Raphinha scores twice to help Barca fight back and win at PSG

Published April 11, 2024
FC Barcelona’s Raphinha scores their second goal past Paris St Germain’s Gianluigi Donnarumma at Parc des Princes in Paris, France on April 10. — Reuters
FC Barcelona’s Raphinha scores their second goal past Paris St Germain’s Gianluigi Donnarumma at Parc des Princes in Paris, France on April 10. — Reuters

Brazil forward Raphinha scored twice to help Barcelona secure a 3-2 win at Paris St Germain (PSG) in a lively Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday, earning the Spanish side their first win in the knockout stage in four years.

PSG forward Kylian Mbappe was nowhere to be found in Parc des Princes as five-times European champions Barca managed to neutralise France’s captain, who was often frustrated in his attempts up front.

PSG came into the match unbeaten in their last 27 games in all competitions, but were undone by a fired-up Barcelona side looking to return the club to the summit of European football.

After a glorious run from 2005-15 — where they won four Champions League titles — Barca failed to get past the last 16 in Europe’s elite competition in three consecutive seasons, after being humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the 2019-20 quarter-finals.

“We should be proud to say that Barca is alive,” manager Xavi Hernandez told reporters. “We understood how we had to work against one of the best teams in the world. It’s a small advantage but a victory that generates even more excitement in our city and within our fans.”

Xavi’s side dominated proceedings early on against the French side, still looking for a first Champions League crown. Raphinha gave the visitors the lead with a rebound strike in the 37th minute, after goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma failed to clear a cross from his box.

Donnarumma looked nervous throughout the match, showing bad timing and making errors that almost led to Barcelona scoring the opener earlier in the first half.

However, PSG looked transformed after the break with manager Luis Enrique, a former Barca player and coach, switching things up and bringing on forward Bradley Barcola for Marco Asensio.

The attacking change resulted in the equaliser in the 48th minute, when former Barca winder Ousmane Dembele smashed the ball into the top corner after scooping a rebound inside the box and making a quick cut to his left, before unleashing an unstoppable shot between three defenders.

Barca were still reeling when the hosts took the lead through Vitinha, who struck the ball in two minutes later from a quick counter attack and substitute Bradley Barcola almost scored the third minutes later when his close-range strike hit the cross bar.

But Raphinha’s deft volley in the 62nd minute, from a brilliant long pass by substitute Pedri, brought the match level again, silencing the home crowd.

Andreas Christensen came off the bench to take advantage of a static Donnarumma to jump unchallenged in the six-yard-box and head in from a corner 13 minutes from time to give the Spanish side a narrow advantage going into next week’s second leg.

“It was a spectacular night, not only for me, but for the team as well,” Raphinha told reporters. “We have been working very hard to come out and play like we did, showing our grit with such a good atmosphere is a very positive sign moving forward.”

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