Before Jonas launched a 55th minute blast from just outside the box, Paris Saint-Germain was in complete control of their match. But after the Valencia midfielder’s shot went just inside Salvatore Sirigu’s right post to make it 2-2, the television camera’s flashed to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, watching the match from far above the field. With PSG’s best player suspended, the Ligue 1 leaders looked on the verge of capitulating.
But Zlatan’s face mirrored what we’d see from his team after the match restarted. He was concerned, disappointed having allowed a goal, but ultimately he was unshaken. He knew where his team stood. Paris Saint-Germain may have been clinging to their away goals edge on the scoreboard, but on the field they were still in control.
When Ezequiel Lavezzi scored 11 minutes later to reestablish some breathing room, the Parisians were destined to go through. They held Valencia at arm’s length over the remaining 24 minutes, cruising into the Champions League quarters after a 3-2 aggregate win.
The score doesn’t reflect PSG’s control of the tie. Valencia’s only goals came in stoppage time at the Mestalla and off a long distance shot in France. For most of the time around the goals. Paris Saint-Germain managed the match, electing to concede possession while staying firm at the back.
Blaise Matuidi, who gave another strong performance on Wednesday, was the key to their defense. Lavezzi maintained a constant threat on the counter. With Valencia struggling to develop anything going forward, their individual efforts plus solid play from teammates were enough to see off Valencia.
In truth, Valencia have bigger things to worry about than Champions League. Two points out of Spain’s top four, the economically struggling club needs to focus on their domestic campaign. That doesn’t mean they didn’t want to beat PSG. It just means they can hold their heads high and move on to the most important fight of their season.
For PSG, things are a little more nebulous. They were expected to advance past Valencia, but in doing so, we saw little indication that they’re true contenders to win this tournament. They may have never been truly threatened by Valencia, but they also failed to show the qualities we’re seeing from the tournament’s true favorites.