PSG beats Valencia 2-1 in Champions League

Goals by Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore gave Paris
Saint-Germain an important 2-1 away win at Valencia in a the first
leg of their Champions League last-16 match Tuesday, which still
ended badly for the French team as it allowed a late goal and had
star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic needlessly sent off in injury
time.

PSG looked to have virtually secured a spot in the quarterfinals
after Lavezzi hit his fourth goal of the season with a fierce
strike in the 10th minute and Pastore doubled the lead in the 43rd
when he shot through Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita’s legs.

But Valencia clawed back into the series when Adil Rami latched
on to a perfectly delivered free kick by Tino Costa in the 90th,
and Ibrahimovic then earned a straight red card for a clumsy
challenge on Andres Guardado, meaning he will miss the return
leg.

”We played really well, we have to be happy but at the end it
was not good for us,” PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said. ”Valencia
is a good team, we have played the first half, but now we have to
play second half and we have to pay attention.”

In Tuesday’s other game, Juventus beat Celtic 3-0 in Glasgow to
take a seemingly comfortable lead ahead of the return leg on March
6.

Up until those final few minutes in Valencia, PSG had seemed
likely to take a similar advantage with it back to Paris.
Everything had worked perfectly for the French club, which is
trying to establish itself as a European power after spending
lavishly on star players since being bought up by wealthy Qatari
owners.

While Valencia was allowed to control play for much of the game
– enjoying more than 60 percent of possession – the French team
calmly sat back and defended, before launching counterattacks that
always proved dangerous.

”They have been very strong, each counter had much danger and
the truth is that we may have been too straightforward,” Valencia
coach Ernesto Valverde said.

PSG’s 20-year-old attacking midfielder Lucas Moura was behind
many of those counterattacks in the first half, wreaking havoc with
his speed along the right wing and possible leaving new signing
David Beckham – who watched on in the stands – wondering where he
can find a spot in the lineup.

Moura hit the post with a fierce strike from distance in the
ninth minute, but PSG still went ahead moments later.

Lavezzi played a one-two with Pastore and then skillfully
dribbled past defender Ricardo Costa into the area before sending a
fierce shot past Guaita, who allowed the ball to pass over his
shoulder.

Valencia midfielder Ever Banega had a chance to equalize when he
pounced on a poor clearance but shot wide in the 20th.

Moura was then behind PSG’s second goal, breaking down the right
flank and going past a defender before squaring the ball for
Pastore, whose low shot snuck past Guaita, who again looked like he
had a chance to save it.

Moura was then taken off early in the second half with an
apparent ankle problem, but PSG still created several chances to
extend its lead.

Ibrahimovic and Lavezzo both had efforts saved, while substitute
Clement Chantome had a goal ruled out for offside – despite
protests from the French team that a Valencia player had last
touched the ball.

Valencia also had chances, with Nelson Valdes wasting the best
one when he received a lobbed pass in the area but shot into the
side netting in the 76th.

But the Spanish team finally broke through when Costa’s free
kick sailed over the PSG defense and Rami was there to knock it
into the net. And Valencia’s chances of turning things around then
increased significantly when Ibrahimovic – possibly frustrated at
conceding a goal – stamped Guardado’s foot in a reckless challenge
near Valencia’s corner flag, leaving the French team without its
top player for the return game.

While the challenge was clearly unnecessary, Ancelotti was among
those who thought the straight red card was harsh.

”It was a normal tackle and it was nothing special, and I was
surprised by the red card,” Ancelotti said.