Barcelona squeeze past PSG thanks to cameo performance from Lionel Messi.
Barcelona survived a huge scare from Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday to qualify for the Champions League semi-finals for the sixth successive season on away goals after a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou.
The 2-2 draw between the pair in last week’s quarter-final first leg had handed the advantage to the Catalans, but with star player Lionel Messi only starting the return as a substitute due to a hamstring injury, they seemed nervous throughout and PSG deservedly went in front just after half-time through Javier Pastore.
However, with Messi summoned from the bench, Pedro fired home 19 minutes from time to send Barca into the last four.
Even without their talisman Barca came within inches of the perfect start when Cesc Fabregas was brought down 25 yards from goal a minute in and Xavi’s resultant free-kick scraped the post on its way past.
Thereafter though the first-period belonged to the visitors who capitalised on Barca’s uncharacteristic slackness in possession to take a stranglehold of the game.
Ezequiel Lavezzi was first to test Victor Valdes in what was to be a busy 45 minutes for the Barca ‘keeper with a shot straight down his throat and Gerard Pique had to show good pace and strength to prevent Lavezzi a clear run on goal moments later.
Andres Iniesta saw an audacious effort from 45 yards sail just over with Salvatore Sirigu off his line as the game roared from end to end in the early stages.
However, as the half wore on PSG posed the greater threat with Lucas Moura’s pace in particular causing problems for a makeshift Barca defence.
The Brazilian saw a fierce strike from outside the area well handled by Valdes, before he and Lavezzi both wastefully shot over when well-positioned.
Lavezzi then had the biggest chance of the first-half as he latched onto Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s through ball, but his prodded effort lacked the power to beat Valdes who comfortably blocked with his feet.
Ibrahimovic was the provider again as Lucas saw a headed effort at the back post turned over by Valdes as the pressure from the French league leaders continued.
The hosts did manage to wrestle some control of the game back in the final 15 minutes of the half as David Villa curled over from a rare opening inside the area, but Barca were lucky to head into half-time with 11 men when Adriano’s rash lunge on Lucas produced only a yellow card from referee Bjorn Kuipers.
The goal that PSG had been threatening all night finally arrived five minutes after the break as an excellent one-two between Pastore and Ibrahimovic sent the Argentine in behind the Barca defence and this time there was nothing Valdes could do to keep out his left-footed finish.
Pastore missed a great chance to register his second of the evening eight minutes later from another lightning PSG break, but this time he scuffed wide from 12 yards.
Alves then had Barca’s best chance up to that point of the evening as he blasted over when unmarked at the back post before Messi replaced Fabregas to a huge ovation.
Messi’s arrival instantly forced Barca onto the front foot and, after Pique had a shot blocked, Iniesta forced Sirigu into his first serious save with Messi unable to control the rebound.
Pastore dragged another shot wide at the other end as PSG maintained a threat on the break, but the Parisians were made to rue their wastefulness in front of goal as Barca equalised on 71 minutes.
Inevitably, Messi was involved as he jinked past a couple of defenders and rolled the ball into Villa who laid it back for Pedro to smash home.
And despite a nervy final 15 minutes for the hosts, PSG couldn’t create another clear opening as Barca join Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in Friday’s semi-final draw.