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Mar 6, 2013

PSG through after draw against Valencia

Paris Saint-Germain slugged rather than sashayed its way through to the Champions League quarterfinals after drawing with Valencia 1-1 at the Parc des Princes.

It took the jolt of a fine Valencia goal from Jonas early in the second half to rouse the home side, and Ezequiel Lavezzi's equalizer secured a draw on the night and a narrow aggregate win.

It was Lavezzi's second goal of the tie after he and Javier Pastore scored in Spain three weeks ago. PSG was in full control at the Mestalla until a dramatic injury-time period saw Adil Rami pull a goal back and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off, making Wednesday's second leg increasingly complicated on two counts.

Ibrahimovic was given a two-match ban by UEFA, and the Sweden striker was certainly missed on the field for this return leg as he watched from the stands. Without him, the home side was toothless in the first half. The hosts certainly did not appear a side capable of reaching the Wembley final on May 25, but on they go.

Those looking for romance forged at home in the story of Parisian resurgence might prefer to overlook the fact it has been funded by overseas money, since the 2011 takeover by the Qatar Investment Authority.

PSG's budget is more Champions League than Ligue 1, and the personnel brought to the Parc des Princes over the last two years reflects it.

The sudden wealth means tangible success in Europe is a requisite, so winning in Spain three weeks ago was not the achievement it might have been considered before the takeover and more another step in the plan for growth.

PSG, founded in 1970, is unbeaten in its last 23 European home matches now but they were clinging on at the end as Valencia sought the goal that would have forced extra-time.

With Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti suspended, and winger Jeremy Menez injured, manager Carlo Ancelotti -- who won the Champions League in 2003 and 2007 with AC Milan -- had a weakened hand before kickoff.

Lucas started alongside Lavezzi in attack.

There was no room in the starting XI for David Beckham, squeezed out of central midfield by Thiago Motta and Blaise Matuidi. The former England captain was primed on the bench but stayed there.

PSG fans might have been wary that its expensively-assembled team is prone to aberrations, such as its league defeat to Reims at the weekend.

Jonas almost got in behind the home defense in the eighth minute but a foot in by Christophe Jallet denied him.

Valencia had a further chance when Jonas linked up with strike partner Roberto Soldado. Salvatore Sirigu smothered his low 15-yard shot.

In midfield, Valencia had David Albelda, a veteran of the club's 2000 and 2001 Champions League final squads. He was an unlikely matchwinner, and a 30-yard shot from the 35-year-old flew way off target. Two minutes later and he was booked for tugging Matuidi to ground.

Jonas sent a 20-yard shot bobbling wide, and Tino Costa cracked an ambitious effort several yards off target.

Sirigu palmed away a stinging 20-yard drive from Jonas just before the break, but it was a ball he might have caught.

From the corner that followed, Costa struck the ball so sweetly it was missed by everyone in blue and red, and also his team-mates as it swerved wide of the far post.

Ever Banega stepped out in place of Albelda for the second half, an attacking move by Valencia.

Jonas made the breakthrough in the 55th minute with a crashing 25-yard drive inside the left post.

Valencia had more zip about their game, but PSG were level 11 minutes later though and it was Lavezzi who woke the home crowd from an understandable stupor. Kevin Gameiro, on in place of Thiago Motta, bustled through a couple of challenges before the ball rolled kindly for his teammate.

Vicente Guaita repelled Lavezzi's 15-yard blast but could then do nothing to prevent him tucking the ball over the line with his knee.

Clement Chantome's 25-yard swipe drew a solid save from Guaita, with PSG on top for perhaps the first time in the match.

Valencia poured pressure on the Paris goal in the closing minutes but they struggled to get in behind as their campaign reached its end.

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