A magical night happened at Camp Nou on Wednesday as Spanish giants Barcelona managed the impossible against Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain in the return leg of the Champions League Last-16 tie.
Les Parisiens headed into the Camp Nou encounter holding a huge 4-0 lead over the Catalan giants and as Edinson Cavani scored his eighth Champions League goal in the season two minutes after the hour-mark, Luis Enrique’s side looked destined to go down despite leading 3-0 up to that point.
A remarkable fighting spirit – so characteristic of the Catalan side – emerged on the surface in what will be remembered as five magical minutes as Barcelona scored three goals to crush the hopes of the French team, once again ending their European dream.
Barcelona’s 6-1 victory accounted for the 6-5 aggregate triumph and here are the five things the memorable night at Camp Nou taught us:
Faith in Football – Restored!
Impossible is nothing when you believe. The morale-boosting line perhaps is true in Hollywood blockbusters, but it hardly comes to play in the cold hard world of logic which had all odds stacked against Barcelona after the 4-0 deficit from the first leg.
But last night’s match was everything you could ever dream of getting in a football match – and in a Hollywood blockbuster for that matter – hope, suspense, drama, tears (of joy) and broken dreams.
The incredible match at Camp Nou has restored our faith in football, a beautiful game commercialized to such extent that is has started losing its soul. But Barcelona taught us once again, that charm is still there and that football fairytales can defy the modern currents that strive to turn football primarily into a profitable business.
What we saw last night was a magnificent comeback from arguably the only team on the planet who could ever pull something like that.
History – Written!
They will have Luis Suarez’s early goal to thank for – in terms of morale boost – but Barcelona made it work with a dedicated approach and a committed performance. The Catalans switched on their fighting spirit and were not afraid to play dirty at times to get where they want to be.
No team has even succeeded in overturning a first-leg 4-goal deficit, and with Arsenal failing to do so against Bayern Munich, the football world had little hopes for Barcelona as well.
“If PSG managed to score four goals in a game against us, we can do the same”, Luis Enrique’s words echoed through Camp Nou on the night of magic. On the night of history.
Barcelona’s incredible achievement remains written in gold letters as the first team in Champions League and European Cup to come back from four goals down and seal progress in the next round of Europe’s elite club competition.
It is an achievement that will have provided the Catalans with a timely boost, at a delicate moment of big pressure and the impending departure of their manager Luis Enrique who – on his own part – showed great courage to announce his decision and cause his men to step it up to honour their boss in his last couple of months at the club.
Neymar Lives up to the Billing
With all eyes of Luis Suarez and Leo Messi, who were expected to continue their impressive form in leading Barcelona forward against Paris Saint-Germain, it was Neymar who grabbed the game straight by the neck and decided to put in arguably the best performance of his career to help his team in decisive moments.
Neymar’s incredible free-kick offered great hope and showed glimpse of things to come and his penalty one minute into the injury time brought back firm belief and faith into Barcelona’s heart.
Deep into the injury time, the Brazilian pulled off an assist to Sergi Roberto, unselfishly allowing his teammate to emerge as the most unlikely hero in a night to remember.
His brilliant performance in the return leg comes as the continuation to impressive performance in the first match as well and as a firm confirmation that Brazil superstar is coming of age with his energy and composure on top of the talent and quality that were never in doubt.
Dubious Refereeing Influenced the Game
Plenty of things were said on the referees, and it is two nights in a row that the match officials stole the limelight in the Champions League.
The PSG manager Unai Emery had a lot to say after the game, as he was frustrated by the referee. To be fair, Deniz Aytekin had a poor game and the PSG fans will argue that it was this man that cost them their dream.
He missed a chance to award PSG a penalty after Angel Di Maria was taken down by Macherano, whereas many will also judge him for not ruling Neymar’s handball or when Julian Draxler struck the ball into Mascherano’s arm from close range.
All of these moments could have played a big role and made great difference for a team which saw its European dream end prematurely and even earlier than it was the case in four last occasions.
What Frenchmen need to do is to take this difficult loss on the chin and move forward with a huge experience to learn from.
This Won’t be the Last of Unai Emery
Former Sevilla boss was appointed PSG manager and instructed to do his magic in order to take PSG further in their pursuit of European glory.
The owners of the French club have invested great deal of money and after asserting their dominance on domestic front, focus was switched to Europe with no man better than Emery to make it happen.
The trophy-laden tactician saw the job as a great opportunity to thrive himself and make a significant step forward from winning Europa League with Sevilla. His beginning in the French capital was not an easy one, but it seems that Emery has finally gotten the grip and the Barca blow will come down hard on the charismatic tactician.
Despite his current misfortune, Emery should by no means be discarded as this is a man with incredible managerial skills and talent, which is bound to being success to PSG in due time.
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