A hat-trick from Kylian Mbappe helped Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) hammer FC Barcelona 4-1 at the Camp Nou on Tuesday in the 2020/2021 UEFA Champions League.
Liverpool, just like PSG, are also on course for the quarter-finals of the competition, after having won 2-0 away to RB Leipzig.
The elite tournament resumed with the first knock-out ties of the last 16 in the continental competition played during the coronavirus pandemic.
Barca hosted PSG behind closed doors while RB Leipzig welcomed Liverpool to Budapest as Germany is currently not allowing non-citizens/residents to enter the country from the UK.
Lionel Messi’s penalty kick gave FC Barcelona the lead but Mbappe struck either side of half-time.
Moise Kean added another and Mbappe completed his hat-trick with a superb finish as PSG took control of the tie that was a repeat of the sensational encounter at this stage in 2017.
On that occasion, FC Barcelona overturned a 4-0 first leg deficit 6-1 at home and must now launch a similar comeback attempt —-this time in Paris on March 10.
That is when six-time champions Liverpool, last winners in 2019, will expect to finish the job against RB Leipzig at Anfield.
Second half goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane earned them a deserved win in the duel between German bosses Juergen Klopp and Julian Nagelsmann in the Hungarian capital.
On Wednesday, FC Porto meet Juventus and Sevilla host Borussia Dortmund while holders Bayern Munich resume away to Lazio next Tuesday.
Neymar was influential in turning the tie with PSG in FC Barcelona’s favour four years ago but the Brazilian star missed the match with his former club due to injury.
But PSG —— with 22-year-old Mbappe almost untouchable —— scarcely missed him.
Mbappe’s quick-feet in the penalty box after a nice flick from Marco Verrati levelled the match.
His clinical finish when Marc-Andre ter Stegen could only parry a 65th minute cross put PSG in front.
Ter Stegen had previously denied Mbappe on several occasions and did so again before Kean was given space at a free-kick to head home unchallenged with 20 minutes left.
Barca tried to rally but left themselves exposed and Mbappe curled into the top corner after Julian Draxler raced clear on the counter to cap a glorious night for Maurico Pochettino.
He had coached PSG only since early this year.
PSG, who beat RB Leipzig in the semi-finals last season, were superior even when Messi gave the hosts the lead from the penalty kick spot. That was after Layvin Kurzawa accidentally clipped Frenkie de Jong in the 27th minute.
RB Leipzig too are up against it, having come within inches of the opener at the Puskas Arena when Dani Olmo headed off the post in just two minutes.
Liverpool slowly took control and had already threatened several times before RB Leipzig imploded with two horrific errors early in the second half.
Marcel Sabitzer’s pass inadvertently released Salah to finish well.
And when Dayot Upamecano —— who confirmed a move to Bayern Munich this week —— fluffed a 58th minute clearance, Mane showed no mercy.
Liverpool, who are riddled with defensive problems and injuries all season, are out of contention to retain their Premier League title but at least one more round in the Champions League looks likely.(dpa/NAN)