Lucas announces himself as a Champions League star

The 20-year-old Brazilian was instrumental as Paris Saint-Germain fashioned a 2-1 lead at Mestalla to protect in three weeks' time
By Robin Bairner

Paris Saint-Germain will hold a 2-1 advantage heading into the second leg of their last-16 tie against Valencia at Parc des Princes, but while Carlo Ancelotti will regret the loss of a late Adil Rami goal and the even later expulsion of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Italian can be largely delighted with the fare on offer from his side at Mestalla.

Les Parisiens absorbed the pressure of the home side brilliantly for 89 minutes and hit dangerously on the break as they constructed what was nearly the perfect away performance in Spain.

While Ibrahimovic served to frustrate and underachieve all evening, those men directly behind him would all have fine matches. Ezequiel Lavezzi continued his fine Champions League form with the opening goal, while Javier Pastore was also on target. It was, however, the performance of Lucas out on the right that offered the greatest cause for encouragement.

Valencia had the perfect chance to prove they could compete in Europe's premier club competition against a team still feeling their way at this level - and they blew it.

Adil Rami's late goal and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's dismissal right at the end gives the Spanish side hope in this tie and their ability on the counter-attack will mean they still have a chance of progressing to the last eight, but losing at home to a side like PSG will be disappointing - particularly after holding both Real Madrid and Barcelona at Mestalla recently.

On this evidence, cash-rich PSG look like the future, while poor old Valencia are doing their best to hang in there at this level with damaging debts and, with Champions League qualification for next season by no means a guarantee, the Spanish side should savour nights like these. On Tuesday, they didn't.

Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
The young Brazilian has only played a handful of matches in Europe, yet already he is living up to his price tag, which has been reported as being worth anything up to €45 million.

Already he looks a player capable of starring on the biggest stage, and he turned in perhaps the best performance of his fledgling PSG career in Spain, where he was found gliding gracefully yet powerfully down the right wing on numerous occasions during a 50 minute burst that was ended due to concern over an ankle problem.

Questions that he might be burdened by his giant transfer fee already seem to have been brushed aside, as the 20-year-old produced a performance that belied his years to announce himself on the European stage.

As a physical specimen, he already looks tough enough to cope with the rigours of football in the Champions League, as he possesses a strong frame yet boasts incredible pace, much like a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.

He has also proved that he has an eye for an assist. Heading into Tuesday night’s match, he boasted three decisive passes from only two away matches, and he added to that tally in Valencia. Having produced the kind of powerful burst down the right that was characteristic of his evening, he then showed nice skill to create a crossing angle, and from that position he retained the composure to pick out Pastore, who slammed home.

Had he been allowed to stay on a little longer, it is entirely conceivable that PSG would have completed one of the many dangerous counterattacks they fashioned and put the tie firmly to bed.

Rami’s late strike keeps things alive for the Spaniards, particularly as both Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi will miss the second leg due to suspension.

Ancelotti will be able to welcome back Thiago Silva and Thiago Motta, assuming all goes according to plan, in Paris, where the hosts have not lost by two goals since the closing day of the 2009-10 season.

Despite their last-minute Mestalla hiccup, they remain firmly in command of the tie. PSG can be grateful for Lucas’ contribution in putting them in that position, and they can look forward to more of the same in the weeks, months and years ahead.

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