The last word
It has to go that man - with his side through to the Champions League quarter-final - the last line of his autobiography:
It was a fairy tale, and I was Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
And I’ve been Toby Moses - thanks for all your emails, have a good night, I know Zlatan will.
Doing a Pellegrini
Admir writes with a correction:
“I don’t how PSG can equal highest aggregate victory in the Champions’ League history if Bayern had beaten Sporting Lisabon 12:1 on aggregate in 2008-09.”
Quite right - must be why they didn’t bother chasing that extra goal. Must remember not to get my match facts off Manuel Pellegrini - he’s not great with aggregate scores.
Leverkusen looked impressive at times, but couldn’t make PSG pay for a sloppy performance. They’ve won, but it’s been an error-strewn display from the home side which a better team would have exploited. Derdiyok in particular could have punished them if his finishing was any better. It wasn’t and their through, so I’m sure Blanc won’t be too concerned.
That’s full time and PSG are through to the quarter-final.
Just before the final whistle Pastore put a free-kick into the box which Rabiot got on the end of but Leno saved - much to the hilarity of Zlatan and the rest of the PSG bench.
90 min: The game is coming to a close now with PSG knocking it between themselves and Leverkusen content to sit deep and watch them.
PSG win a free-kick 25 yards out - Lucas stands over it for an age before the referee blows and he fires it straight into the wall.
87 min: Yohan Cabaye is a fine looking fellow isn’t he? Olivier Giroud gets a lot of praise for his dreamy looks, but I think Cabaye deserves a look in too. The way this game is playing out suits him down to the ground as he strokes simple passes to his teammates from deep lying midfield, no opposition player within a few yards of him.
84 min: Ménez plays a nice ball through to Pastore on the right hand side of the box. He has Cavani in the middle calling out for a pass but opts for the shot which Leno repels.
A corner, but before it’s taken the disgruntled Cavani is replaced by Zoumana Camara.
82 min: Do PSG want a share of this record? I’d say that they know nothing about it. Pastore and Cabaye are orchestrating things from the centre of midfield, but there’s no penetration, Leverkusen comfortably repelling their attacks.
79 min: A yellow car for Adrien Rabot. Leverkusen manage to get forward, and Derdiyok is running at the PSG defence - Rabiot sliding in from behind to concede the free-kick.
Son takes it from the right-hand side of the box. PSG’s defenders all fall over in front of the ball but there’s no Leverkusen there to take advantage. Comical defending.
78 min: A debut for Maximilian Wagener, who comes on for Stefan Reinartz.
Over in Barcelona Messi has settled the tie for the Catalans - find out how with Scott Murray.
76 min: PSG need one goal to equal the highest aggregate victory in Champions League history. I wouldn’t bet against it.
Leverkusen can’t get the ball now, with the home side comfortable in possession. Jallet is played through down on the right wing, but he swings in a weak cross which is easily cleared, much to Cavani’s frustration.
I Am Substituted
You can see why Blanc would want to take his top scorer off in this position - he’s already missed a host of chances and there’s nothing to be gained by keeping him on. Why risk injury?
As Zlatan said in I Am Zlatan
An injured Zlatan is a pretty serious thing for any team
Amen to that.
71 min: Good challenge by Toprak. Javier Pastore plays a great ball from the half way line over the Leverkusen defence and onto to Cavani’s boot. He’s about to shoot, but Toprak nicks it off his foot.
And Zlatan is being taken off - what will I talk about now? Jérémy Ménez comes on to replace him.
Sami Hyppia is not impressed with that decision, I’m not surprised. It would be good to see the replay again - as it certainly didn’t seem clear cut on first viewing.
68 min: Out of nowhere it’s a second yellow card for Can. He was booked earlier on amidst some confusion after an innocuous clash between Silva and Castro. And now he’s booked for diving. But was it a dive? I’m not sure it was - contact may have been minimal, but it was there - and if it’s enough for Robben it should be enough for Emre Can.
66 min: Derdiyok has another chance, played through again on the left hand side he goes for the near post, but Sirigu blocks. Another chance wasted. This game could have been 4-4.
A double change for Leverkusen as Hyppia tries earns his money. Sidney Sam replaced by Julian Brandt and Gonzalo Castro replaced by Son Heung-Min.
Of course Zlatan would never admit he was human - when asked on Twitter he said:
64 min: Another chance missed by Zlatan - maybe he is human after all? Pastore puts it on a plate for him in front of goal, but with his ‘weaker’ left foot he blasts over the bar to the relief of Bernd Leno.
