Luis Suarez's stellar brace leads Barcelona to an assured win over PSG
Barcelona beat Paris Saint Germain convincingly in a 3-1 win at the Parc des Princes in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. Neymar and Luis Suarez (brace) scored the goals for the visitors, who enjoyed 64 percent of possession, created 11 goal-scoring chances and attempted nine shots, six of them on target and one to the post.
Luis Enrique's team played one of their best games of the season. Although Suarez's impressive goals will deservedly make the headlines around the world, this valuable victory came as a result of the players' strength as a collective, their ability to put the interests of the team before their own.
As most expected, PSG took a defensive approach from the initial whistle. Despite being a highly physical contest in the early stages, with winning second balls becoming more important than creating during the first third of the game, everything changed after Neymar's opener in the 18th minute. With PSG in need of taking more risks pushing forward, it became gradually easier for the visitors to find spaces to run into.
Although this fantastic result brings Barca reassuringly close to the semifinals of the biggest competition in European football, there is no reason to feel over-confident or underestimate the French champions at this point. With 90 more minutes left in the tie, it would be both unreasonable and dangerous to do so.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Marc Andre Ter Stegen, 7 -- Another confident performance from the 22-year-old German. Made a couple of valuable saves which should have secured Barcelona's clean sheet. Could do nothing to avoid the hosts' one and only goal after Jeremy Mathieu failed to clear Gregory van der Wiel's shot.
DF Martin Montoya, 6 -- Included in the starting XI due to Dani Alves' absence. Kept his head down and got on with the job in hand, giving his all at both ends of the pitch. Although his game lacks fluency from an attacking perspective, this was another reliable display from the La Masia graduate.
DF Gerard Pique, 8 -- Delivered yet another solid performance in his 300th game for Barcelona. Powerful in the air, well-positioned, effective when tackling. The spectacular way in which the Catalan has grown under Luis Enrique this season shows that, with the right attitude, he always had the potential to become the team's defensive leader.
DF Javier Mascherano, 8 -- The versatile Argentinean international was inspirational once again despite starting at the heart of defence alongside Pique. Later, he moved to his preferred position as a holding midfielder when Mathieu joined the game as a late substitute.
DF Jordi Alba, 7 -- His tremendous pace allowed him to push forward with ease and track back efficiently whenever needed. Never really beaten defensively. Great to see how his recent injury worries have become a thing of the past.
MF Sergio Busquets, 8 -- Calm, composed, always in control. His decisive early tackle on Adrien Rabiot and subsequent pass to Messi caught PSG out of position and ultimately unbalanced the game. Clinical and simple football at its best.
MF Andres Iniesta, 6 -- Instantly under pressure when on the ball, found it difficult to shine in the manner that Barcelona supporters have been used to over the years. To make matters even worse, had to be stretched off after just 51 minutes after picking up a terrible knock to his back.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 7 -- Confident on the ball and relentless when chasing. Did not necessarily shine individually due to not putting as much effort on attacking transitions as he did in helping defensively. Having said that, can be proud of the quick combination with Luis Suarez enabled Barca's third.
FW Neymar, 8 -- Pushed the game in Barcelona's favour with a confident finish, giving the Catalans that all-important away goal. His blistering speed gave him a clear advantage over his marker. Interestingly, the 23-year-old forward has now scored in all three games against PSG this season.
Although his relationship with Luis Enrique has been slightly rocky of late, their personal clashes have definitely boosted the Brazilian's motivation.
FW Luis Suarez, 9 -- Without a doubt, the main difference between both teams.
Netted Barca's second after a superb individual dribbling slalom from the right flank, which was bizarrely similar to that of the legendary Samuel Eto'o in the Champions League final back in 2009. Not satisfied with that, then nutmegged David Luiz before scoring his second with a jaw-dropping top-corner strike. His tremendous movement on and off the ball, aggression and strength have already helped him score six goals in as many matches in the competition.
FW Lionel Messi, 8 -- Hit post after just 14 minutes, then assisted Neymar for Barca's first shortly after. While positioned on the right wing initially, the quadruple Ballon d'Or winner made the most of having the freedom to roam across the Catalans' final third. As usual, a nightmare to defend against. Despite not scoring, played a decisive role in Barca's valuable victory.
MF Xavi Hernandez, 8 -- Replaced Iniesta after 51 minutes. His inclusion made the visitors' game much more calm and controlled. Despite rumours of being set to leave the Camp Nou giants at the end of the season, the 35-year-old continues to be an essential contributor to the squad.
DF Jeremy Mathieu, N/A -- Substituted Rakitic with 17 minutes to go. Would be disappointed after a clumsy deflection gave PSG their one and only goal, and some hope, later in the game.
DF Adriano Correia, N/A -- Introduced for Montoya after 80 minutes. The Brazilian proved that he would have also been a worthy replacement for Alves at right-back.