Kylian Mbappe scored a remarkable hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain came from behind to batter Barcelona 4-1 away from home in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
The Parisians were back at Camp Nou for the first time since their humiliating Champions League collapse in 2017 when they were thumped 6-1 after winning the first leg 4-0, and they got a semblance of revenge with an emphatic victory.
Lionel Messi reached 20 goals for a 13th successive season when putting Barca ahead just before the half-hour mark with a penalty, but PSG were far more of a threat in attack and fully deserved the equaliser that Mbappe netted with aplomb.
Mbappe doubled his personal tally in the second half and the similarly lively Moise Kean got PSG’s third soon after, before the France star completed his treble with a sumptuous finish on the break that will likely put the tie beyond Barca, though they have pulled off more unlikely comebacks before.
1 – Kylian Mbappé (22 years and 58 days) is the youngest player in @ChampionsLeague history to score a brace in a knockout game against Barcelona in the competition. Galactic. pic.twitter.com/BN9Mil35pE
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 16, 2021
The early exchanges passed with little drama as the two sides respectably sparred, but the contest burst into life when Barca then opened the scoring in the 27th minute, Messi finding the top-right corner with a penalty awarded after Layvin Kurzawa accidentally tripped Frenkie de Jong.
But PSG soon levelled as Mbappe brought down Marco Verratti’s flicked pass and lashed in after evading Clement Lenglet.
Antoine Griezmann could not restore Barca’s lead when he shot wide after a long solo run, though it was PSG who finished the half on top.
Moise Kean and Kurzawa both forced fine saves from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while Mauro Icardi headed agonisingly wide on the stroke of half-time.
PSG carved Barca open again early in the second half, Icardi teeing up Kean with a clever flick only to see Ter Stegen make a fingertip save to deny him.
The visitors finally went in front, and deservedly so, with 25 minutes to go – Mbappe slamming in from about 10 yards after Alessandro Florenzi’s cutback was deflected into his path by Gerard Pique.
It quickly got worse for Barca, as Kean nodded in Leandro Paredes’ inviting free-kick delivery to give Ronald Koeman’s men a mountain to climb.
Mbappe rounded off an incredible night for PSG five minutes from time, curling a gorgeous first-time effort into the top-right corner after Julian Draxler led a devastating counter.
What does it mean? – Barca need another miracle
The most optimistic of Barca fans will of course point out that they have come back from worse against PSG.
But four years ago when they turned things around, the second leg was in front of a raucous Camp Nou crowd, and their starting XI included the likes of Andres Iniesta, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Their squad simply is not comparable to that lot anymore – damage limitation rather than miracle-working will be Koeman’s task in the second leg.
Majestic Mbappe overshadows Messi
All eyes were on Messi ahead of this clash given the speculation linking him with PSG, but you would be forgiven for forgetting Barca’s captain was even on the pitch after taking in Mbappe’s performance. The young Frenchman was in devastating form, his three goals coming from six shots, giving him an impressive conversion rate of 50 per cent.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg – he also laid on more key passes (four) than anyone else on the pitch. A remarkable display from the Frenchman, who became the first away player to score a Champions League hat-trick at Camp Nou since Andriy Shevchenko in 1997.
Griezmann fades into the background
Although Griezmann had a couple of decent chances, on neither occasion did he manage to find the net – back in his Atletico Madrid days, you would have fancied him to take at least one of them.
His 38 touches of the ball were the second-fewest of any of Barca’s outfield starters, while the fact he was involved in just five duels shows how little influence he had – by comparison, teenager Pedri was party to 17.
Barca are at home again on Sunday as they host Cadiz in LaLiga, while PSG welcome Monaco to the Parc des Princes later the same day.
They face each other again on March 3 for the second leg in Paris.