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Horncastle: The end of the "Rafa-lution"?

Serie A about an hour ago
Read
Apr 2, 2013

Matuidi goal gives PSG tie against Barca

PARIS -- Blaise Matuidi equalized with the last kick of the match to earn Paris Saint-Germain a 2-2 draw against Barcelona in an eventful Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday, which saw Lionel Messi limp off injured at halftime after scoring the first goal.

Matuidi took an excellent knock-down from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and hit a low shot from the edge of the penalty area which was deflected and just squirmed under goalkeeper Victor Valdes in the fourth minute of injury time to send the home fans wild after PSG twice came from behind.

Messi, the four-time FIFA Player of the Year, scored his 57th goal of the season in the 38th minute, then favored his right leg in the final minutes of the first half and was replaced by Cesc Fabregas at the start of the second. Barcelona said Messi will undergo tests Wednesday on his right hamstring.

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano left on a stretcher in the 84th minute after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during a collision with teammate Jordi Alba. Already missing injured defenders Carles Puyol and Adriano Correia, Barcelona said Mascherano will be sidelined for six weeks.

"We've paid a heavy price, because we've lost Messi, and Mascherano for probably six to eight weeks," Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura said. "Of course it will be a big loss if we lose Messi, the best player in the world. But we have Cesc and other options, so we are confident from that point of view."

Xavi Hernandez seemed to have sealed the win with an 89th-minute penalty, after Ibrahimovic had canceled out Messi's first-half goal.

The draw gives PSG some hope for next week's return leg as Barcelona somehow failed to defend its late lead after Xavi's goal.

The penalty came after a superb passing move opened up PSG's defense on the left and Alexis Sanchez ran through before being tripped by goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu. With Messi normally taking Barcelona's penalties, Xavi dispatched the spot kick with all the composure of someone who has won two European Championships and a World Cup for Spain, and countless more titles with Barca.

PSG had the better of the opening half, letting Barcelona control possession but creating the more dangerous chances on counter attacks. Messi had almost completely contained until Dani Alves set him free in the area with a delicately lobbed pass, and the four-time player of the year clinically dispatched it into the far corner.

Ibrahimovic had wasted a couple of chances before stretching out a giant leg to poke the ball into the bottom corner after Thiago Silva's glancing header came back off the upright.

David Beckham was handed only his third start for PSG in central midfield alongside Matuidi, the former England captain's vast experience seeing him preferred to the inexperienced 20-year-old Marco Verratti, while Lucas shook off an ankle injury to start on the right wing. Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova welcomed back Xavi and Jordi Alba at left back.

Vilanova was back in charge for the first time since returning from a 10-week medical stay in New York, where he received treatment after the removal of a throat tumor in December.

PSG came close to scoring in the fifth minute when Javier Pastore chested the ball into the path of winger Ezequiel Lavezzi as he cut inside from the right of the area. Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets came across to tackle him and his clearance struck the post.

PSG played with great intensity in the first half and the darting runs of Lucas and Lavezzi stretched Barca's defense.

Ibrahimovic was hauled down after a surging run in the 18th and Valdes made a great save low to his right to keep out his subsequent free kick.

Lucas was causing problems down the right with his searing pace, and after he carved through the Barca midfield he squared the ball to Ibrahimovic lurking on the left side of the penalty area, but for once the Swede's shooting lacked accuracy and his effort went wide.

Thiago Silva did a great job of containing Messi early on, making an outstanding double tackle to rob him of possession just inside the area. But Messi can never be subdued for long, and he scored his eighth Champions League goal of the campaign with his first chance. It was his 59th in the competition overall, second to all-time leader Raul Gonzalez's 71.

He almost made it 2-0 five minutes later, jinking from the right toward the edge of the area and curling a shot just over. Pockets of Barca fans broke out into their familiar chant of "Messi, Messi" while the previously boisterous home fans sank into silence.

Cesc Fabregas replaced Messi for the second half.

Ibrahimovic alternated between inspirational passes and hesitant shooting as he failed to get a shot away after controlling Jallet's excellent lofted pass, and then almost played in Matuidi with a superb flick.

Barca was happy to sit back and soak up PSG's attacks, and on one lightning-fast break, Sanchez chose to go alone rather than pass the ball to the unmarked David Villa and his shot was charged down. Villa was irate and remonstrated angrily at not getting a pass.

Although Beckham had a tidy game his tiredness started to show, and the 37-year-old midfielder got a yellow card for a late challenge midway through the second half as he was too slow to get a clean tackle in.

He was replaced shortly after by Verratti.

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