F.C. Barcelona makes history with biggest comeback against Paris Saint Germain on home ground
The First Leg
The Round of 16 matches in UEFA Champions League football have ideally followed the same trend in the history of the beautiful game – Arsenal F.C. crashes and burns, Bayern Munich annihilates the Russian team they face off against and Chelsea F.C. usually falls to Paris Saint Germain (PSG).
This year, however, because Chelsea did not make it to the tournament, PSG was drawn against Barcelona F.C. in a match that was one for the books.
The Parisians can boast a world-class defensive partnership in Thiago Silva, and Marcos Aoás Marquinhos. In the aftermath of a Zlatan-less PSG, fans have been on a roller coaster ride when it comes to the new target man, Edison Cavani. The talented Uruguayan has games where he shows flashes of brilliance and others where he fails to bury the ball into the back of a goalie-less net.
Barcelona, to their own credit, have debatably the greatest front three attacking partnership of all time in Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar da Silva Jnr., Commonly referred to as MSN.
The trio scored a record 122 goals amongst themselves last year, the most of an attack force ever.
With world-class lineups on both PSG and Barcelona, coupled with superb managers in Unai Emery and Luis Enrique respectively, the Round of 16 match up was built up to be a big fixture.
The first leg was played at PSG’s home field, the Parc des Princes on Feb. 14. In front of the home team, on Valentine’s day, the Parisians sang with no love in their voices for the opposing Catalan club. They did, however, send out a strong message when they dominated Barcelona in a 4-0 win.
Barcelona looked brittle in the first 10 minutes, but nothing happened until PSG’s Julian Draxler was fouled by Barcelona’s Samuel Yves Umtiti in the 18th minute of the game. In a controversial call which gave away to a free kick outside the 18-yard box, PSG’s Angel Di Maria lined up to take the set piece.
He sent the free kick straight into the top right side of the net and got the first goal on the scoresheet. It was a well taken birthday goal for Di Maria.
The second goal came in the 40th minute from Draxler who announced himself as a PSG hero in his first season with the club, following a move from Wolfsburg F.C.
In a big moment, Adrian Rabiot won the ball of Barcelona’s Messi and played it later to Draxler. He then placed it into the left side of the net after being forced to shoot with his weak foot to give PSG a comfortable two goal lead.
The third goal came from Di Maria again in the 54th minute, after a great run from Layvin Kurzawa. The fullback made a run to the front of the 18-yard box and laid it off to Di Maria, who hit the ball on its sweet spot.
He calmly finessed it off his deadly left foot into the top left corner of the net. Despite an attempt from Marc Ander Ter Stegen, Barcelona’s goalie, the ball was too far to be saved.
The final nail in the coffin came from Cavani in the 71st minute. He took a through pass delivered from Thomas Meunier.
Cavani placed the ball into the net with a calm finish to cap off PSG’s victory in the first leg. With their strong lead, Barcelona would need to score at least five goals, without conceding any in the second leg.
The Second Leg
The second leg was played at Barcelona’s Camp Nou on March 8, where the home fans came out in full force knowing what was on the line.
The starting lineups were the same but Messi played in the central attacking midfield position, with Rafael Alcántara playing on the wing.
The first goal came from Suarez just two minutes into the game when the ball was deflected into the air. He then got his head on the ball and put it over the PSG defense into the net.
The second goal came off an effort from Andres Iniesta, who chased down a ball going out of bounds. He back heeled it into Kurzawa who tried to clear it, but ended up putting it in the back of his own net.
For the second time of the night, they had put the ball past the net, right before the halftime break, and the aggregate score was 4-2, still in favor of PSG.
The second half began with PSG coming out strong to threaten Barcelona’s morale. A penalty was awarded when Neymar was taken down in the box and Messi buried the ball into the left side of the goal, with his left foot to make it a 3-0 game.
In what was a controversial penalty, the referee had to award it to the Catalan club because of the literal head first tackle which took place.
Cavani delivered what was at the time the saving grace for PSG, as he scored a crucial away goal off a loose air ball in Barcelona’s 18-yard box. He nailed in his outside-of-the-foot shot into the top left corner and Ter Stegen had no hope of getting a hand on it.
Barcelona would now need three more goals to win on aggregate. Neymar then delivered a curled free kick into the top left corner of the post late in the game to give Barcelona more hope. In a shot which looked like it was going out of bounds, the Brazilian dipped it into the top of the net. It was not 4-1 in their favor on the night, but 5-4 against them on aggregate.
Barcelona had another penalty kick on what some thought to have been a dive from Suarez. In the 90th minute, Neymar converted the set piece and it was now 5-5 on aggregate, though PSG would have gone through to the quarter finals stage, based on the away goal scored.
In the final period of injury time, Sergio Roberto proved to be the savior of the day when he got his foot on a cross from Neymar.
In an extraordinary effort, the substitute capped off the impossible as Barcelona scored the sixth goal in what was the greatest comeback in Champions League history. It ended 6-1 on the night and 6-5 on aggregate in Barcelona’s favor.
Twitter erupted and celebrated with the winning team for defying the odds and making history. The official page of The New England Patriots reached out to offer celebratory words, as they pulled off a similar comeback in the Super Bowl, as well as earlier in the year. PSG players sought out forgiveness from the fans, as players like Marco Verratti conceded to blowing a four-goal lead.
“We need to beg the fans for forgiveness and the greatest joy is never the fail, but the ability to recover after the fall,” Verratti said in an interview and on his social media.
Others have regarded Barcelona as “UEFAlona” yet again, suggesting they have sway on the referees and the drawings of the UEFA Champions league fixtures. You, be the judge.
The quarter final stages of the Champions league will be drawn after the remaining matches on March 13 take place. Juventus F.C. will play Porto F.C., Leicester City F.C. goes up against Sevilla F.C. and Manchester City F.C. squares up against Monaco F.C.