Mbappe's PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis

By AFP   April 16, 2024 | 10:15 pm PT
Mbappe's PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis
Kylian Mbappe celebrates a goal in the 4-1 win against Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinal on April 16, 2024. Photo by AFP
Kylian Mbappe struck twice as Paris Saint-Germain battled back to beat 10-man Barcelona 4-1 and book a place in the Champions League semi-finals with a 6-4 aggregate triumph on Tuesday.

Raphinha fired Barcelona ahead early on but Ronald Araujo's 29th-minute red card turned the tide in PSG's favour, despite the Spanish champions leading by two goals following a 3-2 quarter-final first-leg win.

Ousmane Dembele and Vitinha leveled the tie for PSG and the deadly Mbappe hit a brace to put them into the final four for the first time since 2021, setting up another meeting with Borussia Dortmund, who they played twice in the group stage.

"Hats off to Kylian, look at how he pressed, that's how you lead a team," said PSG coach Luis Enrique, noting the striker's all-round contribution.

"When Kylian can give that we are much, much better."

The French champions have never won the trophy despite huge investment but demonstrated they have the attacking weapons in their squad to do so.

"I dream of winning the Champions League with Paris, it's another step overcome against a great team," said Mbappe, who has his sights set on this year's final.

"We're going to try and go to Wembley."

Luis Enrique, who led Barca to the 2015 Champions League, said he believed his PSG team would turn things around despite never having managed to after a first-leg home defeat, and so it proved.

"It looked bad but the team concentrated - whatever happened, we had to beat Barcelona," said Dembele, whistled heavily by fans of his former club.

Five-time winners Barcelona were dreaming of a first semi-final return since 2019 but Araujo's red card for pulling down the relentless Bradley Barcola undermined their grip on the tie.

It became another in a series of European nightmares for the Catalans, who last won the trophy in 2015, with Xavi blaming the referee.

"With 11 against 10 it's practically impossible," said the coach.

"I think the red card is not necessary, it's unfair and needless."

The visitors started with determination and penned Barcelona back in their own territory, but it was the hosts who took the lead.

Explosive 16-year-old starlet Lamine Yamal ripped past Nuno Mendes and crossed to the near post where Raphinha turned home his third goal in the tie.

The other PSG forwards found the net but it was Barcola who tilted the match in PSG's favour.

The winger teed up Mbappe but Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied him well, before Araujo was sent off for bringing him down.

The Uruguayan centre-back pulled Barcola back as he burst into the area, leaving Barca with 10 men.

Dembele struck after 40 minutes from another Barcola cross, which raked across the area to the back post where he was arriving to fire into the roof of the net.

Barcelona sacrificed Yamal for defender Inigo Martinez after Araujo's red card and it left them with few outlets in attack.

No escape

With PSG controlling the game Barcelona soon paid the price. Vitinha was given far too much space on the edge of the box and he drilled into the bottom corner to put PSG ahead on the night.

Ilkay Gundogan hit the post at the other end for Barcelona before their coach Xavi was sent off for a show of dissent on the touchline.

"Since I've been here we're not getting any refereeing decisions, they've all been bad for us," added Xavi.

"The refereeing was very strange."

Despite the finger-pointing the Catalans were losing their heads and Joao Cancelo clumsily fouled Dembele to hand PSG a penalty.

Mbappe, who had been kept quiet in the first leg, hammered it into the top corner for his 40th goal across all competitions.

The striker's future may lie in Spain, with Real Madrid aiming to sign him in the summer at the end of his contract, and he made no friends in Barcelona by hopping the advertising hoardings and running towards fans to celebrate.

Another member of Barcelona's backroom staff was dismissed after Gundogan had a penalty appeal waved away and it became clear the hosts had no response.

Mbappe wrapped up the win in the 89th minute after a fine Ter Stegen double save, leaving Barcelona the victims of another bitterly disappointing night in Europe.

"In Europe playing with 10 you know you are going to suffer," Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong told Movistar.

"We tried and we fought to be in the semi-finals, it's a tough blow because we were convinced we could get through."

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