Barcelona vs. Paris Saint-Germain, 2013 UEFA Champions League: Final score 1-1, Blaugrana progress on away goals

Shaun Botterill

The Blaugrana were less than impressive in the first hour at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, but Lionel Messi's entrance inspired Barcelona to an equalizer on the night and an away goals victory over Paris Saint-Germain.

Barcelona are through to the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League, and depending on how the draw falls, could face a pair of Clasicos in the next round. They struggled in the opening hour against Paris Saint-Germain and went down in the 50th minute, but were rescued when Lionel Messi came off the bench. He was involved in the equalizer that sent them through in a 1-1 draw on the night, which was good enough to seal a 3-3 aggregate draw and progression on away goals.

Carlo Ancelotti made one change to his side for tactical reasons, replacing David Beckham with the younger Marco Verratti. Blaise Matuidi, the scorer of the equalizer at the Parc des Princes, was also left on the bench due to Thiago Motta's return from injury. Barcelona had to start with Messi on the bench due to his hamstring injury, while further injuries meant Adriano started the match as a makeshift center back.

The game got off to a wild, wide-open start, with both teams struggling to settle in during the opening minutes. Marco Verratti fouled Cesc Fabregas just outside the penalty area just a minute into the game, setting up a Xavi free kick that went just inches wide.

Paris Saint-Germain looked like the more dangerous side for the rest of the half, coming close to scoring on a few occasions. Ezequiel Lavezzi split the Barcelona central defenders with a run in the fourth minute, but took a poor touch that allowed them to recover and force him into a weak shot. He had another good chance go begging in the 24th minute, when he shot right at Victor Valdes. Lucas Moura was very effective throughout the first half as well, hitting a couple of shots on target.

The final 15 minutes of the first half were much less eventful than the first 30, as Barcelona began to settle in on both ends of the pitch. It appeared to be leading into a more controlled and composed second half performance from the Blaugrana, but they found themselves trailing on the night and in the tie just five minutes after the break.

Javier Pastore broke the deadlock, finishing off a spectacular combination move with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Pastore found him with a pass on the ground near the halfway line, then took off running at the Barcelona defense. Ibrahimovic played a perfect return through ball to his teammate, and Pastore blew by Dani Alves with a burst of pace. He took the ball wide, then placed a shot just over the outstretched leg of Victor Valdes to put PSG up 3-2 on aggregate.

It took mere seconds after the goal for the not-quite-fit Messi to pop up off his chair and begin to warm up. Before he could be introduced, Adriano sustained and injury, and Messi was introduced along with defender Marc Bartra in a double substitution. Barcelona did not have a single shot on target before Messi's introduction.

Whether it came from a sense of urgency or the sheer confidence they gained from Messi entering the game, the Blaugrana instantly ramped up their intensity and began to look dangerous in attack. They had a brilliant chance to pull a goal back in the 65th minute, when Andres Iniesta forced Salvatore Sirigu into a diving save. Messi had half a chance to put a rebound on target, but appeared to get his feet uncharacteristically tangled.

Messi looked a bit more up to match speed five minutes later, when he was involved in Barcelona's equalizer on the night, putting them up on away goals. He started the move with a dribble through the center that beat two defenders, then a pass into the box for David Villa, who laid off behind him. Pedro was waiting and fired a brilliant finish past Sirigu from 15 yards.

Both teams made significant changes around the 80th minute mark in an attempt to change the game. Carlo Ancelotti opted for fresh legs up top, bringing on Kevin Gameiro for Lavezzi, while David Beckham replaced Verratti for a set piece threat. Barcelona went defensive, using their final change to bring on Alex Song for David Villa. In the dying minutes, Ancelotti used his final change to bring on Gregory van der Wiel for Cristophe Jallet.

Ultimately, their changes did nothing to help their cause, as Barcelona did well to hang on for a win. They looked like the more threatening of the two sides as the game wound down, comfortably holding on for a draw on the night and victory in the tie.

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