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PSG draws 1-1 with wasteful Barcelona to reach CL quarters

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal with Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann during the Champions League, round of 16, second leg soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Barcelona at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS – Paris Saint-Germain withstood early pressure from a much-improved but wasteful Barcelona side to draw 1-1 on Wednesday and reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

PSG lead 4-1 from the first leg of their round-of-16 game and moved four goals clear when Kylian Mbappe, who scored a hat trick at Camp Nou, netted with a confident penalty in the 31st minute.

That goal was firmly against the run of play and, after Barca had squandered possession and chances, Messi equalized in the 37th with a powerful shot from 25 meters that tore into the top left corner.

But the six-time Golden Ball winner then had a penalty saved by goalkeeper Keylor Navas on the stroke of halftime, his first miss from the spot in the Champions League since 2015.

It is the first time since 2005 that neither Messi nor his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo have reached the last eight of the competition, following Juventus' exit on Tuesday.

Barcelona dominated the first half and easily could have been ahead at the break — and threatening an unlikely comeback — if not for some very wasteful play from winger Ousmane Dembele in terms of both sloppy passing and poor finishing.

“We’ve made a good impression here after a terrific performance,” Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann said. “We had lots of chances, we just didn’t take them.”

Barca kept probing in the second half, and Messi had a chance from close range in the 61st but hesitated a split-second before shooting and allowed defender Marquinhos to block his shot with the goal gaping.

“It was a difficult match, Barca played a great game," Navas said. “They forced us to give everything we had.”

At the same stage of the competition four years ago, Barcelona lost 4-0 in Paris only to win 6-1 at Camp Nou in one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history.

Neymar and Messi tormented PSG that night, but there was to be no reply this time.

Barca's coach Ronald Koeman made three substitutions for the closing stages, but the visitors' hopes gradually fizzled out as a cold wind whipped around Parc des Princes.

Koeman selected Frenkie de Jong as a makeshift center half, but most of the action was at the other end as Barca made a bright start.

Dembele had a low shot saved and then wasted a great chance to pick out the unmarked Messi moments later, shooting over instead.

Messi played a pass behind PSG’s defense and Dembele burst through, forcing Navas into a fine one-handed save with a low shot. Navas then tipped Sergino Dest’s drive onto the crossbar as Barcelona opened PSG up with its passing and movement.

But Dembele overhit a simple pass that would have given Messi an open goal midway through the half and Barcelona soon paid the price. PSG took the lead after a video review ruled that defender Clement Lenglet clipped striker Mauro Icardi. Mbappe sent his spot kick to goalie Marc Andre ter Stegen’s right.

Barca came straight back and Dembele was erratic again, hitting a low shot straight at Navas after Griezmann’s superb angled pass gave him space inside the left of the penalty area.

Messi then took matters into this own hands, smashing an unstoppable shot past Navas with ferocious power. The goalkeeper did better when he saved with his legs from Sergio Busquets as Barcelona poured forward.

Incessant pressure led to a penalty for Barcelona, again following a VAR check, when Kurzawa was adjudged to have impeded Griezmann.

Messi seemed hesitant and went for power against Navas, his former rival at Real Madrid, who kicked the ball onto the crossbar with an outstretched leg.

“It’s always tough to stop a penalty, especially from Messi who hits them very well," Navas said. "I’m very pleased, it gave everyone a lot of energy."

With that miss, some of the belief seemed to sap from Barcelona and the second half was more even.

Mbappe had the last chance for PSG, but blazed his shot way over in the 90th with Icardi waiting for a pass.

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