Kylian Mbappe scored a hat trick as Paris Saint-Germain put one foot in the Champions League quarterfinals with a 4-1 victory over Barcelona at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.
The surprising return of Gerard Pique from a knee injury was not enough to inspire Ronald Koeman’s men against a PSG side who were without stars Neymar and Angel Di Maria for the match.
PSG had the better of the early exchanges but it was Barca who struck first before the half-hour mark.
Frenkie de Jong was awarded a penalty in the 27th minute when Layvin Kurzawa accidentally clipped his trailing foot while running to reach a long ball behind the PSG defence. Lionel Messi stepped up and confidently beat keeper Keylor Navas to put Barca ahead.
Kylian Mbappe quickly answered minutes later with an expert finish following a flowing team move. The France international settled a cushioned Marco Verratti chip, used some neat footwork to wriggle free of defenders and fired into the roof of Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s goal from close range.
Mbappe put PSG in front in the 66th minute when he pounced onto a deflected low cross and placed his shot into the empty net with Ter Stegen out of the way.
PSG took firm command of the tie four minutes later from a Leandro Paredes free kick on the left. Moise Kean headed down and past Ter Stegen after being left alone at the back post by a slack Barca defence.
Mbappe completed his hat trick five minutes from time with a sumptuous curled finish to cap a counter-attack, giving Barca a sizable mountain to climb in the second leg in Paris on March 10.
Meanwhile, Liverpool capitalised from one of a number of errors from Dayot Upamecano to take a 2-0 first leg away lead over RB Leipzig thanks to goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in Budapest.
The match was moved to neutral Budapest as the rising coronavirus cases in the UK had prevented Liverpool from entering Germany.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have been in terrible form domestically with three consecutive defeats in the Premier League but took a deserved lead on 53 minutes.
Upamecano was at fault for the second goal five minutes later after a woefully timed challenge allowed Mane to run through and put Liverpool 2-0 ahead.
The return leg is due to take place at Anfield on March 10, though that situation is under constant review due to the ongoing coronavirus situation in the UK.