Despite everyone thinking they were done, despite all the odds, despite history being against them, Barcelona found a way. Even coming into this Champions League Round of 16 match four goals down on aggregate to Paris Saint-Germain, even after giving up an away goal, Barcelona found a way. After three goals in the first hour of the match, Barcelona scored three more times in the last seven minutes of the match, including twice in stoppage time, to mount a history-making comeback to beat PSG 6-1 on the day at 6-5 on aggregate, absolutely stunning the world in the process.
Barcelona had to come out swinging hard, and that’s exactly what they did, using their unconventional formation to their advantage and aggressively taking the game to Paris Saint-Germain right from the first whistle. They came at PSG so hard that the French team was thrown completely off balance early, helping lead to a scrambled effort that PSG couldn’t clear out of the net in time.
That set up a nervy first half, with PSG hardly able to get out of their half of the pitch for most of the proceedings. Barcelona kept pushing and probing and attacking all throughout the half, and while PSG held up fairly well for the most part, their defense fell apart at a crucial moment late in the half.
With just a few minutes left in the first half and with Barcelona still just holding a single goal, PSG badly needed to hold out a little longer. Going into halftime up three goals would have put a lot more pressure on Barcelona and made their job much tougher. Instead, Marquinhos and Layvin Kurzawa lost their minds on an attacking sequence in the 40th minute, with Marquinhos flailing around ineffectually in his efforts to block off Andres Iniesta. Kurzawa desperately tried to turn the ball around the post, despite his goalkeeper being practically on his hip to gather the ball, and put the ball in for an own goal instead.
The second half started little better for PSG, with right-back Thomas Meunier tripping at the edge of his own penalty area and knocking down Neymar in the process to give up a penalty, one that Lionel Messi converted with ease. With the aggregate score suddenly sitting at 4-3, you could almost see fear in the eyes of PSG’s squad — but that fear turned quickly into focus, and that focus cost Barcelona dearly.
That price came in the form of PSG finally starting to get a cogent attack going, with momentum starting to build behind the French side’s front line, especially after Angel Di Maria was brought into the match. Edinson Cavani had one near-miss on a counter, banging a shot off the post, but a few minutes later he made no such mistake, taking service to the top of the box from Layvin Kurzawa off a set piece and hammering home a shot that Marc-Andre Ter Stegen couldn’t stop. That gave PSG a two-goal aggregate lead again — and more importantly, gave them the vital away goal tiebreaker they needed as extra security in the tie.
For a long time, that looked like it would be the winner, with the wind seeming to be out of Barcelona’s sails. But as stoppage time came closer, Barcelona’s energy came back with a vengeance. Neymar’s eye-popping brace of goals right at the end of the 90 minutes — albeit assisted by a dubious penalty decision on his second — suddenly had the score even at 5-5. That would have been enough for PSG to win anyway, but Barcelona had five minutes of stoppage time to use.
And use it they did.
Sergi Roberto, one of Barcelona’s biggest goats in the first leg of this tie, came up as the unlikely hero for the blaugranes, popping up to finish off a desperate sequence right before the final whistle. It wasn’t a pretty finish, but it was still a goal, a goal of massive and historic consequences. Not only do Barcelona advance despite having looked like they were dead to rights, but they completed the biggest comeback in a tie in the history of the Champions League. It was stunning to watch, incredible to comprehend, and there’s still so much more of the season left for Barcelona to try and top this moment. Goodness gracious.
Barcelona: Marc-Andre Ter Stegen; Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti; Ivan Rakitic (Andre Gomes 84’), Sergio Busquets, Andre Iniesta (Arda Turan 65’); Lionel Messi; Rafinha (Sergi Roberto 76’), Luis Suarez, Neymar
Goals: Suarez (3’), Kurzawa OG (40’) Messi (pen. 50’), Neymar (88’, pen. 90+1’), Roberto (90’+5)
Paris Saint-Germain: Kevin Trapp; Thomas Meunier (Gregorz Krychowiak 90’+2), Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Layvin Kurzawa; Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot, Blaise Matuidi; Lucas Moura (Angel Di Maria 54’), Edinson Cavani, Julian Draxler (Serge Aurier 75’)
Goals: Cavani (62’)
Three things we learned
PSG’s defense lost the plot
It happened early, and it happened often. Despite being an unbreakable wall against Barcelona in the first leg, PSG’s defense was an utter mess, constantly losing marks and misreading the play in front of them. Barcelona bringing an unconventional formation and tactical setup certainly didn’t help them any, but there was so little tactical discipline in PSG’s defense on Wednesday, that it was utterly shocking to see.
Their midfield bailed them out for much of the first half, but they wore out and broke down early in the second half to allow Barcelona even greater footing as they won their third goal and chased a fourth.
Edinson Cavani didn’t choke this time
Widely thought of as one of the biggest big-moment choke artists in Europe, Edinson Cavani did anything but on Wednesday. His goal in the second half didn’t help PSG in the scoreline for this specific match, only making it 3-1, but it pushed their aggregate lead back out to 5-3, and more importantly gave them an away goal tiebreaker that Barcelona had no way to overcome — or at least, it didn’t look like they could overcome it at the time.
It was a huge moment for PSG and for Cavani, who had actually been cool and collected for much of the match despite his team’s struggles. It was a quality finish and one that took enormous amounts of pressure off his team — and off himself, because this was finally the big-game goal in the kind of moment and a situation many had long derided him for failing in. Too bad he couldn’t find another goal in the end.
Barcelona are just too amazing
There’s a lot you can say about the result and the way Barcelona fought back, but you have to give a huge round of applause to Barcelona for sticking with this game and continuing the fight no matter what. Almost no one thought they could get the job done, especially after Cavani’s goal — but they kept fighting, and won because of it.
The simple fact is this: PSG backed off the gas late and couldn’t find their momentum again when Barcelona kicked it into a higher gear. Barcelona wanted it more, and they kept fighting for it even when PSG were certain they had the tie done and dusted. It was incredible to watch unfold, and this match will be held up as an example of why you never give up on a match or a tie in this sport. Ever.