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.