Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe scored a stunning hat trick as his side overcame the absence of Neymar to thrash Barcelona 4-1 away in their Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday to move within full view of the quarterfinals.
Lionel Messi had blasted Barca ahead with a penalty in the first half but Mbappe pulled the French champions level with a classy piece of control and finishing to complete a flowing team move also involving Marco Verratti and Layvin Kurzawa.
Mbappe, who had not scored in the Champions League knockouts for two years before Tuesday, smashed PSG into the lead in the 65th minute while Moise Kean took advantage of some woeful Barca marking to head in a third goal for the visitors in the 70th.
The insatiable Mbappe looked hungry for more though and after being denied his third goal by Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, he completed his treble in the 85th minute by curling the ball past the German into the top corner.
Barca overcame a 4-0 defeat to PSG in a last-16 first leg in 2017 by winning the second leg at home 6-1 and the Catalans now face another daunting task in turning this tie around when they visit the Parc des Princes on March 10.
Barcelona went into the game crowing from a run of seven La Liga wins in a row but, while they were boosted by the return of serial winner Gerard Pique in defence after nearly three months out, they were blown away by Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Mauro Icardi should have given last year’s runners-up the lead when he strolled through on goal but the Argentine scuffed his shot and Barca’s teenage midfielder Pedri recovered to clear.
Barca then got a lucky break when Frenkie de Jong was accidentally tripped by Kurzawa and Messi smashed his penalty beyond former Real Madrid keeper Keylor Navas to score a fourth goal in this season’s competition, all from spot-kicks.
PSG responded emphatically with their classy team goal after 32 minutes and should have gone ahead before the break when Kurzawa was thwarted by a fingertip save from Ter Stegen and Icardi headed just wide from a corner.
Barca had their moments too, Antoine Griezmann showing exceptional pace to sprint towards goal from the halfway line but landing his shot just wide of the far post.
The second half belonged to PSG though, and no player symbolised their confidence better than the resplendent Mbappe, who became the first player to score a visiting hat-trick at the Camp Nou since Andriy Shevchenko in 1997.