Best comeback ever for Barcelona

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VICTOR SALGADO

FC Barcelona celebrating after their victory. – Photo courtesy of FC Barcelona

Following a 4-0 defeat away from home against Paris St. Germain, everyone had written Barcelona off as a Champions League fixture. Everyone had started talking about the end of a dominating era for FC Barcelona in Europe. Barcelona on the other hand, had other ideas, marking the best comeback in Champions League History. As the game started, Barcelona immediately showed that they meant business.

Three minutes in, Rafinha sent a searching ball into the box. Kevin Trapp, the PSG goalkeeper, stepped out to clear the ball, but Luis Suarez, Barcelona’s key striker got past the defenders and headed the ball home for a 1-0 lead. The stadium erupted with the first goal, and soon there was no looking back. A determined Barcelona kept troubling PSG with long bouts of possession. In the eleventh minute, PSG managed to make their first counterattack. In the process, Javier Mascherano steered the ball clear with a slight touch of his hand.

There was a half-hearted appeal for a penalty but the referee turned it down. After that the game was all Barcelona. They relentlessly kept applying pressure on the opponents. Although they seemed to be composed and strong, with every passing moment without a goal the nervousness had started to creep in. In the fortieth minute, Barcelona got a breakthrough. Andres Iniesta and Suarez combined to get into the box. Iniesta tapped a threatening ball into the box, and PSG defender Layvin Kurzawa struck the ball but completely misjudged it and sent the ball in the back of the net.

The whistle soon blew for halftime, much to the pleasure of PSG. As soon as the whistle blew for the second half, Barcelona was attacking PSG again. Five minutes into the half, they were awarded a penalty. While trying to defend Neymar, PSG defender Thomas Munier stumbled into him. Messi made no mistake from the spot and made it 3-0 for Barcelona. It was all turning in favor of Barcelona here. They were just a goal away from equalizing with PSG, which might have pushed the game to extra time.

Soon after the goal, PSG striker Edison Cavani almost managed to score a goal only to be denied by the post. However, just when PSG seemed like they were out of luck for the whole day, Cavani pulled out an amazing volley from the edge of the box to make the score 3-1, a vital away goal for PSG. In UEFA rules, if the aggregate scores are equal after two legs of the match, then the team with more goals in its opponent’s turf goes through. This rule further complicated things for Barcelona, so instead of scoring two goals, they had to score three to go through, all this when time was ticking on them. The nervousness and panic was soon visible in the Barcelona players. PSG defenders fended off every wave of Barcelona attack, it all suddenly seemed that PSG was going to end up winning on aggregate.

With just a final few minutes left in the game, Barcelona earned a free kick from about 30 yards out. The angle and distance was completely against Neymar as he stepped up to take the kick. Although it looked nearly impossible, Neymar fired a quick curler which ended in the top of the net while a hapless Trapp looked on.

Was this going to be a fairy tale ending for Barcelona? Barcelona started attacking with a renewed vigor as they pushed for two more goals in the dying minutes. Just two minutes after the goal, Luis Suarez went down in the PSG penalty box and another penalty was awarded to Barcelona. Neymar calmly slotted it home. Another five minutes of added time was announced to cope for time lost in substitutions and injuries. Barcelona was looking desperately for a goal. They had everybody in the penalty box as the earned a free kick in the last minute of the game.

Even Barcelona keeper, Ter Stegen was standing in the box. The kick was cleared away by the defenders the first time, but when a second cross was lofted into the box, Sergi Roberto broke the offside trap and only managed to get the most modest of touches on the ball. But it was enough to send the ball into the back of the net.

All the Barcelona fans went up on their feet as the Nou Camp was filled with an ear-deafening thunderous applause, thanks to the most unbelievable comeback ever by Barcelona. The whistle blew soon after, reminding that the following attack was meant to be the last attack of the game, just reminding how lucky Barcelona was to win this fixture.

Many are saying it wasn’t luck. A petition for a replay of the game has reached 200,000 signatures on change.org based on what some claim were highly biased decisions by the German referee. Whether UEFA will give in to the pressure remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Barcelona played a great game in what will remembered as an amazing comeback story.