Feb 18, 2014, 4:34 PM EST
One of the more lopsided match ups of UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 lived up to its muted expectations, with favorites Paris Saint-Germain offered no resistance during their knockout round’s first leg at Bayer Leverkusen. With the help of two goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the reigning French champions took a 4-0 lead on Germany’s second place side, quickly eliminating any doubt the ambitious Parisians will make another trip to the competition’s quarterfinals.
The teams will resume their matchup two weeks from now in Paris, with a Leverkusen side that’s suffered three big defeats in this year’s competition unlikely to threaten for that spot in the final eight. In group stage, Bayer lost 4-2 and 5-0 to Manchester United, and while a first leg at home gave Sami Hyypia’s team a chance to set the tone in this 180-minute match, PSG’s superiority was evident from the opening whistle.
It only took three minutes for that edge to put Laurent Blanc’s team in front, with one of Europe’s most overlooked midfielders taking a momentary step out of the shadows. Intercepting a Simon Rolfes pass at the edge of Bayer’s defensive third, Blaise Matuidi played wide to Ibrahimovic before sprinting into the Leverkusen penalty area. When he was found moments later by Marco Verratti through ball, the French international had an easy left-footed finish for the game’s opening goal.
By the middle of the half, Leverkusen were seeing more of the ball and were finally able to mount their first real forays toward the PSG penalty area. Come the end of the half, however, that improvement had gone for naught, with two goals from Ibrahimovic just before intermission giving the visitors a commanding halftime lead.
The first came after a disputable penalty that saw Leverkusen defender Emir Saphic yellow carded after Ezequiel Lavezzi went down at the edge of the six-yard box. Blasting his attempt into the goal’s lower left hand corner, Ibrahimovic beat a diving Leno to double PSG’s lead in the 39th minute.
Three minutes later, when a ball in from the left for Matuidi drew Leverkusen’s defense toward the spot, Ibrahimovic hammered his teammate’s layoff into top of goal from 20 yards out. As if placing his shot into a pneumatic tube, “Ibra” sent the ball on a line to the right of the Bernd Leno, the force of his strike giving the Bayer keeper little chance to react before PSG’s third goal flew just under the cross-bar.
A second half own goal that would have put PSG up four was waved off, leaving the match’s final 45 minutes to be defined by restraint instead of reward. Dominating both chances and the ball, Blanc’s team played with the comfort of a side at home, particularly after Saphic saw a second yellow. With Ibrahimovic spending the match’s last half hour in midfield, helping his team control the ball, PSG appeared to have grown tired of pushing for goals.
In the 88th minute, however, a clearly fatigued Bayer couldn’t help but conceded the fourth. With PSG building down the left, Ibrahimovic put an overlapping Maxwell behind the Leverkusen defense, where the left back crossed for Lucas Moura at the far post just before the ball rolled out of play. Moura’s layoff for Yohan Cabaye gave the recently purchase midfielder an easy finish into the upper right hand corner from 15 yards out, giving PSG a lead that’s never been reversed in Champions League.
Nov 25, 2014, 3:46 PM EST
The only other active players in the Top Ten are Chelsea’s Didier Drogba (43) and Thierry Henry (50), who obviously isn’t active with a UEFA Champions League club.
Nov 25, 2014, 3:10 PM EST
With top-quality players hardly ever available in January, the Portguese international could be a hot commodity in England.
Nov 25, 2014, 2:33 PM EST
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Nov 25, 2014, 1:55 PM EST
Follow the latest batch of UEFA Champions League matches, right here.
Nov 25, 2014, 1:05 PM EST
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Nov 25, 2014, 12:11 PM EST
“Air Marshall” not only earned his nickname, but helped to solidify an otherwise shaky back line.
Nov 25, 2014, 11:23 AM EST
Another major move in the world of money, which is clearly what FIFA is most concerned with.
Nov 25, 2014, 10:41 AM EST
While away with the team on a road trip, the Southampton midfielder’s house was ransacked and multiple valuables stolen, including his car.
Nov 25, 2014, 9:19 AM EST
Jack Wilshere will be out “for a few games” and will see a specialist after turning his ankle hard.
Nov 25, 2014, 8:26 AM EST
A fire broke out in the one building standing in the way of Tottenham’s proposed new stadium, a fishy situation indeed.
Nov 25, 2014, 8:03 AM EST
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Nov 24, 2014, 11:23 PM EST
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Nov 24, 2014, 10:30 PM EST
After leading his club to their second straight win, it’s a Burnley man as Round 12’s Player of the Week.
Nov 24, 2014, 9:25 PM EST
With a massive Champions League match against Bayern Munich tomorrow, Samir Nasri said Manchester City’s stars must perform to keep their jobs.
Nov 24, 2014, 8:30 PM EST
After returning from injury ahead of schedule, Olivier Giroud found out he was never included on Arsenal’s Champions League roster.
Nov 24, 2014, 7:25 PM EST
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Nov 24, 2014, 6:28 PM EST
Manchester City hosts Bayern as Chelsea travel to Schalke on Matchday 5 of Champions League group play.
Nov 24, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an in-depth look at the PL during Week 12.
Nov 24, 2014, 5:11 PM EST
Aston Villa led at halftime but a Nathaniel Clyne strike ensured a point for Southampton at Villa Park.
Nov 24, 2014, 4:32 PM EST
Struggling in England, the Reds need a result midweek to remain in the Champions League.
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