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PSG survive stern Valencia examination

Published: Wednesday 6 March 2013, 22.49CET
Paris Saint-Germain FC 1-1 Valencia CF (agg: 3-2)
Ezequiel Lavezzi equalised for Carlo Ancelotti's team as the Ligue 1 leaders qualified for the last eight for the first time in 18 years.
by Matthew Spiro
from Parc des Princes

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Published: Wednesday 6 March 2013, 22.49CET

PSG survive stern Valencia examination

Paris Saint-Germain FC 1-1 Valencia CF (agg: 3-2)
Ezequiel Lavezzi equalised for Carlo Ancelotti's team as the Ligue 1 leaders qualified for the last eight for the first time in 18 years.

Paris Saint-Germain FC reached the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 1994/95 after edging past Valencia CF on an anxious night in the French capital.

With a 2-1 first-leg advantage, the Ligue 1 pacesetters turned in a more cautious performance in front of their own fans, an approach that looked like backfiring when Jonas rifled the visitors into the lead shortly after the interval.

The subsequent introduction of Kevin Gameiro injected some much-needed impetus, however, the France forward playing a decisive role in Ezequiel Lavezzi's 66th-minute equaliser. The Argentinian international's fifth goal in his last four European outings calmed Parisian nerves and ensured PSG booked their place in the draw on 15 March.

Rather than picking Gameiro to replace the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimović from the start, Carlo Ancelotti bolstered his midfield by including Clément Chantôme alongside Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta. It was a decision designed partly to stifle Ernesto Valverde's side, who needed at least two goals, and it worked well during a muted first period.

Although two-time finalists Valencia camped in the opposition half for long periods, PSG were rarely troubled as returning skipper Thiago Silva marshalled the defence with assurance. On the few occasions the Spanish outfit conjured openings, their finishing let them down. Roberto Soldado had an initial chance on 15 minutes, latching onto a fine return pass from Jonas only to direct a tame shot at Salvatore Sirigu.

The Spain striker returned the favour after the half-hour, cutting back a clever ball that Jonas miscued wide. While the home team were struggling to find their attacking game, they continued to look organised, the otherwise untroubled Sirigu making his first awkward save from Jonas's long-range effort on the stroke of half-time.

The deployment of Éver Banega gave Valverde's men more options during the second period, and the coach's boldness was rewarded ten minutes in. Chantôme played Matuidi into trouble and when he was dispossessed by Tino Costa, Jonas pounced on the loose ball and hit a powerful shot past Sirigu with the aid of a slight deflection off Alex.

Ancelotti reacted, sending on Gameiro for Motta, and the competition debutant sparked an instant improvement. After charging through the heart of the Valencia defence, Gameiro stepped aside to allow Lavezzi to beat goalkeeper Vicente Guaita from close range, albeit at the second attempt. The goal prompted a huge outpouring of relief in the stadium, and Ancelotti's charges resisted Valencia's late pressure with a degree of comfort.

Last updated: 04/12/13 6.25CET

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