PSG eases into quarterfinals with 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen
PARIS (AP) - Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc was left feeling frustrated and let down by some of his players after a scrappy 2-1 win against Bayer Leverkusen sealed a Champions League quarterfinal slot for the second straight season.
PSG made a poor start and midfielder Sidney Sam gave Leverkusen a flicker of hope with a well taken goal after six minutes. Brazilian defender Marquinhos equalized soon after and Argentina winger Ezequiel Lavezzi continued his fine form with the winner in the 53rd minute.
But Blanc felt his team had switched off after the first leg, which PSG won 4-0 for a crushing 6-1 aggregate win.
''It's all well and good saying to the players `forget the first game' but it's true that subconsciously you tell yourself you've got a bit of a cushion,'' Blanc said. ''But there were players out there who don't play that much and you have to show your best level. The Champions League is a level above and I was expecting more from my team.''
With Blanc resting several players, midfielders Yohan Cabaye, Adrien Rabiot and Javier Pastore were given starts, while Marquinhos replaced countryman Alex in central defense. Christophe Jallet stepped in for the injured Gregory van der Wiel at right back.
Given a chance to shine, Pastore was disappointing.
''We didn't play very well. I was expecting a bit more. But the essential thing is that we're through,'' Blanc said. ''You could put it down to a lack of experience or a lack of preparation, yet we did prepare the match properly.''
Still, he remains optimistic that his team can contend for the trophy.
''I think since last year our opponents fear us more and more,'' Blanc said. ''We're seen as a club that can go very far in this competition. We're not going to content ourselves with reaching the quarterfinals.''
Leverkusen had midfielder Emre Can sent off for a second yellow card with a little more than 20 minutes left.
But PSG will have to do better in defense in the quarterfinals, with Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes missing a first-half penalty.
Barcelona, which eliminated PSG from the competition last season, beat Manchester City 2-1 in the night's other match to advance 4-1 on aggregate.
Leverkusen started brightly and Can forced Sirigu into a low save but he was beaten when right back Giulio Donati crossed from the right and Sam rose unchallenged at the far post to head firmly home.
''I have mixed feelings. It's difficult to be happy after a defeat but I'm proud of my players, we showed a lot of character,'' Leverkusen coach Sami Hyypia said. ''I think a draw would have been fair.''
Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed a chance to equalize in the 12th minute, forcing Bernd Leno into a smart save with his legs. But from the resulting corner, taken by Cabaye, Marquinhos leveled with a firm header that Leno got a hand to. It was the 19-year-old's fourth goal of the season and his third in the Champions League.
PSG continued to push forward, with Ibrahimovic almost adding to his 38 goals this season with an exquisite chip against the crossbar.
But PSG still looked shaky at the back, and Leverkusen was awarded a penalty in the 27th minute when Jallet fouled Switzerland forward Eren Derdiyok. But Rolfes' spot-kick was at a comfortable height for Sirigu.
''The fact that (goalkeeper) Salvatore (Sirigu) was our best player tonight proves that we didn't have a great game,'' Blanc said.
In a fast-paced first half, Leno saved Edinson Cavani's miscued effort, again with his legs, but Lavezzi gave PSG the lead in the 53rd with his fifth goal in the past six games.
''Something's clicked with him,'' Blanc said. ''I told him `You're scoring a goal a game for us. Keep going!' Of course it's great for him, but also for us.''
Left back Lucas Digne cut the ball back to Lavezzi, who finished confidently. But Leverkusen hit back and Sirigu made a smart stop to block Derdiyok's shot from a narrow angle.
Eleven people were arrested before the match after a fight between rival fans.
About 40 fans of each side met in Paris' historic center in a ''short but violent altercation'' outside Odeon metro station that left several people with minor injuries, PSG's director of security Jean-Philippe d'Halliville told The Associated Press by telephone. He added that fans of another German club, Kickers Offenbach, reinforced the Leverkusen contingent.
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