63 min: A nice bit of skill by Cavani in his own half has the PSG fans cheering as he dances, and pirouettes around the Leverkusen challenge to play a simple pass. Could do with some of that further up the pitch.
61 min: Rolfes starts the move from his own half, giving the ball to Top Rak, who works the ball to Can on the right hand side of the PSG area. He plays a nice ball in behind the PSG defence to Derdiyok who dances clear and is about to get a shot off, but Thiago Silva steps in to clear the danger. Corner.
Before it can be taken Lucas comes on to replace PSG goalscorer Ezequiel Lavezzi.
58 min: Leverkusen have another pop - Castro letting fly from 25 yards out. Sirigu should hold but it bobbles out to Derdiyok whose weak shot the keeper easily holds. The German side are playing much better since going behind.
There’s no hope for Leverkusen manager now - so Sam Lyon offers some advice:
“Hyppia could always pull a Pardew, and go for the headbutt. Zlatan perhaps? Would make for a great anecdote in the next batch of memoirs.”
55 min: Leverkusen come close after a string of neat one touch passes on the edge of the PSG box. The ball eventually breaks to Donati on the edge of the box who shoots low and forces a strong save from Sirigu.
53 min: After a period of down time after a clash between Thiago Silva and Donati, PSG work the ball down the left through the impressive Lucas Digne. Digne skips past the non-challenge of Can and fires a low cross onto the toe of Lavezzi.
2-1 and any hope for Leverkusen extinguished.
PSG 2-1 Leverkusen (Lavezzi, 53)
If you’re Sami Hyppia what do you do here? Go for the win and risk a potentially morale-damaging defeat with very little prospect of success? Or settle for the draw in your most high-profile game as manager? It’s a tough one.
49 min: Derdiyok challenges Jallet, after a poor touch by the PSG defender sees the ball bobble clear of him. The Leverkusen forwards leads with his studs though and is rightly punished.
47 min: And the game continues in the way the first half ended, sloppy play from both sides, gifting the ball to the other team at the nearest opportunity. Scrappy stuff.
And we're off!
The second half gets under way, Leverkusen in red hoping for the impossible.
I’ll leave you with this to mull over during half-time - a glimpse at the man’s soft side - again from I Am Zlatan:
I got a bike when I was little, a BMX. I called it ‘Fido Dido’ after the tough little cartoon guy with spiked hair. I thought he was the coolest thing ever.
The bike got stolen outside of the Rosengård swimming baths and Dad went there with his shirt open and sleeves rolled up. He’s the kind of person that says: ‘No one touches my kids! No one takes their stuff’. But not even a tough guy like him could do anything about it. Fido Dido was gone, and I was crushed.
PSG have been poor by their admittedly high standards. Sloppy play abounds and Zlatan failing to convert a couple of good chances. Blanc’s tweaks to the team have clearly had an effect on PSG’s rhythm.
And it’s half-time. Leverkusen have had their moments - but if they were going to have even the merest hint of a chance they had to score that penalty. Rolfes didn’t - a tame shot easily saved.
Muller last night, Özil a few weeks ago, and now Rolfes. What’s happened to that famed German ability from the penalty spot?
44 min: A shot! Zlatan’s involved again, working his way down the right hand wing before playing the ball to Adrien Rabiot. He continues his run and is clearly expecting to have the ball played back to him, but Rabiot has other ideas and blasts the ball over the bar. And out comes the Zlatan glare. Run Rabiot, run!
41 min: PSG are back to passing it amongst their back four, and Leverkusen seem content to conserve their energy for the second-half and watch their opponents knock it about.
Too early to stop playing now, surely?
38 min: As if to answer the criticism. Zlatan drifts out to the right wing and plays a sublime pass through to Edinson Cavani in the box. He spins on the ball, losing the defender and fires a shot in at Leno’s goal. It’s not good enough though and the Leverkusen keeper saves comfortably.
Matt Dony writes:
“Re 1957: If not a different career, maybe Alex should at least have chosen a different team. I mean, if you spend your working week with Zlatan, you’re probably going to fall a little bit in love with him.”
He’s certainly fallen in love with himself - unfortunately for him, his finishing tonight isn’t up to the usual high standard - he could have had two already.
34 min: Lots of whistling from the home crowd as misplaced passes continue from the PSG players. Luckily for them, Leverkusen seem in mood to punish them.
