Barcelona make impossible possible with historic UCL comeback over PSG
BARCELONA, Spain -- Here are three thoughts from Barcelona's 6-1 victory over Paris-Saint Germain at the Camp Nou, which sees the La Liga giants advance to the quarterfinals 6-5 on aggregate in the biggest Champions League comeback ever.
1. Barcelona pull off greatest Champions League comeback ever
Barcelona made the impossible possible, as they recorded the greatest comeback in Champions League history by hammering Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 at Camp Nou on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals. A Sergi Roberto winner deep into stoppage time completed what not only looked unlikely before the match but also looked off the cards when Edinson Cavani's second-half strike gave PSG a precious away goal.
Goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi and a Layvin Kurzawa own goal had manoeuvred Barca into a three-goal lead. Cavani's effort, though, looked to burst their balloon. There were no signs of life with three minutes left, either, with three goals still needed. Then Neymar came to life. First, he scored a stunning free kick, then he added his second of the night from the penalty spot before sending in the cross that Roberto flicked home. Incredible.
Ten minutes after the final whistle, Camp Nou was still full, with the fans not quite sure if they had really witnessed what had taken place on the pitch below them. The club's anthem rang out on the speakers as the players, joined by the coaching staff, celebrated on the pitch. The dream had become a reality.
Barca become the first team in the combined history of the Champions League and the European Cup to overturn a four-goal deficit. What makes it all the more remarkable is that Luis Enrique said in the buildup to the game that he was "convinced" that his team would get back in the tie. He didn't stop there, either. "If a team can score four against us, we can score six," he said in his pregame news conference. He wasn't wrong.
And so they avoid exiting the Champions League before the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007. PSG, meanwhile, see their run of four consecutive last-eight appearances come to an end. How will they bounce back from this?
Suarez had called for patience Tuesday, requesting that neither Barca's players nor supporters go crazy in the opening exchanges of the window. That request, though, went out the window when he headed in the opening goal of the game with less than 180 seconds on the clock. No visiting defenders took charge of a bouncing ball in the area, and the Uruguay international flicked a header over Kevin Trapp.
Rarely has Camp Nou been so loud. The belief from everyone and anyone associated with the club that a comeback was possible had reached a frenzied state by Wednesday morning in the Catalan capital, with banners draped around the city. Suarez's goal was celebrated as evidence that the comeback was maybe meant to be. Not since the semifinal win over Bayern Munich in 2015 had there been so much excitement filling Barca's old stadium.
There was an intensity about the game as it then developed, played largely in PSG's half. Messi, Neymar and Iniesta all came close -- but from distance. With temperatures running high, there were also five bookings in the first half. There would be eight by full-time.
The belief that was so present before the game then increased, with two goals either side of half-time. Kurzawa, in a panic, turned an Andres Iniesta back-heeled cross into his own net before Thomas Meunier brought Neymar down in the area. After discussing the decision with his assistant, the referee gave the penalty. Messi dispatched it.
Cavani then struck the post, and you began to wonder if history were being written. But before you had a chance to answer the question, the Uruguay striker was rifling into the roof of Marc-Andre ter Stegen's net. The thousands of travelling fans erupted as their heroes bundled on top of each other in an eerily quiet corner of the Camp Nou pitch.
Barca continued to look for more goals, but you sensed the zip was gone. Three goals in 30 minutes were too much to ask for. Even for this side. Or so it seemed.
Then came the finale. A finale that defied words. Neymar led the charge with two of the three goals that fell in the final two minutes plus stoppage time, but this was a team effort. As the final whistle went, this time it was Barca's turn for bundles on the pitch. Luis Enrique was in the mix of it. He announced last week that he will leave in the summer. After this result -- if there was any doubt -- he has ensured that he will never be forgotten.
2. Bold Barca make the impossible possible
As Cavani scored, Luis Enrique might have been regretting the delay in his decision to switch to a 3-4-3. Barca were still en route to four straight wins since the change, though 3-1 was not enough to take them through to the quarterfinals. The Barca coach must have been wondering what would have happened if the change had been made before the trip to Parc des Princes instead of after it.
He doesn't have to wonder any more. Barcelona's late show provided a moment that will never be forgotten in the club's history. Routine wins against PSG would have been nice, but this was really special.
Barca took risks from the beginning here. Their execution wasn't always perfect, but there was no doubting their commitment or belief in turning things around. Javier Mascherano and Ivan Rakitic were brilliant in that regard. With Messi, Neymar and Suarez up front, it's little wonder they were daring to dream.
Dreaming comes with risks, though, and the Catalans' three-man defence and high line meant they were often exposed. They were more brave than brilliant, if anything, with Neymar's quality in the closing stages perhaps his best moment in a Blaugrana shirt to date.
"You'll be pissed off if you miss the comeback," Pique had warned the club's supporters before the match.
They'd taken his advice on board. Coupled with Suarez and Luis Enrique's rallying calls Tuesday, there was complete belief around the club that the comeback was on. The fans believed too. They were loud from the first minute to the last and will no doubt continue making noise into the early hours of Thursday.
3. PSG buckle under Camp Nou pressure
PSG were completely unrecognisable from the side that tore through Luis Enrique's team in Paris like no other have done in the coach's Camp Nou era. Instead, they looked like scared rabbits in the headlights, waiting for the inevitable goals to tumble. And tumble they did.
What will no doubt annoy Unai Emery is the helping hand his players gave the Blaugrana. No one took charge in the area when Suarez headed in the opener. Kurzawa's own goal, while perhaps unfortunate, was avoidable. They gave away a free kick and two penalties before leaving Roberto unmarked for what proved to be the winning goal.
Lucas Moura, in for the half-fit Angel Di Maria, who dominated the first leg, was poor. But it would be harsh to focus on one man. This whole PSG side will have to take responsibility for what will be remembered in the French capital for all the wrong reasons. They simply froze.
Emery, who has won the past three Europa Leagues with Sevilla, was brought in for his success in Europe. The 4-0 win looked to have verified his appointment. This defeat, instead, means his future is likely to come under the spotlight once again. The Champions League, evidently, is a different beast than the Europa League.
Trailing Monaco at the top of the league, the title is now non-negotiable.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.