Champions League soccer: Mbappe hat-trick leads PSG over Barcelona

Feb. 17 (UPI) — Kylian Mbappe was unstoppable in Paris Saint-Germain’s round of 16 opener against Barcelona in the Champions League, netting three goals in a 4-1 win over Lionel Messi’s La Liga squad.

Mbappe scored in the 32nd, 65th and 85th minutes of the lopsided victory on Tuesday at Camp Nou in Barcelona.


“When you win, you are always happy and the performance was very good,” PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino told reporters.

“The players deserve everything and we feel very proud of our players for their fantastic match.”

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Messi drew first blood for Barcelona when he made a penalty kick in the 27th minute of the first-leg match. Barcelona right wing Frenkie de Jong prompted the attempt when he was taken down in the box by PSG defenders.

Messi beat PSG keeper Keylor Navas with a shot into the right side of the net to give Barcelona the early edge.

Mbappe netted an equalizer less than four minutes later. PSG left back Layvin Kurzawa tracked a long pass while deep down the left flank at the start of the play. The defender then used his first touch to fire a pass into the box for Marco Verratti. The PSG midfielder also got rid of the ball with his first touch.

Verratti’s quick release feed found Mbappe’s boot. The PSG striker then tapped the ball around several defenders before he blasted a close-range shot into the upper left corner of the net.

The score stayed tied through halftime. Mbappe then gave PSG the lead about 20 minutes into the second frame.

PSG right back Alessandro Florenzi started that sequence by tracking down a pass on the right flank. He then fired a pass through the box, which deflected off a Barcelona defender and sprayed out to Mbappe. The PSG star finished the play with a one-touch strike into the left side of the net.

PSG forward Moise Kean added to the lead with another score in the 70th minute. Center midfielder Leandro Paredes started that play with a free kick while about 35 yards away from the goal. The kick sailed over a wall of players before it found the head of Kean, who headed a shot past Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Mbappe scored the final goal of the match about 14 minutes later. The PSG striker showed off his world-class speed during that play. PSG stole the ball from Barcelona while in their own box to spark the goal in transition.

PSG striker Mauro Icardi sent a quick pass to Danilo Pereira at the start of the play. Pereira then sent a pass to Julian Draxler as Mbappe scorched up the left flank. Draxler dribbled all the way to the top of the Barcelona box. He then sent a pass to his left to Mbappe, who cracked a first-touch shot into the upper right corner of the net.

“We put in a very thorough performance,” PSG midfielder Ander Herrera said. “We were very disciplined.

“It’s never easy to play against a team like Barcelona, as the danger can come from anywhere, even when Messi is playing in midfield. We can be proud of our work, but we need to be careful. We are at the halfway point of the [series]. We need to finish the job at home.”

Mbappe on Tuesday became the first player in history to secure a hat trick against Barcelona in a Champions League knockout stage game.

PSG hosts Barcelona in the second leg of the round of 16 matchup at 3 p.m. EST on March 10 in Paris. PSG returns to French Ligue 1 play for a game against Monaco at 3 p.m. EST on Sunday in Paris.

Barcelona hosts Cadiz in a Spanish La Liga match at 8 a.m. EST on Sunday at Camp Nou.

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