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Apr 11, 2013

Barca stars credit Messi with comeback

Jordi Roura has hailed Barcelona's "extraordinary" achievement in making six successive Champions League semi-finals by edging past Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night, which Barca's players accepted they would not have managed without the contribution of a half-fit Lionel Messi.

• Tomas: Hobbling Messi rescues Barca
• Johnson: PSG taught harsh lesson
• Delaney: Messi inspires Barcelona
• Press Pass: Barca's edge gone?

With Messi on the bench nursing a thigh injury, Javier Pastore's well-taken strike put PSG deservedly 1-0 ahead on the night, and 3-2 on aggregate. However, the Barcelona forward entered the fray with less than half an hour remaining, and helped create the goal for Pedro Rodriguez that saw Barca through to the last four on away goals.

Blaugrana assistant coach Roura said at the post-match press conference that becoming the first team to reach the final four in six consecutive years was something to be proud of, but he and his players now want a third trophy from that spell.

"It is a very important and extraordinary success," Roura said. "I think people should be proud. Nobody has ever done it six times in a row before. Our ambition does not stop here - we will fight as hard as we can in the semi-finals to reach the final and win the competition again."

Roura said he and boss Tito Vilanova had thought a lot about if and when to introduce Messi into the game, and suggested the Argentine had not aggravated the problem during his 30 minutes on the pitch.

"We knew that he could play a certain amount of time and if the result was not in our favour, he would come on," he said. "With the way things went, he came on and he played a part in the goal, then he tried to not overdo it. At this point he does not have any physical problems."

Barca had looked rudderless and anxious without their talisman, which Roura said was more to do with how well PSG had performed than his side's 'Messi-dependence'.

"Besides Leo, all of the players played at a very high level," he said. "When faced with adversity they have the necessary perseverance to carry on and achieve these types of comebacks. It was very difficult. PSG have a great team. If we were not on our game for spells in the match, it is because they played well."

Goalscorer Pedro had no doubt where most of the praise should be directed when speaking with Canal Plus after the game.

"Messi made a great effort," he said. "He is very important for the team. He worked very hard all week to be with us tonight. We need to thank him and congratulate him for helping the team. He turned things around when he came on. He is the best."

David Villa, who took Messi's incisive pass and then laid the ball off for Pedro to hammer in the crucial goal, also hailed the Argentine's commitment to the Barcelona cause.

"Leo is the best player in the world," Villa told reporters. "He changes the game just by being on the pitch. We have to recognise his dedication and commitment, for playing after being injured. With his help, we managed to qualify."

Barca centre-half Gerard Pique, part of a defence which rocked at times during the game, said in the Camp Nou mixed zone that Messi's introduction even when not at 100% had lifted his own team, while dealing a psychological blow to PSG's players.

"When we talk about Leo we are talking about the best player in the world," Pique said. "When he is on your team and things are not going well, you need to use him. He changed our mood, and theirs too. Even though he was practically limping, he was there for us. With him on the pitch, his eagerness to play, the overall game changes."

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