Barcelona pull off six-goal comeback to oust PSG
Barcelona, March 9 (IANS) FC Barcelona became the first team in UEFA Champions League football history to overcome a 0-4 first-leg deficit against Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) as the hosts scored six goals to knock out the French champions despite Edinson Cavani’s away goal.
Barcelona suffered a 0-4 loss in the Stade de France three weeks ago. But on Wednesday a dramatic finish with three goals in the last seven minutes and a 95th-minute winner from late substitute Sergi Roberto made history as the pre-quarterfinal ended 6-5 on aggregate, Xinhua news agency reported.
Barcelona’s cause had looked lost after Uruguayan striker Cavani had scored for PSG just after the hour, leaving the hosts needing three goals to qualify after the Catalans had gone 3-0 up on the night at the Camp Nou Stadium.
Knowing the task ahead of his side at the start of the game Barcelona coach Luis Enrique took a risk by playing a three-man defence in order to fit Rafinha, Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic into his side.
He was rewarded for his courage in the third minute when Luis Suarez headed Barcelona into the lead, after reacting first to a hanging ball into the PSG penalty area.
It was just the start Barcelona needed and they almost doubled their lead on the night after 15 minutes when Neymar sent a long range shot inches wide of the post.
PSG were defending deep in their own half, but in a rare break Gerard Pique was shown the yellow card for a rash challenge.
Barcelona got their second goal when pressure and a cheeky backheel from veteran midfielder Iniesta caused panic in the visitors’ defence and Layvin Kurzawa kneed the ball into his own net in the 40th minute.
Three minutes after the break it was 3-0 as Thomas Meunier brought Neymar down in the PSG box. The referee consulted with the official behind the goal and gave a penalty which Lionel Messi smashed into the corner of the net to leave Barcelona just one goal away from forcing extra time.
At the other end a rare PSG attack saw Cavani hit the outside of the Barcelona post, moments before winger Angel Di Maria was brought on by PSG.
He did better just after the hour, beating Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen with a powerful volley from the edge of the penalty area to score the vital away goal that left the hosts needing three more goals to qualify.
The goal didn’t stop Barcelona attacking, but it did seem to take some faith from their play until Neymar scored an 88th minute free kick to make it 4-1 on the night.
In the last minute of normal time, Barcelona were awarded a second penalty for a foul on Suarez and Neymar sent goalkeeper Kevin Trapp the wrong way to bring them right back into the tie with five minutes of injury time remaining.
The cause looked lost but in the last chance of the game Roberto stuck out a leg on a ball over the PSG defence to score the vital goal and make history.
The stunning victory means that Barcelona have joined Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League quarter-finals.
After the match, Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique had nothing but praise for his players. “I think nobody stopped believing after seeing the side’s efforts during the night,” said the Barcelona coach on BeIN sports.
“They were spectacular. We took a lot of risks but it was worthwhile. In terms of emotion, intensity and coming back from behind, it is a night that as a coach you have to love after what happened in the first leg and the consequences it had,” said the coach, who just a week ago announced he was leaving the club at the end of the campaign.
“The key (to qualifying) was the effectiveness and faith the team had … It was incredible,” he concluded.
For Enrique’s PSG counterpart, Unai Emery, it was a day to forget for the Paris club. “Today, for everyone at Paris Saint-Germain, the staff, players and fans, it’s a bad day. What happened on the pitch is a negative experience. Individually, we missed out on a good opportunity to grow,” Emery told PSG website.
“In the first half, we didn’t play with the attitude we had wanted. We wanted to continue like in the first leg. We wanted to sit back and hit them on the counter-attack. After the third goal, the team was better. We wanted to get a better result by scoring a second goal.
“In (the last) five minutes, we lost everything. We weren’t able to defend. It’s an experience. A negative experience, but an experience all the same. I’m learning for the future. Today, it’s clear we passed up a good opportunity.”