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UCL Quarterfinals: Bravo, Paris Saint-Germain - Adiós, Barcelona

By Alex Al-Kazzaz

Paris Saint-Germain has advanced to the Champions League final four for the first time in three years. Les Parisiens thrillingly eliminated Barcelona in a match that will be remembered as one of the most memorable in the competition's history. PSG is set to square off against Borussia Dortmund, who's in the UCL final four for the first time since 2013. Barcelona is out along with fellow Spanish heavyweights Atlético Madrid.

The first leg between PSG and Barcelona saw Les Parisiens finish on the losing end. With PSG's history of not pulling through in the most crucial moments, it seemed that Barcelona would easily cruise through at home in leg two, only to be thwarted by a highly-paced PSG squad. Just when Barcelona thought they had PSG well in check, the mayhem soon began, and the rest is history. The match itself tells the story.

PSG immediately set themselves on the attack in the opening minutes looking for a quick goal only for Barcelona to fend them off repeatedly. Like the first leg, PSG had difficulty putting the ball into the back of the net. After ten minutes, Les Parisiens missed at least two scoring opportunities. Barcelona's Raphinha put his team ahead 1-0 in the 12th minute, giving Barcelona a two-goal aggregate lead.

With a two-goal deficit, it already seemed over, but PSG continued with their attack threats. Barcelona would have had another goal in the 20th minute had Robert Lewandowski not overshot his scoring attempt after a poor defensive clearing by PSG. Both defenses were being heavily tested two minutes into the first half.

Between the 27th and 28th minute, PSG's Kylian Mbappé missed two brilliant scoring opportunities before Barcelona's Ronald Araújo took down Bradley Barcola near the penalty box, receiving a straight red card and being sent off, putting Barcelona in a 10 to 11 player disadvantage. PSG would finally score shortly before the end of the first half, courtesy of Ousmane Dembélé.

As the second half started, PSG continued to maintain ball control and repeatedly attempted to score, but the missed opportunities continued. Barcelona continued with the resilient defending, but PSG's attack was not going away, and when Vitinha scored from distance to level it 4-4 on aggregate, the tables had turned and PSG would never relinquish. Less than a minute after Vitinha's brilliant goal, Barcelona nearly regained their lead but could not do it because İlkay Gündoğan's attempted shot hit the crossbar. Soon after, Lewandowski's attempted header was saved by PSG goalie Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Around the 56th minute of the game, Barcelona manager Xavi was ejected for mouthing off at the ref. And if that wasn't bad enough, two minutes later, Barcelona defender João Cancelo fouled Dembélé in the box, resulting in PSG being awarded a penalty, which Mbappé easily converted. So it was that with 30 minutes left, les Parisiens had a 5-4 aggregate lead, but it was far from over.

Barcelona would go on to have a few chances to get back into the game, only to fall short repeatedly. PSG would keep their foot on the gas pedal as their offensive attack did not disappear. PSG's defense had the resiliency that the Barcelona defense had early on, and in the 90th minute, off a counter-attack, PSG would add another goal courtesy of Mbappé to make the score 4-1 and 6-4 on aggregate. That final goal was largely due to a massive blunder by Barcelona defender Jules Koundé.

This loss is very unfortunate for Barcelona. Being outplayed by PSG explains why and how they were humiliated on their home turf. The early red card was obvious despite the protest of the Barcelona player. The penalty was clear, and at that point, PSG was slowly gaining control. Barcelona was unable to find answers to put the game away in their favor, and PSG soon did just that.

PSG's semifinal matchup against Borussia Dortmund is an exciting one. With PSG overcoming a massive challenge in Barcelona, they're eager to pull through against Dortmund to return to the UCL final. Dortmund is on a tear right now, and they're determined to return to the final after an eleven-year absence.

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