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In the Zone: Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Paris 2-3 Barcelona

UEFA Technical Observer Giovanni van Bronckhorst analyses the topsy-turvy UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg between Paris and Barcelona.

Barcelona earned their first away win in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage for five years with their 3-2 quarter-final success at Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

In this article brought to you by FedEx, UEFA match observer Giovanni van Bronckhorst assesses how they did it. Working together with the UEFA analysis unit, he reflects on the work of Barcelona forwards Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski and he also explains the impact of the substitutions made by both teams' coaches as the momentum swung one way then the other in an exciting first-leg encounter in Paris.

Team formations


Key roles for Raphinha and Lewandowski

In the Zone: Raphinha and Lewandowski key roles

For Van Bronckhorst, Raphinha was the game's decisive player and Lewandowski had a significant role too. In Raphinha's case it was not just his first two Champions League goals which caught the eye of Van Bronckhorst but his high-speed movement. "Raphinha played really well, making runs from deep behind the defence," said the former Barcelona player.

This first video shows Raphinha at his elusive best and it also underlines the efforts of Lewandowski in creating space for the Brazilian. As Van Bronckhorst added: "Lewandowski was going away from the number nine position to make space for the runners, especially Raphinha and sometimes [İlkay] Gündogan."

The first clip features Lewandowski's role in creating the opening goal as he collects the pass from deep by Pau Cubarsí on halfway, spins away from his marker and works the ball wide to Lamine Yamal. Although Gianluigi Donnarumma is first to Yamal's ensuing centre, he palms the ball only as far as Raphinha who produces a composed finish.

Home coach Luis Enrique admitted afterwards that Lewandowski had been pivotal in providing a target for passes from deep, so enabling Barcelona to escape the hosts' press. "We know how you beat high pressure especially with a goalkeeper like [Marc-André] ter Stegen and a striker like Lewandowski using the possibility of playing to the last line."

The second clip showcases the swiftness of Raphinha as he beats Lucas Hernández in a race down the Barcelona left. Then, in the third clip, we see him work in tandem with Lewandowski, illustrating Van Bronckhorst's observation about his movement around and beyond the target striker. As the observer affirmed: "Lewandowski with his positioning was making space for other players and you had good movement and runs from Raphinha." Plus, of course, an end product on a night when Raphinha supplied three key passes as well as his two goals which raised his total in all competitions this season to eight.

Paris profit from half-time changes

In the Zone: Paris profit from half-time changes

Between the 19th minute and the half-time whistle, the home team mustered just one attempt, a shot by Kang-in Lee that Ter Stegen parried at his near post. Yet within six minutes of the restart, they had two goals. What changed? According to Van Bronckhorst, the turnaround was the product of Luis Enrique's tweaks during the break.

The Spaniard took off Marco Asensio, who had filled the central attacking role, and sent on another winger in Bradley Barcola. With Barcola taking over on the right side of the attack, Ousmane Dembélé could operate more infield. Barcelona coach Xavi spoke afterwards of trying to keep Paris "wide", but now the threat inside increased.

"Bradley is a player who can open things up and we brought Ousmane more inside and it changed the dynamic of the game," said Luis Enrique. Indeed, three minutes after the restart Dembélé scored the equaliser against his former club – as shown in the first clip of the second video above.

The video also reveals Barcola's threat down the right (clip two) while the final clip offers further evidence of the difficulties Dembélé caused Barcelona's defence as we see him break on to Vitinha's through-ball and shoot against the post – a near-miss that Luis Enrique later lamented given the teams were then tied at 2-2.

Reflecting on Luis Enrique's changes, Van Bronckhorst said: "Asensio was going to the ball whereas Dembélé with his speed could exploit the space behind the defence." He also saluted the logic of Luis Enrique's other half-time tweak – moving Marquinhos back into the middle of the defence from the right with Hernández making the opposite switch to counter the speed of Raphinha.

Impact of Barcelona's substitutions

In the Zone: Impact of Barcelona's substitutes

In a study of goal times in this season's group stage, UEFA's analysis unit highlighted the role of substitutes, noting that of the 21 matches with a decisive late goal (scored after the 75-minute mark), 15 came from substitutes. Last night's contest at the Parc des Princes gave further proof of the power of the right changes.

If Luis Enrique's interval alterations helped the hosts regain the initiative, Xavi's subsequent substitutions proved decisive. The Barcelona coach's 61st-minute introduction of Pedri led to Raphinha equalising 60 seconds later. Then, in the 75th minute, Xavi sent on Andreas Christensen and the Dane, on his 28th birthday, headed the winning goal two minutes later.

The final video above begins with Raphinha's second goal – and the part played by Pedri. Making his first appearance since 3 March, the midfielder had not touched the ball before receiving a pass from Gündogan. With one touch he controls it; with the next he lifts it superbly over the Paris backline for Raphinha who, having timed to perfection his run inside, provides a wonderful volleyed finish.

Xavi said: "We'd spoken with Pedri about him playing 30 minutes after his injury. He was extraordinary, he brought composure, calm. He is a footballer who makes a difference in that sense. He sees everything and the pass is extraordinary."

"Xavi simply told me to come on mentally prepared and ready to contribute," added the player himself, and he certainly did that. He was not alone either as clips two and three emphasise. The second clip shows an attack involving two other Barcelona substitutes, João Felix and Ferran Torres, which led to the corner from which the winning goal came from Christensen, nodding home with his first touch (clip three).

Summing up, Van Bronckhorst said: "If you are a coach and you make substitutions, you want them to make the difference. Pedri had an assist and Christensen the winning goal so you can definitely say they were good subs!"

Highlights: Paris 2-3 Barcelona

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