BARCELONA • Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery was fighting to keep his job yesterday, after his side were walloped 6-1 by Barcelona in a Champions League rout described as a "nightmare" and a "humiliation".
The Spaniard had been hailed as a tactical genius last month when the French champions stunned mighty Barca 4-0 in Paris in the first leg of their last-16 tie. But on Wednesday, in front of almost 100,000 people at the Nou Camp, PSG allowed in three late goals in an incredible last seven minutes as Barcelona won 6-5 on aggregate.
"When you win 4-0, then lose 6-1, it's very hard to accept," said PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the Qatari whose country has poured in hundreds of millions of dollars.
"Everyone knows that the quarter-finals were an objective and after winning the first leg 4-0 that aim was confirmed. This is a nightmare for everybody. Is Unai Emery still credible? This is not the moment to talk of this. After the game, we are all upset."
Influential French sports daily L'Equipe was quick to highlight the implications of becoming the shock European fall guys.
"It is the entire PSG project that is threatened by this humiliation," it said.
Emery, the three-time Europa League-winning coach with Sevilla, said PSG were hurt by German referee Deniz Aytekin's decisions to award two penalties to Barcelona - both in the second half - while turning down PSG's appeals when the ball struck the arm of Javier Mascherano.
"We had chances to make it 3-2 and then the refereeing decisions, I don't know if they were right or not, but for sure they damaged us," he said. "Then in the last two minutes we lost everything we had recovered in the second half. The decisions went their way, but in the vital moments we should have done so much better."
PSG defender Thomas Meunier blasted his team-mates for allowing Barcelona to bully them.
"At 5-1 down, we were qualifying but we conceded a goal that we should not have conceded," he said. "We acquiesced, we were victims and let them dominate us.
"Even when 3-1 down we had lots of chances but we didn't take them. We made unacceptable mistakes and handed the game to them."
The statistics do not make pretty reading for PSG, who completed just four passes, three of them kickoffs, from the 85th minute as midfielder Adrien Rabiot struggled to come to terms with the shocking denouement.
"Between 3-1 and 6-1, I do not know what happened," he said. "We were not supposed to sit back like this, it was not the plan."
For defender Thiago Motta, the night went from bad to worse after the sports car he was driving after landing at Le Bourget airport outside Paris hit a fan - who was taken to hospital with minor injuries .
PSG now face a tricky end to the season to salvage some pride and appease their supporters.
They trail Monaco by three points in the Ligue 1 title race.
"I hope this setback will not weigh on us mentally," winger Hatem Ben Arfa said.