There’s a new king in town. Or at least that’s what it felt like watching Kylian Mbappe and Paris Saint-Germain tear Barcelona to shreds at Camp Nou on Tuesday evening in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie. The Parisians won the game 4-1, with Mbappe embodying their pace, power and ingenuity.
Barcelona, off the pace in La Liga and handed a tough Champions League draw after finishing second in their group, went into the game in lower morale than usual, albeit having turned a corner in terms of their league form. They took the lead inside the opening half-hour, Lionel Messi converting a penalty kick after Frenkie de Jong was fouled inside the box.
PSG equalised shortly after. It was Mbappe who struck, taking the ball from Marco Verratti, creating space in the box and then finishing lethally. The French marksman doubled his tally shortly after the hour mark, seizing on a loose ball, before completing a historic hat-trick in the final ten-minutes, finishing off a deadly counter-attack with a sublime effort. Moise Kean, on loan from Everton, scored PSG’s third goal.
“They were superior,” Ronald Koeman admitted post-match in comments carried by Marca. “They were effective, especially Mbappe. The first half was very close, and at 1-0 Ousmane [Dembele] had a clear chance. In the second half we had defensive problems, and they showed themselves to be superior, both with the ball and physically.
“They’ve shown, especially in the second half, that they have a more complete team than we do. We have to accept that and keep improving.” Koeman was then asked whether he considered the tie to be over. “We have to play it, but coming back from 4-1 down is very difficult,” he said. “There are few options.”