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Barcelona Brillance Leaves PSG Stunned

Where were you when? Well were where you. Unless you were unlucky enough to watch Manchester City vs Stoke instead then you probably laid witness to what is the most incredible night of Champions League action that we will most likely ever see thanks to the 2017 edition of Barcelona.

The task that Barcelona were set was almost insurmountable after a 4-0 defeat to PSG in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie but after scoring 11 league goals in their last two La Liga matches Luis Enrique’s side were certainly coming into last night’s game in somewhat bullish form.

Add the backdrop of Enrique giving his attention to leave the club at the end of the season due to needing a “rest” and it made for a very interesting sub plot as Barcelona looked to overturn the biggest Champions League deficit of all time.

A 5-0 win would be required to get the job done after that impressive PSG performance in Paris which arguably could have ended up 7 or 8 had it not been for Marc-Andre ter Stegen keeping the scoreline respectable.

It would require a quickfire start from Barcelona and that is what they got from Luis Suarez as he put the Catalan giants ahead after just three minutes. A raucous Nou Camp then had a sense of belief even though there was still an incredibly uphill struggle to navigate.

But this Barcelona dared to dream and they were relentless from the first whistle, the way they pressed in PSG’s half meant that all 10 of Unai Emery’s outfield players were pinned back into their own half with the majority of them taking refuge in Kevin Trapp’s 6 yard box.

That said PSG did manage to whether the storm and going into the break it looked like that their stubbornness would be enough to make sure that their first leg buffer was enough to see them progress to the Quarter Finals.

But then five minutes before the break there was a cause for further optimism. Neat work bordering on the almost stupendous saw Andres Iniesta play a tantalising ball into the area and unfortunately for the Parisiens Lurin Kurzawa put through his own net to make it 2-0 on the night to Barcelona and halve the task that was in front of them at the start of the game.

Unai Emery then would have had a hell of a job on his hands to make sure his side did not capitulate while for Luis Enrique the teamtalk was hardly necessary this was a team fired up and one that could smell blood.

And the droplets would begin to pour just three minutes after the restart Thomas Meunier tripped and bought down Neymar in the box, it was clumsy and at first the referee did not award a penalty but after a protracted conversation with his assistant behind the goal a spot kick was awarded.

It was perhaps harsh on Meunier but he did wipe out Neymar so on balance it was the right decision. Up stepped Lionel Messi and although his record from the spot is perhaps not as befitting of that of the world’s greatest player he fired the ball past Trapp to make it 3-0. The comeback was very much on.

Unai Emery sunk lower into his touchline seat as this was a Barcelona side that was running rampant but in their hunt for an all important they began to leave themselves exposed. Edinson Cavani nearly silenced the Nou Camp when he hit the post, a let off for the home side.

An hour into the game and Barcelona were chasing the 4th goal when they still had half an hour to play. Again they were caught out on the break but this time Ivan Rakitic took one for his teammates after giving away a free kick and earning a yellow card for his troubles.

The ball was lofted in from a pretty innocuous position and after Rakitic was beaten to the knockdown the ball fell perfectly to Cavani as he rifled the ball past ter Stegen and capture that crucial away goal.

The Nou Camp was stunned while Emery and his backroom stuff were elated you could see the relief from the PSG camp as they scored that away goal which all but put them through to the next stage and kill off any Barcelona hopes of a historic comeback.

Or did they?

Neymar fired in a free kick which whizzed past Trapp with two minutes, even with that though you only had the feeling that it was nothing more than scant consolation. They still needed to find another two goals in the time remaining.

But still Barcelona came forward in droves and this time it was a lofted ball into the box which saw Luis Suarez and Thiago Silva contest it, Suarez went to ground and the contact from Silva was questionable but the referee was more certain about the penalty award this time around.

Messi passed the penalty duties to Neymar and after a stuttering run up he placed the ball in the opposite corner to Trapp and it was 5-1. We were all set for a gallant effort but defeat with valour as Barcelona looked set to miss out on the away goals rule.

In  all that madness the 4th official was late putting his board up but when he did he signalled for 5 minutes of added time, 3 of those that had already been played. Barcelona had to roll the dice and send everyone forward.

Even ter Stegen was now in PSG’s half and after he was fouled there was time for one last dramatic twist. A quickly taken free kick saw Neymar receive possession, a dummy later and he has lofted the ball into the box.

If Barcelona fans were looking for a saviour they would have perhaps not picked Sergi Roberto. But at that point it did not matter who it was they just needed someone to steer the ball over the line after Neymar’s speculative ball into the box.

And what was to happen next was absolutely pandemonium. Sergi Roberto’s 95th minute goal would send the Nou Camp into absolute rapture and send the footballing world into a state of sheer disbelief. They could not do it at 4-0 down they certainly could not do it at 3-5 down but somehow they pulled off the greatest comeback of all.

Moments like that are why you watch Football, things like this are simply not meant to happen. The game can be heartbreaking as PSG fans will attest but for everyone else it was simply beautiful, had we witnessed the world’s greatest team pull off the greatest ever come back.

The conspiracy theorists will no doubt point to UEFALona but you simply do not win a game like that without belief, desire and exceptional talent. Yes you can also point to a PSG collapse of incredible proportions but that should not take anything away from Luis Enrique’s men.

It’s the kind of win that would almost make Enrique reconsider his decision to leave at the end of the season, while for Emery after that defeat you get the feeling that the decision regarding his job status may be made for him. A simply stunning night that Football will simply never forget.

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