Greatest comeback in the history of FC Barcelona?
And breathe. Barcelona have done it! A historic night in the Champions League as the Catalan side become the first team ever to progress into the next round of the competition after losing the first leg 4-0.
Barcelona scored twice in the dying minutes of the game to win 6-1 on the night and 6-5 on aggregate. This is one game nobody is going to forget anytime soon.
Paris Saint-Germain players looked shattered at full time and why wouldn’t they be? Went into the match 4-0 up, then they got that crucial away goal to make it 3-1 on the night but still ended up getting knocked out!
Here are the talking points from the breathtaking game:
1 – Early goal does the trick, yet again!
In my pre-match article on the five things that Barcelona have to do to beat PSG, I mentioned the importance of an early goal for Barcelona. Luis Suarez proved it right as he scored in the 3rd minute, and then it was one traffic in the first half.
Barcelona rocked PSG with the early pressure, and it resulted in a goal straight away. The defence was caught napping as the ball bounced off Verratti and Suarez headed the ball in.
Not only did the goal give Barcelona the lead, but it also gave then a huge boost in confidence. You could see the difference between the two teams straight away, and it eventually resulted in a Layvin Kurzawa own goal.
2 – Emery’s biggest mistake – Changing the line-up
When you dominate Barcelona in the first leg, you are supposed to stick with the same team for the 2nd leg as well. However, Unai Emery did not do that.
He made a couple of changes to the starting XI, and PSG were nowhere close to replicating the first leg performance. He dropped Presnel Kimpembe and Angel di Maria to bring in Thiago Silva and Lucas Moura, and that backfired.
Silva is the PSG club captain and had to play tonight. However, the fact that Kimpembe managed to keep Messi and Suarez quiet in the first leg was more important. Emery had to choose between Kimpembe, Silva and Marquinos, and he ended up benching his in-form defender.
Up front, he made the same mistake. He pushed Verratti a little front and benched Di Maria for Moura. The former Real Madrid star has been tormenting the Catalan side for years now, and he did it again once he was brought on.
Had the PSG manager stuck with the same team he played in France; things might have been different today.
3 – The high-pressure game worked..
Until the moment Cavani scored, everything was in the right place for Barcelona. They played a high line and defended from the front, and this made things difficult for the PSG players.
Pique, Mascherano and Umtiti were assigned the duty of defending the goal and the trio played exceptionally well. They managed to keep Cavani, Draxler and even Lucas Moura quite in the first half – giving them no chance of making an impact on the game.
Supporting the back three were the three men up-front – Neymar, Suarez and Rafinha. The attacking trio played as the first wall in the defence whenever Barcelona lost the ball. Every single member of the Barca starting XI was on the toes of their opponents every time they got hold of the ball, and this forced them into making too many mistakes.
A special mention to the ball boys around the pitch at Camp Nou as well. They were right on the cue all night long. As soon as the ball crossed the line, there was a ball thrown in straight away. Not a single second was wasted by them and will go down as the unsung heroes of the historic comeback.
4 – Impact substitutions
Both managers got one thing right in the game – substitutions. Both teams had their substitutes to thank for their goals, and honestly, the substitutions made the game more exciting.
Trailing 3-0 and knowing that a goal is needed to kill off Barcelona momentum, Unai Emery turned to Di Maria. He brought on the Argentine in the 55th minute for Lucas Moura.
The Brazilian had a match to forget as he got nothing right. He made 16 pass attempts, and only eight were successful. Di Maria, on the other hand, played a crucial role in Cavani’s goal.
Di Maria drew the Barcelona defence out of position that enabled Kurzawa to assist the Uruguayan striker for the goal. This put PSG in the driver’s seat again, and it was time for Enrique to make his move.
Ther Barcelona manager brought on Arda Turan for Andres Iniesta, and the Turkish international was the epitome of an impact sub. The other substitution that stood out was bringing on Sergi Roberto for Rafinha.
The young Spaniard scored the winner in the dying seconds of the game and what more can one expect from a substitute?
5 – Neymar played the game of his life
While the world, and the PSG players, keep keeping an eye on what Messi was doing, Neymar was stealing the show. The Brazilian was on top of his game today and turned the tables on PSG all by himself in the end.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Neymar stepped up when Barcelone needed someone to inspire them the most. 87 minutes gone, still needing three goals to qualify, Neymar scored a stunner from a free kick, 25 yards away.
This goal kick-started Barcelona late, late comeback, and in no time, they had levelled things up on aggregate. Luis Suarez won a penalty after Marquinos fouled him inside the PSG penalty box and Neymar once again stepped up and scored.
Into added time, and 5-5 on aggregate, Barcelona still needed a goal to qualify. Into the final minute of added time, in a moment of sheer class, he floated in a beautiful ball over the PSG defence, and Sergi Roberto was there at the right moment, in the right place to slot home the winner.
This game will be remembered for Barcelona’s greatest ever comeback but what stole the show was Neymar’s performance throughout the match.