Blanc made seven changes to his side - with some fringe players coming in so perhaps it’s no surprise to see them struggling to play slick, passing football.
32 min: Unsurprisingly that penalty miss has wounded Leverkusen as they struggle put their passes together. PSG aren’t doing much better though, with the German side doing a decent job of at least getting in their faces before they can threaten their goal.
28 min: Right - first of all - the penalty award.
The ball’s played through to Derdiyok by Can in the PSG area, he squirms past Jallet, but the defender is having none of it and pulls him down. There’s some confusion as the referee blows and reaches for his pocket - but it’s not a yellow for a dive as he books the PSG man and awards the penalty.
The captain Rolfes steps up to take it, he looks nervous - easy to say after the fact - and he hits a tame shot to the right of goal which Sirigu palms around the post. Still 1-1.
To Bayer Leverkusen!
25 min: After a neat passage of passing in the PSG half, Leverkusen nearly manage to play Derdiyok through, after he makes a smart run past Thiago Silva, but he can’t quite reach it and the ball’s out of play.
23 min: Leverkusen have finally got a spell of the ball again, but as soon as they venture close to the PSG goal the massed ranks descend to cut them off. Ah well, at least the travelling fans had seven minutes of hope after Sam’s goal.
20 min: Digne is causing all sorts of problems for the Leverkusen defence, the left-back is parked in their half, and he nearly sets up Lavezzi for a run on goal, but the striker has strayed offside.
Seconds later Pastore nearly plays Zlatan through, but he can only get his toe onto the pass and chips it over the bar.
18 min: So close. After some nice work by Digne on the left wing, he knocks the ball to Cavani who plays a lovely ball through to Zlatan in the box. He’s one-on-one with the goalkeeper and lofts a wonderful, powerful chip towards the goal, it rattles off the crossbar and down to Pastore. The midfielder tries to put the ball back into the box, but can only kick it straight into touch.
16 min: That was a lovely bit of skill from Zlatan, Cabaye robs the ball in midfielder and feeds the Swede. He passes through a Leverkusen midfielder’s legs to Pastore who knocks the ball over the top to Lavezzi. He can’t control the ball and it goes out for another corner. This one goes straight into Leno’s hands.
13 min: From a corner...
Zlatan nearly gets on the scoresheet first. Guardado on the left of the Leverkusen defence dallies and Zlatan suddenly has it and it running trhough on goal, he could pick out Cavani but instead opts for a shot, which Leno pushes out.
From the resultant corner it’s swung in by Mr Kebab, and Marquinhos heads past the despairing keeper. That’s what £27m of central defender buys you.
PSG 1-1 Leverkusen (Marquinhos, 13)
Justin Kavanagh deserves credit for shunning the lure of Barcelona v Man City and offering his thoughts on Alex’s definitely-not-homophobic-in-any-way-at-all-no-sir, views:
“Perhaps Alex should have chosen a different career, given his beliefs. After all, he lives a lot of his own life with about 24 men, the majority of them which he must share a shower and changing room with!”
9 min: Leverkusen have their tails up now, Rolfes had a poor first leg, but he’s looking good tonight. He skips through the midfield, feeds the goalscorer Sam (not Castro) and Leverkusen nearly have a break on, until PSG get back to cover.
In my excitement I got the name of the scorer wrong there - it was Sam not Castro - corrected now if you refresh your page.
6 min: Could the comeback be on? Rolfes dances down the left wing, pokes the ball through to Castro on the edge of the box, he passes to Donati on the right win, who swings in a lovely cross onto the head of Sam who makes good contact and it’s 4-1 on aggregate.
PSG 0-1 Leverkusen (Sam, 6)
3 min: Excellent shot from Can - he takes aim from 35 yards out when a bit of space opens up in the PSG midfield, and Sirigu pushes the low shot round the post. In truth it may have been going just off target, but the PSG keeper wasn’t to know.
From the resulting corner Digne clears comfortably.
2 min: And the first reference to Hyppia being part of ‘that’ 2005 Liverpool side (they came back from a goal or two down apparently).
Leverkusen get the ball, but lose it swiftly.
And we're off!
1 min: PSG kick off going from right to left, and play a bit of keep ball in their own half. No great pressure from Leverkusen - a sign of things to come?
The teams are on the pitch
And still no word from the Sky studios on the Leverkusen side, thanks guys.
