Valencia started in a 4-2-3-1 but played with a very narrow midfield five, asking their full backs to get forward and provide the width.
Carlo Ancelotti again picked Ezequiel Lavezzi in a more central role handing Brazilian Lucas Moura his Champions League debut on the right.
- The most interesting trend to develop from the start was PSG sacrificing their left hand side defensively. This is not the first time they have asked Javier Pastore to play on the left of their midfield in the Champions League (he did it very successfully in their last match) and there are clear advantages to this system but it does give their opponents a real opportunity to double up against Maxwell. Valencia right back Joao Pereira doesn’t need to be asked twice to get forward at the best of times and without a natural left sided player to mark he had the freedom to attack the flank from the start. Six times in the first 30 minutes the Portuguese international got forward but each time PSG handled it through a combination of poor delivery and good defending.
- Another reason for Valencia being so poor in the final third was the close proximity of the trio behind Roberto Soldado. Sofiane Feghouli appeared to want to get central a lot but as Ever Banega pushed on, it meant Pereira was all alone against Maxwell and, effectively, the Argentine midfielder was wasted as he didn’t do any of his tasks properly.
- Pastore’s deployment on the left meant that, with the ball, he, Lavezzi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic could interchange often and pass around Valencia’s markers. Ibrahimovic loves to come deep and his teams are often successful when he maintains possession and finds advancing runners. This also meant Valencia’s centre backs played high to avoid having to play running towards their own goalkeeper, situations they looked very uncomfortable in.
- Getting runners advancing beyond Ibrahimovic, is exactly how PSG almost opened the scoring after nine minutes. The Swede was cynically chopped down by Adil Rami and, with the referee playing a good advantage, Lucas Moura sprinted on to the ball and hit a rocket off the post.
- A minute later the visitors were ahead when Pastore’s excellent movement brought him over to the right where he connected on a fine move with Lavezzi who smashed it beyond the poor Vicente Guaita in the Valencia goal.
- Lucas had a fine Champions League debut up against Andres Guardado on the right flank. The Mexican will be having nightmares about the Brazilian when he sleeps tonight, as the winger excelled defending deep against his opponent and then shone when he could show his pace with the ball. At one point he ran 70 yards without breaking a sweat and it was a shame when he was removed after 53 minutes with what looked like a slight injury.
- By then PSG were 2-0 up, scoring two minutes before half time, after Pastore, once again, had drifted centrally and found space to convert an excellent cross by Lucas who had again got the better of Guardado.
- At half time Valencia were precariously close to being out of the tie and needed to make changes. Jonas and Banega were removed for Sergio Canales and Nelson Valdez as Ernesto Valverde recognised the need for width from an area other than full back.
- Carlo Ancelotti and PSG responded by asking Pastore to play a far more defensive role in the second half rarely leaving the left flank at all. It was fascinating to watch their tactical maturity develop on the biggest stage as they sat deep with the lead and countered brilliantly. Ibrahimovic’s hold up play combined with Lavezzi’s speed caused Valencia many problems as they chased the game. It should have been 3-0 when Lavezzi shot straight at Guaita, after a great long ball by Verratti, and again when sub Clement Chantome put the ball in the net after a brilliant sequence of play with Ibrahimovic. The goal was incorrectly ruled offside as the ball to Chantome came off a Valencia player.
- The Spanish side stayed in the game and looked the biggest threat with long balls over the top of the PSG defenders, who sat deep throughout and were only out of their comfort zone when having to retreat with a striker on their shoulders. Soldado and Valdez both came very close through this route as Tino Costa’s passes were now effective with the removal of Banega in front of him.
- It came as no surprise, then, into injury time when a free kick over the top of PSG’s defence was met by Adil Ramy who poked home a late goal.
- For the very first time in the match things hadn’t gone the way of the visitors and two minutes later, seconds before the final whistle, Ibrahimovic was given a straight red for going over the ball in a standing tackle. The decision was very harsh but now means the visitors will have to play the second leg without their talisman.
- All-in-all for 89 and a half minutes this was a complete performance from PSG away from home in the Champions League. They started with great tempo, defended really well, forced a change of shape out of their opponents, always looked a threat when they attacked, scored two and should have had at least one more. However, just when it seemed like they had figured it out three minutes of madness ensured the tie isn’t yet over.