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PSG tops Valencia in Champions; Ibrahimovic sent off

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Associated Press
2/12/2013 5:48:55 PM
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VALENCIA, Spain -- Goals by Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore gave Paris Saint-Germain an important 2-1 away win at Valencia in a the first leg of their Champions League last-16 match Tuesday, which still ended badly for the French team as it allowed a late goal and had star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic needlessly sent off in injury time.

PSG looked to have virtually secured a spot in the quarterfinals after Lavezzi hit his fourth goal of the season with a fierce strike in the 10th minute and Pastore doubled the lead in the 43rd when he shot through Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita's legs.

But Valencia clawed back into the series when Adil Rami latched on to a perfectly delivered free kick by Tino Costa in the 90th, and Ibrahimovic then earned a straight red card for a clumsy challenge on Andres Guardado, meaning he will miss the return leg.

"We played really well, we have to be happy but at the end it was not good for us," PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "Valencia is a good team, we have played the first half, but now we have to play second half and we have to pay attention."

In Tuesday's other game, Juventus beat Celtic 3-0 in Glasgow to take a seemingly comfortable lead ahead of the return leg on March 6.

Up until those final few minutes in Valencia, PSG had seemed likely to take a similar advantage with it back to Paris. Everything had worked perfectly for the French club, which is trying to establish itself as a European power after spending lavishly on star players since being bought up by wealthy Qatari owners.

While Valencia was allowed to control play for much of the game -- enjoying more than 60 per cent of possession -- the French team calmly sat back and defended, before launching counterattacks that always proved dangerous.

"They have been very strong, each counter had much danger and the truth is that we may have been too straightforward," Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde said.

PSG's 20-year-old attacking midfielder Lucas Moura was behind many of those counterattacks in the first half, wreaking havoc with his speed along the right wing and possible leaving new signing David Beckham -- who watched on in the stands -- wondering where he can find a spot in the lineup.

Moura hit the post with a fierce strike from distance in the ninth minute, but PSG still went ahead moments later.

Lavezzi played a one-two with Pastore and then skillfully dribbled past defender Ricardo Costa into the area before sending a fierce shot past Guaita, who allowed the ball to pass over his shoulder.

Valencia midfielder Ever Banega had a chance to equalize when he pounced on a poor clearance but shot wide in the 20th.

Moura was then behind PSG's second goal, breaking down the right flank and going past a defender before squaring the ball for Pastore, whose low shot snuck past Guaita, who again looked like he had a chance to save it.

Moura was then taken off early in the second half with an apparent ankle problem, but PSG still created several chances to extend its lead.

Ibrahimovic and Lavezzo both had efforts saved, while substitute Clement Chantome had a goal ruled out for offside -- despite protests from the French team that a Valencia player had last touched the ball.

Valencia also had chances, with Nelson Valdes wasting the best one when he received a lobbed pass in the area but shot into the side netting in the 76th.

But the Spanish team finally broke through when Costa's free kick sailed over the PSG defence and Rami was there to knock it into the net. And Valencia's chances of turning things around then increased significantly when Ibrahimovic -- possibly frustrated at conceding a goal -- stamped Guardado's foot in a reckless challenge near Valencia's corner flag, leaving the French team without its top player for the return game.

While the challenge was clearly unnecessary, Ancelotti was among those who thought the straight red card was harsh.

"It was a normal tackle and it was nothing special, and I was surprised by the red card," Ancelotti said.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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