Paris St. Germain advances to quarters
PARIS, France (AP)
Paris Saint-Germain did enough to reach the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals by scraping a 1-1 draw at home to Valencia on Wednesday, yet the big-spending French club will have to play much better to be a threat to the big teams in the last eight.
PSG had won the away leg of their last-16 match 2-1 and seemed content to sit back in a dull first half in which the visitors mustered two tame shots on target. The match came to life in the 55th minute when Brazilian forward Jonas profited from PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi to pick up the loose ball and score with a fierce shot from 20 meters for his fourth goal in three games.
Argentina winger Ezequiel Lavezzi equalized in the 66th minute to send PSG through 3-2 on aggregate, but it was a far from convincing performance and PSG looked lost without top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the attack. He will also be suspended for the first leg of the quarterfinals.
''We deserved to qualify over the two games although this game was more difficult than the first leg,'' PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said. ''We weren't very relaxed in the first half and paradoxically we started to play after Valencia's goal.''
Valencia's goal seemed to rattle PSG and Ancelotti brought on substitute Kevin Gameiro shortly after and his direct style and pace immediately caused problems for Valencia's defense.
''Gameiro did very well when he came on and he was the key to us equalizing,'' Ancelotti said, admitting that Ibrahimovic - who was suspended after being sent off in the first leg - was sorely missed.
''Zlatan is a very important player, not just for the quality but also for the character,'' Ancelotti said. ''The others did their best.''
Gameiro's surging run led to Lavezzi's equalizer in the 66th, as the Argentina winger knocked the ball in after his teammate's initial shot had been saved by goalkeeper Vicente Guaita, prompting wild celebrations on the PSG bench. The last time PSG reached the quarterfinals in 1995 it went on to lose to AC Milan - Ancelotti's former club as player and manager - in the semifinals.
''I don't know if we can reach the final, since the start of the competition I've said no one knows what we're capable of in this competition,'' Ancelotti said. ''We will wait for the draw and see. We'll put all of our energy into the competition, and we're very happy because in Europe only four teams are still involved in all the competitions: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Porto and Paris Saint-Germain.''
PSG's only European title was the now defunct Cup Winners Cup in 1996.
In Wednesday's other match, Juventus beat Celtic 2-0 to qualify for the last eight 5-0 on aggregate.
Both sides were missing key players with Valencia without injured center half Adil Rami, scorer of Valencia's late goal in the first leg, forcing left back Jeremy Mathieu to switch to the center of defense.
''It wasn't our usual defense but we defended better than in the first leg,'' Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde said through a translator. ''Unfortunately we weren't incisive enough in the first half. We did a lot better in the second half but we started to tire near the end.''
With Marco Verratti also supsended, Thiago Motta returned from a six-week injury layoff to take his place in PSG's midfield alongside Matuidi, with former England captain David Beckham as an unused substitute on the bench.
Ancelotti also decided against starting Gameiro, leaving PSG without a recognized center forward as Lavezzi and Brazil winger Lucas formed a makeshift and largely unimpressive partnership up front.
Valencia striker Roberto Soldado had the first shot of the match in the 15th, breaking free down the right after playing a neat one-two with right back Jonas, but his shot was too close to `keeper Salvatore Sirigu's body.
PSG's midfield was stretched at times because Valencia kept an extra man in the middle, with Soldado alone up front. Jonas forced the only other shot on target in a poor first half close to the break, which Sirigu fumbled away clumsily for a corner.
Despite giving the ball away for Valencia's goal, Matuidi stood out with his excellent tackling and driving runs.
''He was fantastic. For me he's one of the best midfielders in Europe,'' Ancelotti said. ''He wanted to come off (near the end of the first half) but I told him: `No, you're staying on.'''
Valencia's frustration grew as time ran out and PSG's players were on the receiving end of some heavy challenges, but the Spanish side failed to test Sirigu again.
Beckham paced up and down on the touchline in a seemingly endless warm-up routine, but Ancelotti decided against bringing him on.
''I brought on Gameiro to give the team more attacking energy,'' Ancelotti said. ''I went with him and then used Chantome as a defensive midfielder.''