Barcelona wisely rode the backs of Luis Suarez and Neymar to a 3-1 victory, and UEFA Champions League quarterfinal lead, away to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, setting themselves up to reach the competition’s semifinal stage for the seventh time in eight seasons.
The first chance of the game fell to Lionel Messi. With 13 minutes on the clock, Luis Suarez’s cross found the Argentine superstar at the top of the penalty area, where he took one touch to settle and wrapped his lethal left foot around the ball and crafted a curling shot for Salvatore Sirigu’s right-hand post, but drew only woodwork as the ball clanged off the post and back into play.
Messi managed to link up with Neymar in the 18th minute to give Barcelona a 1-0 lead. Messi’s through ball played the Brazilian winger behind the last PSG defender, leaving Neymar with nothing more to do than slot the ball under Sirigu’s outstretched arms and into the back of the net.
Suarez doubled Barcelona’s lead with a piece of individual brilliance, nutmegging David Luiz on the edge of the penalty area, zig-zagging past a pair of PSG defenders inside the area and finished past Sirigu, who got a hand to his right-footed shot, at the near post.
Edinson Cavani nearly pulled one back for PSG a minute later, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a sprawling save of Cavani’s powerful blast to the near post.
If the tie was still in doubt at 2-0, Suarez thought he had put that to bed in the 79th minute, with his second goal of the game, a clinical curling finish from the top of the 18-yard box after once again playing the ball around Luiz 25 yards from goal and beating Sirigu at the far post.
PSG hit back two minutes later, though, keeping themselves in the quarterfinal tie, if only just barely. Gregory van der Wiel’s right-footed volley from 20 yards out rolled weakly toward goal, but was deflected and redirected by Barca defender Jeremy Mathieu, wrong-footing Ter Stegen and giving PSG renewed hope.
The second leg will be played next Tuesday at the Camp Nou, with PSG needing no fewer than three goals to change an inevitable fate.
Paris Saint-Germain: Sirigu, Van der Wiel, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva (Luiz 21′), Maxwell, Matuidi, Rabiot (Moura 65′), Cabaye, Lavezzi, Cavani, Pastore
Goals: Mathieu (OG – 82′)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Montoya (Adriano 80′), Pique, Mascherano, Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta (Xavi 53′), Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Goals: Neymar (18′), Suarez (67′, 79′)