PARIS: Barcelona coach Luis Enrique admitted his side’s Champions League hopes are all but over for this season after they were outclassed 4-0 by a brilliant Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in their last 16 first leg on Tuesday.
Angel Di Maria scored twice for the French champions on his 29th birthday at the Parc des Princes, while Julian Draxler and Edinson Cavani, on his 30th birthday, were also on target in a stunning home performance.
The result leaves PSG on the brink of a place in the quarter-finals for the fifth season in succession, while Barcelona are staring at their earliest exit since losing to Liverpool in the last 16 in 2007.
It was the Catalans’ worst night in Europe since their 7-0 aggregate mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich in the 2013 semi-finals, and no team has ever gone through after losing 4-0 in the first leg of a European tie.
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“It is difficult to explain. They were superior to us from the start,” admitted Enrique.
“There was a 15-minute spell in the first half in which we were on top, but otherwise PSG attacked quickly on the break and created a lot of chances.
“It was a disastrous night for us. They were completely superior. There is not much more to say,” he added.
Di Maria, the former Real Madrid winger, opened the scoring with a free-kick in the 18th minute and Germany star Draxler marked his European debut for the club with the second goal five minutes before the interval.
Di Maria curled in his second and the home side’s third 10 minutes after half-time before Cavani completed the rout with his 34th goal of the campaign in the 71st minute.
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“PSG did what we expected them to do and produced their best version and we were at our poorest,” said the Barcelona coach. “It’s extremely difficult for us now but we go back to our stadium and really we need a heroic performance but why not dream?
“These players have shown down the years that they can get great results. Our chances are slim but there is a chance all the same.”
History suggests their chances are less than slim and the tie is PSG’s to lose now after what was a signature European performance from the French champions. They had twice been eliminated by Barca in the four seasons prior to this, but their 3-1 home defeat to the Catalans in 2015 was their only loss in their 42 previous European outings at the Parc des Princes.
Meanwhile, coach Unai Emery had only won one of 23 games against Barcelona in his coaching career, but his team destroyed their opponents right from the off.
Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta all endured miserable nights while the likes of Draxler, Di Maria, Adrien Rabiot and Thomas Meunier were all superb.
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Centre-back Presnel Kimpembe also produced an accomplished display on his Champions League debut at the age of 21 in place of injured captain Thiago Silva.
“We could not have imagined a better evening. To win 4-0 against Barcelona on my birthday is incredible,” Di Maria told beIN Sports. “It was the perfect match. But to go through we will need to play like this again because they are also capable of scoring four goals.”
Emery could be forgiven for basking in the glory of such a victory after the criticism he faced in his early months in France. However, the Spaniard preferred to strike a note of caution ahead of the return.
“We put in a great effort against a great team but the message in the dressing room was that we still have 90 minutes to play,” he said. “Satisfaction for a coach is very short-lived and I respect the great team that Barcelona are.”