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Paris Saint-Germain eyes Champions League quarterfinals after 4-0 rout of Bayer Leverkusen
LEVERKUSEN, Germany - Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain all but booked its place in the Champions League quarterfinals with a 4-0 away rout of 10-man Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.
Blaise Matuidi got the visitors off to a flying start in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie by scoring in the third minute.
Ibrahimovic made it 2-0 from a penalty in the 39th, after Emir Spahic hauled down Ezequiel Lavezzi, and effectively killed the game three minutes later when he rifled a shot from outside the penalty area inside the top far corner.
Leverkusen had Spahic sent off for a second yellow card in the 59th, and Paris substitute Yohan Cabaye completed the rout in the 88th.
"We had a good game," said Ibrahimovic, who took his tally in this season's competition to 10 goals from six games. "We scored early and when you are in the lead it is much easier."
The result looks almost certain to end Leverkusen's hopes of reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002, with a mountain to climb in the second leg in Paris on March 12.
No team has recovered from 4-0 down in a two-legged Champions League tie.
Barcelona won 2-0 at Manchester City in Tuesday's other game.
Lionel Messi converted a penalty in the 54th after Martin Demichelis brought him down in the area — his Argentina teammate was also sent off — and Dani Alves put the Catalans in a commanding position by scoring in the final minute.
Leverkusen seemed to be feeling the effect of losing five of its last seven games. The home side looked nervous from the start, perhaps mindful of losing 5-0 to Manchester United in its previous game at home in the competition.
"We played with fear and I really don't know why," Leverkusen defender Omer Toprak said.
Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes lost the ball to Matuidi, who combined with Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti before tucking the latter's return pass inside the far post.
"We observed them and saw their (previous) game against Schalke. We knew they were suffering and we didn't want to gift them any confidence," said Paris coach Laurent Blanc, whose side was unbeaten in its previous seven away games, with five of those ending in victory.
The visitors exuded confidence as the home side struggled to compete. Ibrahimovic should have made it 2-0 when Leverkusen 'keeper Bernd Leno struggled to deal with an effort from Lavezzi, but he fired the rebound straight at Roberto Hilbert.
The home side gradually improved. Spahic, who had been doing a good job marshalling Ibrahimovic, tried his luck from distance, though failed to trouble Paris goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.
The penalty dented his side's hopes, however, and then Matuidi played the ball back for Ibrahimovic's hammer shot.
Leverkusen coach Sami Hyypia reacted at halftime by bringing Rolfes and the disappointing Son Heung-min off for Stefan Reinartz and the 17-year-old Julian Brandt respectively.
Striker Stefan Kiessling's penalty appeals were ignored and Leverkusen supporters were further enraged when Spahic was sent off with his second yellow card for catching Lucas with his arm in a tussle for the ball.
Leverkusen defender Philipp Wollscheid's blushes were spared in the 66th, when his own goal was ruled out after Lavezzi had strayed offside.
Leno produced a great save to deny Paris substitute Javier Pastore from close range with four minutes remaining, but was helpless to stop Cabaye from emulating Ibrahimovic with a similar finish from Lucas' lay-off.
"We also want to win the return game," Blanc said. "We were back to the type of football we were playing in the first half of the season. The players did well. I have to compliment them."
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