FC Barcelona were made to sweat, but a goal from Pedro Rodríguez finally subdued Paris Saint-Germain FC and took them into a sixth consecutive UEFA Champions League semi-final – a tournament record.
Trailing to Javier Pastore's delightful breakaway strike early in the second half, the home side were forced to introduce Lionel Messi, still recovering from a thigh strain, from the bench. Nine minutes later the Argentinian had helped set up Pedro's thumping equaliser and Camp Nou could breathe again. Those two away goals in Paris had proved decisive.
Long before they took the lead PSG had exerted an increasingly steely grip, not only mustering the better chances but also playing the more alert, intelligent football. All night Carlo Ancelotti's team found space right down the middle of the pitch and, just like in the Parc des Princes last week, Sergio Busquets had a difficult night – less able than usual to conduct Barcelona's play.
The main beneficiary was the returning Zlatan Ibrahimović, who consistently dropped deep and his use of the space he located was characteristically shrewd. One shining example was his superbly measured pass into the path of Ezequiel Lavezzi in the 23rd minute; with only Víctor Valdés to beat, the goalkeeper did extremely well to block.
Very shortly afterward the Swede transformed into a winger, delivering a perfect cross towards the back post. To Barcelona's great fortune it was Lucas outjumping Jordi Alba rather than one of PSG's taller players. Again Valdés produced the save.
Early on Xavi Hérnandez, Barça's captain for the night, had billowed the outside of Salvatore Sirigu's net with a free-kick. However, when the PSG keeper left the pitch at half-time he would not have been sweating and his palms were not stinging. He had almost been a spectator.
Possession and attacking verve, sure enough, brought PSG the advantage five minutes after the restart. Again Ibrahimović was occupying a position in the middle of the park – the place to be in order to send your opponent scurrying left, right and centre.
His wall pass for Pastore was calibrated to the millisecond and the millimetre and the Argentinian strode on with confidence to direct a left-footed drive in off Valdés's outstretched leg. Moments later Pastore showed less composure, slicing a better chance wide.
Barcelona needed rescuing and Messi was the cavalry. Immediately the tempo picked up and his team-mates raised their game as the crowd roared. With 19 minutes remaining a little jinking run and pass from Messi let David Villa set the ball up sweetly for Pedro and the finish was unerring.
PSG thumped the ball forward relentlessly but their opportunity had gone. The clamour at the end from the Camp Nou crowd signified as much relief as jubilation.
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