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Messi misses penalty as Barcelona fail in latest PSG comeback attempt


Paris (AFP) – Lionel Messi scored one stunning goal but then had a penalty saved as Barcelona failed in their attempt to produce a second Champions League comeback for the ages against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, a 1-1 draw taking the French side through to the quarter-finals 5-2 on aggregate.

Kylian Mbappe had netted a hat-trick as PSG stunned Barca 4-1 in the first leg last month, and he extended their advantage in this last-16 tie by netting a first-half penalty in the second leg to put last season’s runners-up ahead on the night.

But Messi made it 1-1 with a ferocious strike from 30 metres and the Argentine had the chance to put the visitors ahead after Antoine Griezmann was fouled in the area, only for the outstanding Keylor Navas to tip his spot-kick onto the bar.

Barcelona certainly went for it, but there was to be no repeat of their infamous recovery against the same opponents at the same stage four years ago, when they lost the first leg 4-0 but triumphed 6-1 in the return.

Their coach Ronald Koeman will nevertheless be encouraged by the way his team played on a cold, wet and windy night at an empty Parc des Princes.

Barcelona have been a club in crisis for some time but they have a new president in Joan Laporta, who will hope to restore calm at boardroom level, and they can still hope to finish the season strongly domestically.

Meanwhile PSG are, in the end, safely through to the quarter-finals as they look to go one better than last season and win the Champions League for the first time.

They will feel this tie marks another step forward in their quest to become Europe’s dominant force, after three defeats at Barcelona’s hands in knockout ties since the Qatar Sports Investments takeover of a decade ago.

– Mbappe’s tie –

Victory was achieved despite Neymar missing both legs due to injury, with Mbappe providing enough stardust on his own.

Yet after lighting up the first leg, the French World Cup winner found the going tougher in the return, and coach Mauricio Pochettino will face some questions about his side’s approach.

A repeat of 2017 might have seemed impossible, but there were jitters, with Barcelona dominating almost from the first minute and squandering chance after chance in the opening half-hour.

Poor decision-making from Ousmane Dembele did not help the away side, although the Frenchman also saw one ball across the face of goal just escape the outstretched leg of Messi.

As an impromptu fireworks display broke out just outside the stadium, Navas then produced his first superb save midway through the first half when he turned Sergino Dest’s shot onto the frame of goal, and it was against the run of play that PSG took the lead.

Clement Lenglet just caught the heel of Mauro Icardi in the area in the 28th minute, a foul that was almost invisible on first viewing but was confirmed by English referee Anthony Taylor after a VAR review.

Mbappe made no mistake from the spot for his fourth goal in the tie and his 26th of the season altogether.

Barcelona kept coming though, and Messi equalised with a shot from range that was like a tracer bullet that whistled into the top corner, not the kind of goal the Argentine scores often.

It was his 25th this season, and he could have scored again in first-half stoppage time as Layvin Kurzawa was penalised for catching Griezmann in the box.

However, Messi was denied by Navas, the former Real Madrid goalkeeper dousing Barcelona’s hopes as he continued to do in the second half.

The five-time champions kept pushing after the restart, but Navas notably saved well from a near-post header by Sergio Busquets, allowing PSG to earn a draw on the night that they scarcely deserved but a win on aggregate that was always likely after the first leg.

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