A disastrous few moments at the Mestalla put something of a damper on Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 Champions League win and welcomed Valencia back into a tie they looked to have faded from when they trailed by two goals at the interval.
Tino Costa, who had been Valencia’s most creative player on the night, finally found a crack in the PSG armor when his free kick in the 90th found teammate Adil Rami, who steered the ball into the back of the net to pull Los Che to within a goal of their guests. And only seconds later PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic got himself sent off for what looked to me a routine tackle on Andres Guardado.
PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti vented his frustration at the incident in his post-match comments, telling French outlet Canal+ he thought his striker’s was a “normal” tackle. "I was surprised to see a red card," he said.
In any event, the Ligue 1 leaders will go into the second leg without both Ibrahimovic and midfielder Marco Verratti, who had earlier picked up a booking for dissent and will sit out the March 6 match due to yellow card accumulation. His was a needless, boneheaded caution, and while Ibrahimovic could do little about the poor decision that forced his exit, Verratti should have kept his head rather than screaming at referee Paolo Tagliavento during a minor scrum in the opening period.
So what will Ancelotti’s team look like when Valencia visit the French capital next month?
The return of injured midfielder Thiago Motta would solve the Verratti problem, although Clement Chantome—who played much of the second half on Tuesday—could slot into the position alongside Blaise Matuidi as well.
Up front Ancelotti has several options, although nothing he can do will make up for the loss of a forward of Ibrahimovic’s quality.
He could plop Kevin Gameiro up front, although the 25-year-old has hardly been impressive this season. Or, he may opt to start Ezequiel Lavezzi in the middle with Javier Pastore and Lucas Moura on either side. Pastore could also be deployed as a “false 9” with Lavezzi to his left.
No doubt these are things Ancelotti would have preferred not to think about after a first leg that, for the most part, went extremely well for his side. And while there’s nothing he can do about the Ibrahimovic red card except throw his hands up in disbelief, there may be some strong words for Verratti.