First, he fell asleep at the far post to allow Dembele to reduce the deficit before he then fouled the same player in the 61st minute with a sliding tackle to concede a penalty that Kylian Mbappe fired into the top corner to move the visitors in front in the tie.

Barcelona’s exit from the Champions League sent Atletico Madrid to the inaugural 32-team Club World Cup in the United States next year as Spain’s second representative. All-in-all, a bleak night for the Blaugrana.
Ben Grounds

Sabitzer reminds Man Utd of what might of been

Marcel Sabitzer
Marcel Sabitzer celebrates his winner against Atlei

Marcel Sabitzer showed glimpses of his obvious talent during last season’s six-month loan stay at Man Utd, albeit not enough to convince manager Erik ten Hag to turn his short-term stay at Old Trafford into a permanent move last summer.

However, given the Austria international’s impressive display to help his side edge through to the Champions League semi-finals after a 5-4 aggregate win over Atletico Madrid, maybe United and Ten Hag erred in that decision.

The 30-year-old joined Borussia Dortmund instead in July and has so far contributed six goals and eight assists in 34 games in total, including two assists and a goal to help see off Atleti in a rousing quarter-final on Tuesday.

And just when his side needed him, Sabitzer first produced a wonderful cross from the left flank which Niclas Fullkrug headed home, before scoring the winner minutes later with a characteristic long-range strike.
Richard Morgan

Defence proves Atleti’s Achilles heel for once

When Angel Correa thumped Atleico 4-3 ahead on aggregate with just 25 minutes left to play at the Westfalenstadion, this pulsating last-eight tie appeared to have taken its final twist.

However, there was always this nagging feeling that this Atleti side did not have the usual DNA of most Diego Simeone teams in that they had appeared defensively weak throughout the two ties.

And as it proved as back roared Dortmund to score twice themselves in quick time and the post-match stats said it all as the visitors conceded four or more goals in a Champions League knockout stage game for just the second time, while they also gave up five shots on target in the first half of a Champions League knockout stage match for the first time since May 2017.

Ultimately, that was to prove decisive as Simeone’s men just could not hold on for another semi-final appearance.
Richard Morgan

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