Paris Saint-Germain advanced safely into the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday, beating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at the Parc des Princes in their last 16, second leg to take the tie 6-1 on aggregate. Trailing 4-0 from the first leg in Germany three weeks ago, the Bundesliga club took an early lead on the night through Sidney Sam, but Marquinhos equalised soon after.
Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes had a penalty saved before Ezequiel Lavezzi put PSG in front eight minutes into the second period, and the sending-off of Emre Can saw the visitors bow out with 10 men. "We prepared well for this match but were mediocre at the start," bemoaned PSG coach Laurent Blanc.
"But paradoxically the Bayer goal woke us up a bit too. PSG were clearly not brilliant tonight. I expected more, but the essential is there, we are through."
Meanwhile, Leverkusen coach Sami Hyypia had praise for his team despite seeing them lose for the sixth time in their last seven matches. "I'm feeling a bit sorry for the team that we didn't get anything from the game," he said.
"The starting point was difficult after losing 4-0 at home but we can take a lot of confidence for the future."
No team had ever been eliminated from a European knock-out tie after winning 4-0 away in the first leg and Blanc made the most of his side's comfortable cushion by rotating his squad, as Thiago Motta and Alex dropped to the bench. Blaise Matuidi was rested altogether to avoid the risk of incurring a suspension for the next round.
It was still a strong PSG line-up, with Edinson Cavani starting for the first time in over a month after injury but, perhaps understandably, there was an air of complacency about the hosts early on, and Leverkusen took full advantage. A low long-range strike by Can that was pushed around the post by Salvatore Sirigu served as a warning to the Ligue 1 leaders, although it was not heeded, and the visitors opened the scoring in the sixth minute.
A lovely move started by Rolfes on the left saw Gonzalo Castro spread the play to Giulio Donati on the right flank, and the Italian's cross was headed home by Sam at the back post. If that raised hopes among the boisterous travelling support that their team could pull off the most improbable of comebacks, then those hopes were short-lived, as the equaliser on the night came just seven minutes later.
After Bernd Leno saved from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Yohan Cabaye's resulting corner from the right was met by a thumping Marquinhos header that the German 'keeper could only help on its way into the net.
It was the young Brazilian defender's third goal in this season's Champions League and the hosts almost went on to take the lead shortly after but Ibrahimovic clipped his shot against the crossbar after a Cavani pass left him with just the keeper to beat. Leverkusen's recent form had increased the pressure on Hyypia, but they played some nice football in the first period and were handed the opportunity to retake the lead in the 28th minute.
When Christophe Jallet pulled back Eren Derdiyok inside the area, Croatian referee Ivan Bebek did not hesitate in pointing to the spot, and yet Rolfes saw his effort from 12 yards kept out as Sirigu made a great save diving low to his left. Leno saved from Cavani at the other end shortly before the interval and PSG then took the lead eight minutes into the second period as Lucas Digne's low ball from the left was fired low into the net by Lavezzi, for whom it was a fifth goal in his last six games.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men when Can was shown a second yellow card for diving midway through the second half, but they were spared greater punishment in the closing stages.