Paris Saint-Germain will take a 2-1 lead into the second leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie against Valencia, but a dramatic late turn of events handed the Spanish side a lifeline.
Going into the 90th minute at the Mestalla, the French league leaders appeared in cruise control thanks to first-half goals from Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore. However, French international centre-back Adil Rami found the net in the final minute to keep Valencia in the tie, before Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent-off for a studs-up challenge on Andres Guardado.
Despite the ending, for much of the evening this was a classic away European performance from Ancelotti’s side, who ceded possession to their hosts but were always a threat on the counter-attack.
With Lucas, Pastore and Lavezzi buzzing with energy it was no surprise when PSG went ahead after 10 minutes. Pastore’s perfect wall-pass reconnected with Lavezzi and the Argentinian international dispatched the ball past Vicente Guaita.
PSG allowed Valencia to dominate possession after that, but they were always a menace on the break, especially down the home side’s left, where the attack-minded Guardado had been forced to fill in for the injured Aly Cissokho and Jeremy Mathieu.
Then, as half-time approached, another classy counter-attack sucked the wind out of Valencia’s sails. Again Lucas was instrumental. He twisted and turned Guardado and centred. Rami anticipated incorrectly, stepping the wrong way; Ricardo Costa and Daniel Parejo left too much space and Pastore stood one pace back to score with venom.
The introduction of Sergio Canales and Nelson Valdez in the second half added some invention and energy but, again, the French league leaders imposed themselves. Lavezzi sliced wide a clear chance, chipped the ball into Guaita’s hands moments later in a one-on-one situation, and then interchanged passes with Ibrahimović to send the Sweden captain in on goal – but to no avail.
A third goal was merited, but Valencia finally found a route back into the contest as Rami appeared unmarked in the area to head home a trademark dead-ball delivery from Tino Costa shortly before Ibrahimovic was given his marching orders.