PARIS – Paris St Germain’s Ángel Di María was at his vintage best as he scored twice on his birthday in a 4-0 demolition of a ragged Barcelona side in their Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday.
The Argentina winger, 29, scored in each half with PSG’s Germany midfielder Julian Draxler and Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani also finding the net as the French champions tore apart a disorganized Barça side who have it all to do in the return.
PSG, eliminated by the Catalans in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2013 and 2015, were the more aggressive side at the Parc des Princes and have put themselves in a commanding position ahead of the March 8 second leg at the Camp Nou.
Five-times European champions Barça, with their trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar subdued, have not exited in the last 16 since going out to Liverpool in the 2006/07 season and the score equaled their worst Champions league loss.
The only concern for PSG coach Unai Emery was the loss of the impressive Marco Verratti to a leg injury in the second half after the Italy international had put on a world class display with fellow midfielder Adrien Rabiot.
PSG were dangerous on the break and came close to scoring in the 11th minute when captain Blaise Matuidi’s rasping shot was brilliantly parried by goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen after a perfect through ball from Rabiot.
The home side were rewarded seven minutes later when Di María whipped a free kick over the Barça wall into the net.
Barcelona continued to play their patient possession game but failed to threaten and their complacency was punished again five minutes before the break.
Messi lost the ball in midfield and Verratti slid a perfectly weighted ball to the right for Draxler, who fired a low shot into the far bottom corner of the net.
PSG started the second half strongly and went further ahead in the 55th minute when Di María danced around Andrés Iniesta before curling a 25-metre shot past Ter Stegen.
Verratti limped off the pitch in some discomfort after 71 minutes, being replaced by Chris Nkunku.
It did not stop PSG from continuing to push forward, though, and a minute later Cavani, who was celebrating his 30th birthday, rifled a low shot past Ter Stegen for his seventh goal in seven games in the competition this season.
The hosts also defended perfectly, with centre back Presnel Kimpembe deputizing superbly on his Champions League debut for injured captain Thiago Silva as PSG claimed a deserved victory.
Barça had a chance to get an away goal seven minutes from time but Samuel Umtiti’s header hit Kevin Trapp’s right-hand post and Luis Enrique’s side now have a mountain to climb.
No team have ever overturned a deficit of four or more goals to progress in the Champions league knockout stages.