PARIS (Reuters) – Paris St Germain reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in 18 years on Wednesday after Argentine striker Ezequiel Lavezzi salvaged a 1-1 home draw with Valencia to secure a 3-2 aggregate success.
The Qatari-backed club were far from convincing in the last 16 second leg and after a first half short on entertainment, Valencia made the tie interesting when Brazilian Jonas put the Spaniards ahead with a superb 25-metre strike on 55 minutes.
PSG, without suspended top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic who was sent off late in the first leg, equalised 11 minutes later when Lavezzi scored at the second attempt after his initial shot was parried back to him by keeper Vicente Guaita.
Another Valencia goal would have sent the game to extra time but PSG’s defence, marshalled superbly by Thiago Silva – back from a two-month injury layoff – held firm.
The Ligue 1 leaders, who have not lost at their Parc des Princes home in 23 European matches since 2006, last played in the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition in 1995 when they reached the semi-finals.
"The qualification is deserved, even if we struggled more than during the first leg," PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti told a news conference.
"I was a bit worried after their goal because it was wide open again. In the first half we controlled but played too deep.
"Their goal woke us up."
Asked whether PSG could win the competition, Ancelotti said: "We certainly are doing our best but I cannot say."
Valencia were forced to make do with a makeshift defence with centre backs Adil Rami and Ricardo Costa both injured, as well as fullback Joao Pereira who was ruled out after picking up a hamstring injury during training on Tuesday.
The visiting back four, however, were barely threatened by a disappointing PSG side in the first half on a mild Parisian night.
Only Javier Pastore’s delicate turns caused trouble to the Valencia midfield as PSG’s cautious approach gave the Spaniards the confidence to attack.
Roberto Soldado’s weak attempt from a clever Jonas through ball was easily blocked by PSG keeper Salvatore Sirigu as Valencia carved out the first chance on 15 minutes.
Ancelotti was then forced to make a change when Gregory van der Wiel came on for injured right back Christophe Jallet in the 27th minute.
Jonas had a fierce shot parried away on the stroke of halftime and Clement Chantome’s corner kick that went straight out of play epitomised a woeful first half.
PSG were eventually punished when Jonas unleashed a powerful shot that went into the far corner, his fifth goal in the competition this season helping the game spring into life.
Ancelotti added weight to his front line by replacing midfielder Thiago Motta with striker Kevin Gameiro who had an almost immediate impact.
He dribbled his way into the area and as he was closed down by three defenders, the ball fell to Lavezzi who scored at the second attempt.
Former England captain David Beckham, who signed a short-term deal with PSG in January, will have to wait to make his first Champions League appearance since 2010 with AC Milan after Ancelotti opted to leave the midfielder on the bench.
Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde said his side ran out of gas.
"Our goal was to score the first goal and make them doubt," Valverde told reporters.
"We did that but in the end we were too tired. The key moment came when they scored their goal because after that they played even more defensively."
Valencia midfielder Tino Costa added in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Canal Plus: "We knew that we couldn’t make the mistakes tonight we made in the first leg and I think the team performed well.
"They closed ranks very effectively at the back and we had very few chances to play any through balls."
(Additional reporting by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Justin Palmer)
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