By Julien PretotPARIS, France (Reuters) – Paris St Germain’s Angel Di Maria was at his vintage best as he scored twice on his birthday in a 4-0 first-leg demolition of a ragged Barcelona side who now have a mountain to climb in their Champions League last-16 clash.The Argentina winger, 29, scored in each half with PSG’s Germany midfielder Julian Draxler and Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani also finding the net as the French champions tore apart a disorganised Barca side who have it all to do in the return.PSG, eliminated by the Catalans in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2013 and 2015, were the more aggressive side at the Parc des Princes and have put themselves in a commanding position ahead of the March 8 second leg at the Camp Nou.Five-time European champions Barca, with their trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar subdued, have not exited in the last 16 since going out to Liverpool in the 2006/07 season and the score equalled their worst Champions League loss.“It’s impossible to have a better performance and birthday. I’m very happy with how the team played. It was a wonderful display, fully deserved,” said Di Maria, who is getting back to his best since Draxler joined from Vfl Wolfsburg last month.Stunned Barca coach Luis Enrique said of the PSG side: “They are world class players with a lot of quality. Di Maria in particular was very, very good. They have a big attacking potential, are hard in defence and incredible on the ball.The only concern for home coach Unai Emery was the loss of the impressive Marco Verratti to a leg injury in the second half after the Italy international had put on a world-class display with fellow midfielder Adrien Rabiot.PSG were dangerous on the break from the start and came close to scoring in the 11th minute when captain Blaise Matuidi’s rasping shot was brilliantly parried by keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen after a perfect through ball from Rabiot.CAVANI STRIKESThe home side were rewarded seven minutes later, though, when Di Maria whipped a free kick over the wall into the net.Barcelona continued to play their patient possession game but failed to threaten and their apparent complacency was punished again five minutes before the break.Messi lost the ball in midfield and Verratti slid a perfectly weighted ball to the right for Draxler, who fired a low shot into the far bottom corner of the net.PSG started the second half strongly and went further ahead in the 55th minute when Di Maria danced around Andres Iniesta before curling a 25-metre shot past Ter Stegen.Verratti limped off the pitch in some discomfort after 71 minutes and was replaced by Chris Nkunku.It did not stop PSG from continuing to push forward, though, and a minute later Cavani, who was celebrating his 30th birthday, rifled a low shot past Ter Stegen for his seventh goal in seven games in the competition this season.The hosts also defended perfectly, with centre back Presnel Kimpembe deputising superbly on his Champions League debut for injured captain Thiago Silva, as PSG claimed a deserved victory.Barca had a chance to get an away goal seven minutes from time but Samuel Umtiti’s header hit Kevin Trapp’s right-hand post, and Luis Enrique’s side now face a huge challenge.No team ever overturned a deficit of four or more goals to progress in the Champions League knockout stages.
With a one-point lead, the ball and less than three minutes remaining, it looked as if Syracuse’s fourth-quarter comeback was going to result in its marquee win of the season against No. 7 Louisville.The Orange had been in this position before against ranked opponents away from home — they held fourth-quarter leads over then-No. 24 Michigan on Dec. 5 and then-No. 22 West Virginia on Dec. 22. But in both games, SU’s offensive possessions in the final minute were sloppy and the opportunity to add a ranked win to its résumé slipped away. On Sunday, it was Syracuse’s (6-6, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) lack of aggression off a missed free throw that kept it from recording its biggest win of the season. With 30 seconds left and up by one, Louisville’s Elizabeth Balogun missed two free throws but got her own rebound after the second one and laid it in. On the ensuing possession, Kiara Lewis’ layup was blocked and grabbed by Balogun, who was fouled and sunk a free throw secure a 62-58 victory for Louisville (12-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The Orange have one win in six tries against ranked opponents this season. In three of its five losses, SU held a lead with less than three minutes left in the game.In a season full of slow starts, SU came out firing on Sunday. Digna Strautmane and Lewis made sure Syracuse didn’t replicate its six-point first quarter last weekend against West Virginia. The duo combined for 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the first quarter to give the Orange a one-point advantage after the first frame. Louisville’s Jazmine Jones provided the spark for the home team, finding pockets of space in SU’s zone and sinking four jumpers in the opening period. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange’s smart ball movement and shot selection in the first quarter disappeared in the second. They made just one field goal and scored seven points in the first nine minutes of the second quarter. Emily Engstler drilled a hook shot and 3-pointer in the final minute of the half to bring SU’s second-quarter tally to double-digits and the Cardinals’ lead to one. Syracuse’s strong perimeter defense held Dana Evans and Kylee Shook — two of Louisville’s three leading scorers — scoreless in the first half. In the third quarter, though, the Orange focused on closing down Jones, who logged 18 first-half points, allowing Evans and Shook to get open looks from behind the arc. They each sunk one to extend Louisville’s lead to as big as 11. SU’s jumpers weren’t falling so it started driving to the hoop, proving effective when Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi converted an and-one and Gabrielle Cooper took two trips to the line. That whittled the Cardinals’ lead down to seven heading into the fourth.SU clawed back to tie the game at 54 after freshman Teisha Hyman bottomed three 3s before the under-five minute media timeout. When Lewis and Amaya Finklea-Guity made a jumper and layup, the Orange had a one-point lead with two-and-a-half minutes remaining, their first lead since the midway point of the second quarter.But SU’s lack of concentration on defense and inability to execute on offense doomed it in the final two minutes, and soon it ran out of time. Syracuse didn’t have a free-throw attempt in the fourth quarter while the Cardinals had eight, six of which came in the final minute and 20 seconds. Comments Published on December 29, 2019 at 5:14 pm Contact David: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook Twitter Google+