Luis Enrique announced he would be leaving FC Barcelona only seven days ago. At the moment Barca are atop La Liga with 60 points, one ahead of Real Madrid who have a game in hand. Long standing centre half, Gerard Pique seems to be in his twilight years. The ever smooth, fluent and efficient Iniesta now appears far from his best. Sergio and lRafinha together can’t replace Danny. Rakitic looks rather jaded. The mercurial “medicine man” Messi’s contract is yet to be renewed. Add to this, a forthnight ago Barca were soundly pounded by Paris Saint Germain 4-0!
I for one considered the score, and reminded myself of the prevailing facts. Slowly whatever hope I had began to recede like light from the setting sun. There were many pundits and supporters who began to lose hope of there ever being any type of comeback. There is always the potential for MSN to do serious damage but would the team hold up? What of Iniesta and Busquets? Both have been fairly flat these past few games. I desperately tried to retain even a flicker of hope but as March 8 approached I saw less and less light at the end of the tunnel.
How do you approach something that’s never been done before? The Wright brothers had never seen a metal fly. No black man had ever won President of the USA. No one had ever seen an incandescent light bulb before 1879, including Thomas Edison. He went on to produce the first commercially available light bulbs. No team had ever over-turned a first-leg four goal deficit in the European Champions League. This Barca team summoned the tenacity of the Wright brothers, the temerity of Thomas and the belief of Obama. “Yes We Can” read the banner held up by a loyal supporter.
On the three minute mark, Suarez put the Catalan giants into the lead. If the intent was to score early then it was mission accomplished. Oh how the flames of hope flickered with this goal. As the game wore on “medicine man” went close with his free kick. The sighs were loud. Moments later Neymar was just a few inches away from doubling the lead. His shot flew past the top right hand corner of Kevin Trapp’s goal. Then it was Iniesta’s turn. Oh Lord… We had to wait until the 40′ minute for goal number two. It was a moment of sheer brilliance. The inventiveness of the illusionist Andres Iniesta left Kurzawa frantically forcing the ball into his own net.
The second half was where all the drama unfolded. It was not for the faint of heart. But as the game inched on my belief grew. My hope received fresh fuel with each attempt at goal. Then on the 50′ minute we hit three goals. The goal resulted from a penalty won by Neymar who was fouled by a fumbling Meunier. Messi stepped up and BOOM! The comeback was definitely on. I was now dreaming of the never before seen. Tonight is the night!
After sitting back and absorbing all the pressure, PSG had a break through from a quick counter attack after Pique foolishly lost the ball in the middle third of the opponent’s half. The resulting shot hit the upright. Whew…My heart almost gave out. It wasn’t long after that Edison Cavani scored a powerfully hit volley, causing sudden despair. Certainly there was no way back from this. The tie was squarely in favour of the French team. But that was only minute 62.
As the clock slowly creep pass 80 minutes my heart sank further and further. It was on the 88′ minute than there was a rapturous cheer as Neymar scored a delightful free kick. We only had to wait three more minutes for Neymar’s second. This time, from the penalty spot.
The aggregate score was now 5-5! Incredible. Three minutes left on the clock. Now came the question: could it really be? Can Barca score another goal before the whistle is blown? Is there some miracle being prepared by the football gods? The answer is a resounding yes. In the 94′ minute, Ter Stegen was fouled. Ter Stegen. (He had entered the play for the last kick of the game.) All but Neymar were taking up positions in and around PSG’s box. The flight of the ball carried it over the players to an onrushing Sergio Roberto who finished emphatically.
They did it! What a night it was in the Camp Nou, March 8, 2017. A date that will go down in history. Barca’s comeback was unlike anything ever witnessed before in the Champions League. It was unthinkable, unreachable, undo-able until the able team did it.