Joey Barton fan Thiago Silva leads out PSG, while Simon Rolfes has to try and keep the Leverkusen chins up.
Moments from kick-off now ...
Sky are clearly struggling with how to bill this game, spending the buildup discussing Ibrahimovic v Ronaldo. Unfortunately Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t playing tonight, rather they’re musing which of the pair will be top scorer in this season’s Champions League, and if either will break Messi’s record of 14.
I’ve not heard mention of one Leverkusen player yet. Which is a shame.
Ronaldo’s on 11 to Zlatan’s 10 by the way. All to play for.
There will be another big-money striker on the pitch of course. Edinson Cavani may play second-fiddle to Zlatan, but that doesn’t mean the £53m striker has been forgotten.
Manchester United have been linked with rescuing him from his Parisien hell. Although quite why he’d want to play in the Europa League is beyond me ...
I am Toby
If this game looks set to be a non-event, at least the selection of Zlatan in the starting lineup means there’ll be something interesting to look at. He’s enjoying his football at the moment, which is always a pleasure to watch - and his autobiography is an easy bit of MBM fodder for this here writer to distract you with.
Amidst all the attention the Swede’s comments about Pep Guardiola in I Am Zlatan elicited, some of the best bits were missed.
My favourite segment has to be when he segues in the space of a paragraph from his son having a serious operation in hospital (where he left his wife to go home and fiddle on his XBox), to him picking up an award , without a hint of self-awareness.
“Maxi was in an incubator with other children. He was smaller than ever, like a little bird. He had tubes in his body and in the nose ... ‘I love you guys’, I said. ‘You’re everything to me. But I can’t take it. I’m going to flip out. Call me if there’s anything, anything!’, and then I got out of there ... I hated hospitals more than ever, and I went to the hotel and probably played the Xbox. It usually calms me down in situations like this.
We really won the Scudetto that first year with Inter and later in Sweden I was nominated for the Jerring- price.”
What a guy.
So Blanc has resisted the temptation to rest the big guns - Zlatan, Cavani and Lavezzi will all be feeding on ammunition from Pastore and Cabaye.
Leverkusen are missing Bender from their midfield (I’ll resist the temptation to reference Alex’s comments below) and their top scorer, Kiessling, is on the bench.
Is Hyppia saving him for the league? The manager certainly wasn’t sounding confident before tonight, saying “I will not say we’re going to win 4-0 or 5-0”, which is tantamount to saying “we’re going to lose”. That’s a poor attitude if you ask me, which you aren’t.
The teams are in
Sirigu; Jallet, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Digne; Pastore, Cabaye, Rabiot; Cavani, Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi. Subs: Douchez, Camara, Ménez, Thiago Motta, Alex, Maxwell, Lucas.
Leno; Donati, Wollscheid, Toprak, Guardado; Rolfes, Reinzartz, Can; Sam, Derdiyok, Castro. Subs: Lomb, Heung-min, Kiessling, Hilbert, Boenisch, Brandt, Wagener.
Impossible comebacks seem to be the theme in this week’s round of Champions League games. Arsenal have already failed - and a bunch playing in light blue are giving it a go tonight, but it doesn’t get harder than Bayer Leverkusen’s challenge tonight.
Nobody has ever come back from a 4-0 first leg deficit to win in the Champions League. Arsenal gave it a good go in 2012 against Milan - 3-0 up at half-time, Robin van Persie missed a gilt-edged chance to level the tie - but in the end they succumbed to the inevitable.
So what chance Leverkusen? Leverkusen who sit 24 points off the top of the Bundesliga. Leverkusen whose top scorer is Stefan Kiessling with only 11 goals. Leverkusen who are known as the chokers of Germany. Leverkusen who were dubbed Neverkusen after their failure to secure the league title in 2002 when five points clear with three games to go, who lost a German Cup final and Champions League final in the same year. Even if they go 5-0 up they’ll probably find some way to muck it up.
Of course, everybody loves an underdog - and facing a rampant PSG side with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani leading the line is daunting for anyone - but if you needed any more reason to root for a miraculous Leverkusen recovery look no further than former Chelsea defender Alex, now of PSG:
We love everyone but do not like those who do not stand for what the Bible says ... I don’t agree that it is OK that a man lives with another man and a woman with a woman. That is my view.
So thanks for that Alex - let’s all offer up a prayer for Neverkusen.
I’ll be back with some team news - in the mean time why not entertain yourself with the first ever episode of Underdog.