PARIS (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain overcame the absence of their injured talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic to beat Barcelona 3-2 in a thrilling Champions League Group F encounter at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday.
The Catalans, who had not even conceded a goal all season in seven matches before this one, fell behind inside 10 minutes when David Luiz prodded in his first PSG goal.
Barcelona needed just two minutes to draw level thanks to a marvellous Lionel Messi strike, but Marco Verratti headed the hosts back in front after 26 minutes and Blaise Matuidi added another in the 54th minute.
Neymar reduced the deficit, yet Paris held on for their first win in the group after a 1-1 draw at Ajax two weeks ago, while Barca failed to build on a narrow 1-0 win over APOEL of Cyprus in their first outing.
“We were up against a rival of the same level as us and we had the kind of difficulties that are normal in such a game,” said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique.
“In the end I think we could have drawn and it would have been a fair result.”
PSG coach Laurent Blanc added: “I am very satisfied. It was an extraordinary match and what I will take away from it was our collective performance.
“I think for those who like Paris Saint-Germain and French football it was a good evening.”
Barcelona arrived in France in fine form but this was billed as their biggest test since the arrival of their new coach in the summer, even if their hosts were without Ezequiel Lavezzi and captain Thiago Silva as well as the prolific Ibrahimovic.
Edinson Cavani spearheaded their attack, while Barcelona again had Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal in Europe rather than La Liga regular Claudio Bravo.
But their previously watertight defence looked fragile against a PSG side who started with all guns blazing and were soon rewarded.
Daniel Alves gave away a free-kick for stopping a Paris attack with his hand, and the home side struck from the resulting delivery, Luiz controlling Lucas’s ball in from the left before turning and poking the ball into the far corner from eight yards.
Barcelona’s defence had finally been breached for the first time this season after 640 minutes, but their response was immediate.
Indeed, the celebrations were still ongoing when the Catalans drew level thanks to a moment of trademark brilliance, Messi exchanging lightning-quick first-time passes with Andres Iniesta and Neymar before giving Salvatore Sirigu in goal no chance with a left-foot strike into the far corner.
It was the Argentine’s 68th Champions League goal, putting him level with his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo in the all-time standings and to within three of the competition’s all-time leading scorer, Raul.