Blaise Matuidi’s equaliser with virtually the last kick of the game clinched a draw for Paris Saint-Germain in a pulsating Champions League quarter-final first leg against Barcelona.
PSG will head to the Camp Nou with optimism next week partly because of the injuries that have hit Barcelona. Defenders Puyol, Adriano and Mascherano will all miss the second leg, as will Lionel Messi who left at halftime with a hamstring injury.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side were not overwhelmed by the visit of the best team in Europe and nearly went ahead inside five minutes when Ezequiel Lavezzi was first to Javier Pastore’s chest-down and jinked past Gerard Piqué, only to see his shot come back off the post.
Víctor Valdés saved Pastore’s long-range effort, then pushed away an Ibrahimović free-kick as the Ligue 1 leaders continued to push. The Swedish international had another chance after being released by the rampaging Lucas on 26 minutes, but he fired wide when he should have scored.
Barcelona then punished PSG for their lack of finishing when Daniel Alves’s superb pass over the top picked out Messi. It was Barca’s first clear opportunity and Messi made no mistake, rifling a brilliant first-time strike across Salvatore Sirigu and inside the far post.
Into the second half, Barcelona were firmly on control of the game, even without Messi and Alexis Sánchez wasted a good chance before both Alves and Xavi went close from direct free-kicks.
But Ancelotti showed why he is still one of the best managers in the world, as he substitutions in the form of érémy Ménez, Marco Verratti and Kevin Gameiro, changed the game.
Ibrahimović was denied by Valdés from point-blank range after pouncing on Gameiro’s lay-off, but then moments later the former Barca striker scored from close range after Thiago Silva had headed Maxwell’s free-kick against the post. Replays showed that Ibra was clearly in an offside position when the free kick came, in, but despite having five officials on the pitch, none of them saw it.
The game seemed to be heading to a 1-1 draw when with two minutes to go, Alexis Sánchez was brought down by Sirigu in the box and Xavi sent the Italian the wrong way from the spot.
That appeared to be the winner, but the drama was not over, as Ibra won a long ball in the box and Matuidi’s shot took a deflection and snuck past Victor Valdes.
With Barcelona’s injuries and defensive frailties, PSG will feel that they can go to the Camp Nou and score. And Barcelona are not the same side without Messi. But as AC Milan found out in the last round, you count Barca out at your peril.