Paris: Paris St Germain’s (PSG) Angel Di Maria was at his vintage best as he scored twice on his birthday in a 4-0 first leg demolition of a ragged Barcelona side here Tuesday night who now have a mountain to climb in their Champions League last 16 clash.
The Argentina winger, 29, scored in each half with PSG’s Germany midfielder Julian Draxler and Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani also finding the net as the French champions tore apart a disorganized Barca side who have it all to do in the return.
While the PSG players operated slickly, Barca looked ragged and insipid. No doubt, after their flawless display at the Parc des Princes here, they have put themselves in a commanding position ahead of the March 8 second leg at the Camp Nou.
Five-time European champions Barca, with their trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar subdued, have not exited in the last 16 since going out to Liverpool in the 2006/07 season and the score equalled their worst Champions league loss.
“It’s impossible to have a better performance and birthday. I’m very happy with how the team played. It was a wonderful display, fully deserved,” said Di Maria after the game.
The only concern for home coach Unai Emery was the loss of the impressive Marco Verratti to a leg injury in the second half after the Italy international had put on a world class display with fellow midfielder Adrien Rabiot.
PSG were dangerous on the break from the start and came close to scoring in the 11th minute when captain Blaise Matuidi’s rasping shot was brilliantly parried by keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen after a perfect through ball from Rabiot.
The home side, however, were rewarded seven minutes later, though, when Di Maria whipped a free-kick over the wall into the net.
Barcelona continued to play their patient possession game but failed to threaten and their apparent complacency was punished again five minutes before the break. Messi lost the ball in midfield and Verratti slid a perfectly weighted ball to the right for Draxler, who fired a low shot into the far bottom corner of the net.
PSG started the second half strongly and went further ahead in the 55th minute when Di Maria danced around Andres Iniesta before curling a 25-metre shot past Ter Stegen.
However, the third goal did not stop PSG from moving forward and they scored their fourth when Cavani, who was celebrating his 30th birthday, rifled a low shot past Ter Stegen for his seventh goal in seven games in the competition this season.
Barca had a chance to get an away goal seven minutes from time but Samuel Umtiti’s header hit Kevin Trapp’s right-hand post and Luis Enrique’s side now face a huge challenge.
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