Ediale Kingsley captures the key parts of the story that’s easily going to be amongst the best stories of the year. PSG had drawn first blood on an unbloody Valentines Day at the Parc des Princes stadium in France. They scored 4 goals. Like a sacrificial French hen, the Spanish champions surrendered and wouldn’t record a goal. Fast forward to the 2nd leg of the UEFA Champions League in Camp Nou, on a cool International Women’s Day, FC Barca would rewrite history. 6-1. Aggregate 6-5. Barca qualifies.
The Sergio Roberto Moment:
The Sergio Roberto last minute goal. Neymar was going to take the free kick at center of PSG’s side of the pitch. He was going to have his goal keeper involved. It was the goal keeper, at the first instance, that fought to create the set piece call from the ref. Messi was in the box 18, as well as the entire Barca squad. The fans inclusive, figuratively, with their hearts in their hands. All thoughts was in that box. And the ball was going to curve it’s way there from the leg of the Brazilian. First attempt from Neymar didn’t connect positively, a second attempt would create a Hollywood scene. A clip that has since been laced with Celine Dion’s Titanic sound track. A clip that saw the flying hopes of PSG clipped. It took a stretched athletic touch from the player that has played every position for Barcelona. Roberto had scored. The world had seen the unthinkable. And unthinkably it was off the feet of Roberto. Sergio Roberto the last, late substitute. The utility man. The unlikely joker. The 6th goal was seen, the greatest comeback in modern football recorded. Beyond all thoughts.
The Luis Suarez Moment:
The Luis Suarez quick first goal. Just as Jersey Number Twelve earlier pre-adviced: Suarez was playing more direct. His early goal set everything rolling.
Yes, There Was A Messi Moment:
In the second half, Messi would do what Luis Suarez did in the first half. It was penalty. Who will take it. It had to be taken by a player with confidence. Someone who knows everything about scoring. Messi was that man. He stepped in. Looked at the ball, looked at the back of the net and placed it where he had looked. That was goal number three. At this moment it was clear who the night was going to favor.
The Pique Moment:
At this moment it was clear who the night was going to favor. Or so we thought. Some moments of miscalculations and over ambitiousness saw Pique drove boldly into the midfield, only to lose the ball. That move was to be regretted. Cavani nailed a goal. 3-1. And this changed everything. Now suddenly from needing just a goal some moments back. To now seeking a three goals afresh. This was a raised bar. And Barca believers started doubting.
The Referee Moment:
Some of the decisions made by the referee on Wednesday have caused various controversies. Example are the penalty not conceded to DiMaria and the penalty awarded to Luis Suarez. Yet, there’s no denying, or there should be no denying, that this is football, and these issues exit. Its part of the game. And yet as well, the tension at Camp Nou wasn’t only gonna affect the players. The Spanish side but for the last minute turn of event would have also called the ref a name. He gave five yellow cards to Barca, same numbers he flashed at PSG players. And Luis Suarez, Neymar were part of those that got booked. Did PSG scored and the goals got disqualified? Did PSG make as half as much pressure the Barca guys gave? How many times did the ref look the other way when the PSG defenders faulted? These are the issues. And so people who are of the opinions that it was luck and ref’s help that saved the day for Barca. Should have a rethink. Luck doesn’t score goals. For these issues are the callings of the game. Hate the game not the players. Tell me the team you support and I will give you more that 10 games you had such luck.
The Fans Moment:
87 minutes played, it was still 3-1, 3 minutes before stoppage time. 3 goals needed. Yet the fans all stayed put. Talk about faith and believe in the team. Most team’s fans won’t turn up in such numbers if their team had a debt of 4 unreplied goals in the bag. Most fans, we see this regularly in the EPL games, will start finding the exit gates at the 87th minute of this match. Even at the 88th minute goal by Neymar, doubts ought to be naturally low. Yet the flag of belief flapped with faith’s speed. And this was aptly noted in one of Piers Morgan’s tweet.
The Neymar Moment:
He had a bet before the match that he would net two goals. He had a great composure to pay up that promise. To think he had the chances of doing so after the morale was dashed by Cavani’s goal was pure class of bravery. It was his assist that produced the last moment of magic.
The Cavani Moment:
If they qualified. His goal would have enjoyed more praise. The technique was notably top notch. He also had a shot ricochet the post. It wasn’t going to his day.
The Iniesta Moment:
Jersey Number Twelve would have had Iniesta on the bench after the first leg’s performances. But Luis Enrique, again, went for experience. And he managed to pair him with Rakitic, thanks to the 3-4-3 formation that had Alba on the bench. Iniesta’s brilliance would be responsible for the second goal. An own goal pressured by the skillful legs of the Barca’s captain. This was the game plan, 2 goals at the first half and the rest would be history.
The Lucho Moment:
Luis Enrique deserves some praise. One of the most underrated managers, despite his works and results. The tactician had in a mind game given up when the got the 4 goals deficit. Not before claiming the blame, he wouldn’t blame the players but himself. Yet he shielded Andre Gomez from the heaps of blame internet melted on him. Another mind game card he played was announcing his Barca leave at the end of the season.
While these were on, the Barca team was quietly subjected to rigorous drills and trainings. Lucho and his training staffers were rehearsing the 3-4-3 formation. They had the three La Liga games before this PSG duel to experiment on. And they did experimented. Don’t be surprised the Celta Vigo match ended 5-0, with three goals at the first half. The match against Sporting Gijon ended 6-1. Three goals, incuding an own goal, in the first half. All results was what Barca needed to replicate against PSG, 5-0 or 6-1(with at least 2 goals in 1st half).
When Lucho was done training and prepping, he started talking positive, “If they could score four, we can score 5 or 6”.
And thats how Barca did it the hard way. At 3-0 they needed just a goal. Then Cavani would come to seemingly dash that hope. Cos at that point they would be needing a total of 3goals more, all over. But…but…they did it.
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