PARIS: Four-time winners Barcelona and French champions Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) took huge strides towards the Champions League last eight on Tuesday as they both won away from home in their last-16, first-leg ties. Barcelona prevailed 2-0 over English side Manchester City but scoring both their goals, a penalty by Lionel Messi and a late goal by Dani Alves, only after Argentinean defender Martin Demichelis was sent off eight minutes into the second half. PSG, who were eliminated by Barcelona in the quarterfinals last season, thumped German outfit Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 in Germany but, unlike Barcelona, took the match by the scruff of the neck early on and led 3-0 at half-time with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring two of them.
The City and Barcelona clash turned in the 53rd minute when Demichelis brought down Messi, with replays suggesting the foul happened just outside the penalty area. However, Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson thought otherwise and not only awarded the penalty but also sent off Demichelis. City did not wilt and had their chances to pull level but instead were hit by a sucker punch at the end as the always-dangerous Alves nipped in to slot home a sweetly-taken goal. Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas said it had been an important statement by his side in light of some remarks, especially by former Real Madrid and now Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who had said they were the worst Barcelona team of ‘many years’. Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini blamed Eriksson for tilting the game in Barcelona’s favour.
PSG untroubled in Germany:While that match remained tight until the end, the other game was over as a contest by half-time as PSG overwhelmed a side that lost 10-2 on aggregate to Barcelona the last time they appeared in this stage of the competition two years ago. Blaise Matuidi scored the opener and Ibrahimovic the other two, the second of those a scorching effort from outside the box. The hosts’ chances of at least getting a goal back decreased markedly when Bosnian international defender Emir Spahic – who had been responsible for conceding the penalty that Ibrahimovic scored for his first goal – was sent off for a second bookable offence. PSG grabbed a fourth late in the game through recent signing Yohan Cabaye. PSG coach Laurent Blanc, who is bidding to bring France only their second ever win in the competition with Marseille having won it in 1993, was delighted with the performance.
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