How Barcelona blew up against PSG: Four goals, three red cards, one meltdown

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Barcelona had the Champions League semi-finals within reach.

After beating Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 in the first leg of their quarter-final at the Parc des Princes last week, a place in the last four for the first time since 2019 presented itself after Raphinha passed the ball over the line after 12 minutes. of the return match on Tuesday.

It should have been easy from there: 4-2 on aggregate, in front of their home crowd and with PSG there.

But we are talking about Barcelona, ​​a club that does not do things simply. Whether it’s the emotional departure of Lionel Messi, teaching the football world about financial “levers” or the emergence of a generation of La Masia academy graduates with the potential to compete with the all-conquering group of the 2000s, Barcelona have regularly oscillated from brilliant to basket cases since that historic semi-final collapse against Liverpool in May 2019.

And it was one of their craziest nights – not quite on par with that Anfield nightmare, but painful nonetheless. Here’s how it went…

29 minutes: An unnecessary red card

Having barely received the ball from midfielder Frenkie de Jong in his own half, defender Ronald Araujo had several passing options in front of him.

Jules Kounde was available on the right via a lobbed pass to PSG left winger Bradley Barcola, and Robert Lewandowski was also there in support if Araujo could find him beyond PSG midfielder Fabian Ruiz. To his right was Ilkay Gundogan, retreating into space to be in position to receive the ball.

And it was Gundogan who Araujo chose to play against, but his pass was poorly executed. It fell into the path of PSG left-back Nuno Mendes, who first struck a perfectly weighted ball for Barcola, who charged down the visitors’ left wing and towards the penalty box.

Instead of retreating to defend his goal, Araujo ran straight towards Barcola, a decision that former Manchester United and England centre-back Rio Ferdinand, working as a pundit for British television channel TNT Sports, described as “overconfidence in one’s physical abilities.”

If he had been “less naive”, according to Ferdinand, Araujo would have sprinted closer to the goal and away from the ball, which could have meant that Barcola would have had to beat him one-on-one – an aspect of Barcelona’s defense Araujo. excels in. According to Ferdinand, Araujo panicked while trying to recover the ball immediately, and the effects were costly.

Barcola got the ball first and took his first touch perfectly, flicking it over Araujo and towards goal while still in his stride. Realizing his man was heading towards goal with only goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen to beat, Araujo collided with Barcola, leaving Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs no choice but to send him off.

Without Barcelona’s most experienced central defender, PSG’s talented forward line has become more influential.

Eleven minutes after Araujo’s red card, Barcola crossed for former Barcelona player Ousmane Dembele to head home from inside the box, leveling the scores on the night.

54 minutes: negligence of the set piece

Although coach Xavi brought his players into halftime with a goal advantage on aggregate despite their personnel disadvantage, Barcelona lacked structure and organization after the break. While PSG’s attacking pace can hurt any team, allowing players to move into dangerous positions uncontested is inexcusable, even when reduced to 10 players.

PSG’s second goal of the evening came thanks to a quick corner routine. Fabian closed in on Dembele, the free-kick taker, drawing Barcelona defenders away from the center of their penalty area, but Dembele made a longer pass to Achraf Hakimi, positioned near the right front corner of the area…

Gundogan converged quickly on Hakimi as De Jong followed him, leaving Vitinha in yards of space near the D for a square ball…

Hakimi passed inside to Vitinha, who fired a powerful low effort into the bottom right corner. Now PSG were tied overall and sensing their opportunity.

56 minutes: Xavi loses ground

It is now that Xavi, having seen his players lose their discipline as detailed above, is following suit.

After De Jong was adjudged to have fouled Dembele near the halfway line, Xavi kicked a board protecting the television cameraman placed between him and his opposite number, Luis Enrique.

With just under 40 minutes of the 90 remaining to play, Barcelona were missing their star center back and head coach – and needed to score at least once to keep the tie alive.

59 min: Cancelo’s moment of madness

Three minutes later, Joao Cancelo added to the chaos by inflicting an inexplicable penalty.

With Dembélé’s poor first touch taking him away from goal, the sensible decision would have been to cut into space and guide him towards the corner flag.

Instead, Cancelo walked towards Dembélé and attempted a sliding tackle, failing to recover the ball as the PSG and France winger shielded him with his left foot.

Mbappe fired the resulting spot-kick past Ter Stegen, putting PSG’s 11 men 3-1 up on the night to Barcelona’s managerless 10, and 5-4 on aggregate.

66 minutes: Another red card…

After scoring so many big goals for Manchester City, it was no surprise to see Gundogan push Barcelona in pursuit of the aggregate equalizer. He approached again shortly after Mbappe’s first goal of the evening and saw a penalty ruled out by officials despite replays showing his foot had made contact with Vitinha’s leg.

Shortly afterwards, without Xavi to protest to the fourth official, goalkeeping coach José Ramon de la Fuente took on the responsibility on this occasion. Kovacs also gave him a red card for his troubles, the third he showed that evening.

89 minutes: The final blow

Despite Barcelona’s efforts after PSG’s third goal, the tie was put out of reach in the final minute of the 90.

Mbappe collected the ball on the edge of his own penalty area from a corner and passed it to Hakimi, who dribbled into space as the Barcelona defense left their defensive responsibilities in desperate search of an equalizer .

Hakimi passed the ball to Mbappe, who dribbled into the box. His first shot was saved by Ter Stegen.

The German also blocked Marco Asensio’s shot on the rebound, and the ball fell into Koundé’s path. He made a sliding clearance…

…however, he deflected and landed into the path of France teammate Mbappe, who hammered in from close range with his left foot.

After a one-goal lead at kick-off, Barcelona had managed to lose 4-1 on the night and 6-4 on aggregate: a destructive collapse almost entirely of their own making.

Game over, tie over, season over.

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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