PARIS (AFP) - Luis Suarez hit a brilliant second-half double as Barcelona appeared to end Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League dream for another year with a 3-1 quarter-final, first leg win at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.
The visitors’ all-star attack made their class count as Neymar coolly converted from a Lionel Messi assist in the 18th minute to put Luis Enrique’s men in control, before Suarez produced two classy finishes in the final quarter of the game.
PSG got one back eight minutes from time from what was credited as a Jeremy Mathieu own-goal from a Gregory van der Wiel shot, but this was their first home defeat of the season and a first loss at home in Europe in 34 matches since 2006.
Next Tuesday’s second leg at the Camp Nou now looks set to be a formality, even if PSG will have their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfield maestro Marco Verratti back from suspension by then.
“We were superior in midfield, were dangerous going forward and defended well as a team. It was a complete performance from us,” said Luis Enrique.
“But we are not going to make the mistake of thinking the tie is finished.”
The French champions have been eliminated on away goals at this stage of the competition in each of the last two seasons, including against Barca in 2013, but they will do very well to even make it that close on this occasion.
And their evening was further marred by the loss of captain Thiago Silva, who hobbled off just after Neymar’s opener with an apparent thigh problem.
A dejected Silva walked straight off the field to have his left thigh bandaged up, not even waiting until his fellow-Brazilian David Luiz was ready to take his place.
The former Chelsea stopper was a surprise inclusion in the squad after travelling to Russia for treatment on a hamstring injury that was expected to sideline him for around three more weeks.
But even with Silva on the field, Paris looked uncomfortable against Barcelona’s attack. The match was only 14 minutes old when Suarez found Messi on the edge of the area, the Argentine controlling the ball and curling a wicked shot off the left post before it rebounded out to safety.
Messi, who has scored 45 goals in all competitions this season, provided a 25th assist soon after, sliding a pass into the path of Neymar, who finished across Salvatore Sirigu with the PSG defence posted missing after Adrien Rabiot lost possession on the right wing.
SILVA HOBBLES OFF
After crashing into Messi in the lead-up to that goal, Silva hobbled off, and Luiz had taken his place in time to see Neymar cut into the box and send in a shot that Sirigu, this time, saved comfortably.
It took 35 minutes for PSG to force Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Barcelona goal into a save, and even then it was an easy catch as Edinson Cavani hooked a Maxwell cross on target.
There was a further scare for the hosts as Sirigu came up clutching his left arm after falling awkwardly while saving a Suarez shot, but the Italian goalkeeper was able to carry on.
PSG had a greater purpose about them at the start of the second half, and both Javier Pastore and Rabiot forced saves from ter Stegen, before Barcelona were dealt an injury blow of their own as captain Andres Iniesta had to be stretchered off after taking a knee in the lower back from Pastore.
However, Barcelona again undid the PSG defence midway through the second half, Suarez eliminating Luiz and Marquinhos as he cut into the area from the right before holding off Maxwell and prodding past Sirigu at his near post.
Ter Stegen blocked a thunderous Cavani shot before the classy Suarez struck again on 79 minutes, playing a quick one-two with Javier Mascherano and nutmegging the hapless Luiz before lashing a shot high into the top-right corner.
That appeared to be that, although PSG were given the smallest glimmer of hope when Van der Wiel’s volley from outside the area beat ter Stegen with the aid of a decisive touch off substitute Mathieu.