Paris Saint-Germain survived an upset-minded Barcelona to reach the Champions League quarterfinals, 5-2 on aggregate, after a 1-1 draw in their second leg in Paris on Wednesday.
Barcelona, looking to repeat their famous remontada against PSG in March of 2017, dominated play in the first half but it was the hosts who struck first through Kylian Mbappe after he was awarded a penalty for going down under minimal contact near the half-hour mark. The France international then calmly converted from eight yards.
The goal made Mbappe the youngest player ever to reach 25 goals in the Champions League (22 years and 80 days).
Lionel Messi struck back with a spectacular goal seven minutes later when he picked up a pass near midfield, took a couple touches and unleashed a thunderous strike past a helpless Keylor Navas from 30 yards out.
The goal was his 14th UCL goal from outside the area since 2010-11, which is tied with Cristiano Ronaldo for the most in that span. The goal also snapped a five-game scoreless streak in road UCL knockout matches, and was his first such goal since Feb. 20, 2018 when he scored at Chelsea.
Messi had to chance to pile more pressure on PSG before the break when Antoine Griezmann won a penalty in stoppage time. But Navas guessed correctly and pushed the Argentine’s attempt onto the crossbar to keep the match even at half-time.
Barcelona continued to give PSG fits in the second half, attacking in waves and constantly pulling defenders out of position. But they could not find the touches needed to convert their many chances into goals and suffered their first round-of-16 exit since the 2006-07 campaign.
“We suffered a lot in the first half, and psychologically it was a test for us. I gathered that the past was something that was talked about a lot here,” PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said.
“We were better in the second half, we were more competitive.”
Barca coach Ronald Koeman tried to remain upbeat.
“We are departing this Champions League in a very different manner from the way we did last season. In this game, we hit our level and that’s the road we have to follow,” said Koeman, referring to the team’s 8-2 aggregate defeat in the quarter-finals by Bayern Munich last year.
The draw for the quarterfinals will take place on March 19.