Champions League: Barcelona’s 6-1 win will make even atheists believe in a footballing God – Barcelona’s comeback win against PSG will be remembered as the greatest sporting comeback of all time.
‘Football, bloody hell.’ In 1999, after scoring twice in injury time at Camp Nou in Barcelona against Bayern Munich, Sir Alex Ferguson, while at his least articulate, coined the phrase that is used time and again when football goes bonkers. Yet those words were inadequate, as were every expression and adjective known to man, as Barcelona played a match which comes closest to magic realism in a sporting fixture.
At the same stadium where Manchester United pulled off their remarkable comeback, Barcelona produced, inarguably the greatest footballing comeback of all time as they came down from a 4-0 deficit in the first leg to snatch victory from the jaws of certain defeat.
Football fans in India, like the author have spent a lot of late nights, many of them watching shitty matches and dead rubbers but this comeback is the reason we tend to go through our workdays like zombies. It’s the reason we’ve chosen to watch 22 grown men kick around a round object rather have a meaningful social life. Or why we are so crazy about clubs on the other side of the planet, why we feel an inexplicable kinship towards players who we are unlikely to ever meet.
This is why we watch football, because every so often, maybe once a decade comes across a moment which captures every single emotion known to mankind. Shock, awe, disbelief, euphoria and hysteria. On Wednesday night, Camp Nou was all those things and more. It was the triumph of faith over reality.
In simple footballing terms, this upstaged Liverpool’s comeback from 3-0 down in the final in Istanbul in 2005. To put in perspective for a cricket fan, this was like scoring 36 runs off the last over to win a match. Or that comeback in 2001 when Laxman and Dravid helped India overcome a follow-on to win the match against Australia in Eden Gardens.
No team had come back from a 4-0 deficit in Champions League, but no team has arguably left a bigger mark on the tournament in the last decade. Since 2006, Barcelona has won four Champions League titles, and yet not a single of their victories can be matched with this simply for because of the hurdles – of their own making – that they had to get past.
How it happened?
They made not one, but two comebacks when after going ahead 3-0 in the first half, Edison Cavani looked to have put to tie to rest by making it 3-1 which left Barcelona needing 3 goals to survive.
The surreal night started with an opportunistic Suarez goal on the 3rd minute and another Kurzawa own goal on the 40th. A Messi penalty on the 50th minute meant a lot of Barcelona fans started believing that they just might pull off the inevitable. However, a Cavani goal at the hour mark seemed to have put the tie to bed, with no one thinking that Barcelona could get three more goals. It was a time when people started debating the rationale of away goals but Barcelona weren’t done.
Former Real Madrid player Angel Di Maria seemed to believe the same thing as he mocked the Barcelona supporters asking them to keep quiet, and he would pay for his premature celebrations as Neymar curled in a sublime 30-yard free kick and followed it up with a penalty.
Yet, the match seemed out of reach and even Barca keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen turned up in the opposing area in search for a winner. It was that man Neymar again, who played in a delightful ball with his left leg which youth team player Sergi Roberto flicked in beautifully to create history.
Goal Timing – Scorer – Match Score – Aggregate Score
- 3: Luis Suarez goal, Barcelona 1-0 PSG (1-4)
- 40′: Layvin Kurzawa own-goal, Barcelona 2-0 PSG (2-4)
- 50′: Lionel Messi penalty, Barcelona 3-0 PSG (3-4)
- 62′: Edinson Cavani goal, Barcelona 3-1 PSG (3-5)
- 88′: Neymar free-kick, Barcelona 4-1 PSG (4-5)
- 90’+1: Neymar penalty, Barcelona 5-1 PSG (5-5)
- 90’+5: Sergi Roberto goal, Barcelona 6-1 PSG (6-5)
This was the cue for Camp Nou to go insane as Messi jumped into the crowd while a cascade of fans and supporters descended onto the pitch. The night will however be remembered as the one where the mantle passed from Messi to Neymar, who produced three pieces of magic in the final seven minutes to help Barca cross the line.
Look at Messi celebrating Sergi Roberto's goal. Going mental with the fans. Pure emotion. Bleeding blaugrana. pic.twitter.com/tI8Lxyz9Jw
— Alex Truica (@AlexTruica) March 9, 2017
As BBC’s Andy West wrote everyone in the Nou Camp went insane. Grown men started crying and strangers leaped into each other’s arms. He wrote: “This was deep, instinctive passion at its most authentic and unrefined. Just pure, wordless, thoughtless exhilaration. And it is surely for moments like this, which come along once every few years if you’re lucky, that sport is so compelling. Two decades of attending sporting events in a professional capacity have hardened me, to the extent that I thought nothing can move me. I was wrong.”
In the studios, veteran footballers like Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrad, Gary Lineker and Michael Owen – men who know a thing or two about winning big matches – went absolutely ballistic.
Watch Gerrard, Lineker, Owen, and Rigo's reaction to Barça's 6th goal. This was literally every Culé today https://t.co/D2oGokqdda
— Juan (@socraticjuan) March 8, 2017
Barca manager Luiz Enrique, who is leaving at the end of the season, was overcome with emotion yet couldn’t find the faculties to cry. “It is difficult to explain in words. This is a sport for crazy people, a unique sport. Any kid who was in the Camp Nou tonight will never forget this in their life. It was a torrent of feelings. I don’t cry – I would like to, but the tears don’t come out. But I enjoyed this as much as the rest; as much as those who cried.”
Enrique called it a ‘victory of faith’, while defender Gerard Pique summing it up beautifully: “There will be a lot of love made tonight.”
Meanwhile, PSG coach Umai Emery admitted they had lost everything in the last two minutes. PSG players will lament it as much as those who missed this match, as one of my friends admitted who called it a night at half-time, choosing to stay awake in the office over witnessing Barcelona do the unthinkable.
Like PSG players, he will have to live with that guilt for his entire life. As for the rest of us who had the honour to witness this, we will forever be asking each other, ‘Where were you when Sergi Roberto scored the sixth goal deep in injury time?’