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UEFA Champions League Round of 16, first-leg: Di Maria, Draxler help PSG destroy Barcelona

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Paris Saint Germain produced a stunning first-leg display at Parc des Princes to humiliate Barcelona 4-0 and take a giant step towards the last eight of the Champions League.

A brace from Angel Di Maria and further strikes from Julian Draxler and Edinson Cavani condemned the Spanish powerhouse to a forgettable defeat—their biggest in the competition—and leaves them with an impossible task in the second leg at Camp Nou.

Barcelona were outclassed in all departments with MSN failing to find their feet, with only some fine saves from Marc-Andre ter Stegen preventing it from being an even bigger embarrassment.

The midfield trio of Adrian Rabiot, Marco Verrati and Blaise Matuidi ran the show and tamed Europe’s one of the most fascinating attacks and each time the visitors tried to come back, Unai Emery’s PSG just found another gear.

Di Maria from right and Draxler from left threatened Barcelona’s porous rearguard time and again, and also Cavani, presently Europe’s one of the prolific goal-scorers.

Apart from the attackers as well as the midfielders, right-back Thomas Meunier enjoyed a stellar night and French left-back Layvin Kurzawa dominated the left-wing.

This was a night to remember for PSG boss Emery, who at the 24th attempt in his coaching career, found a way to beat Barcelona. He built a brave as well as an organized side to nullify the Catalian giants, and his plan worked wonders.

Early on, Ter Stegnen made some crucial one-handed saves to deny Matuidi and Draxler, but could do nothing about Di Maria’s exquisite free-kick for the opener, mainly because Luis Suarez seemed to duck from the shot.

PSG kept up the tempo and also allowed Barcelona to enjoy portions of possession in the first-half. However, on the 27th minute, the visitors finally showed a glimpse of their attacking threat as Neymar, from the centre, released Andre Gomes from the right flank, but goalkeeper Kevin Trapp rushed on time to deny the Portuguese at the near post, and that surprisingly turned out to be the only shot on target Barcelona achieved all night.

The second goal started with Lionel Messi losing the ball in the centre of the park, and Verrati collecting the ball, surging forward and playing it to Draxler, who rifled a low shot across Ter Stegen and into the far corner.

The third and the killer goal came after the break with birthday boy Di Maria scoring his second of the night. The Argentine picked up the ball on the left and moved in the centre, before lashing a 25-yard curler into the top corner after the hosts had played out of trouble from the back.

The fourth went in from Cavani, who ran down the right channel and drilled the ball past a hapless Ter Stegnen at near post.

Luis Enrique’s men had a chance late on to pull one back through Samuel Umtiti, who somehow headed against the post from close range.

Emery's men will now look to finish the job when the teams meet for the second leg at the Camp Nou on March 8. No side, however, has managed to overturn a four-goal first-leg deficit in the history of the Champions League, and Enrique after a crushing defeat, stated it is difficult to comeback but why not dream?

“It’s extremely difficult for us now,” he said. “But we go back to our stadium and really we need a heroic performance, but why not dream?”

In the other game of the night, Kostas Mitroglou’s strike gave Benfica a 1-0 win in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie with Borussia Dortmund. The second leg will be played at Signal Iduna Park on March 8, as Dortmund look to strike back.

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