Barcelona completed one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the game after overturning a 4-0 first-leg deficit against PSG with a 6-1 win at Camp Nou. The task was difficult for Luis Enrique’s side as they had to be wary of the away goal should PSG score 1 – which they did.
Luis Suarez opened the scoring with a scrappy goal in the 3rd minute before Andres Iniesta made it 2-0 minutes before half-time. Lionel Messi stepped up to dispatch a penalty after Neymar was fouled to make it 3-0. But then there was a twist as Edinson Cavani pulled one back for PSG – scoring the crucial and what looked like the knockout goal.
It was the 87th minute of the game against Paris Saint-Germain. Barcelona were up 3-1 on the night but still down 5-3 on aggregate. Neymar stood about 30 yards diagonally to the left of the Paris Saint-Germain goal with his eyes on the ball in front of him.
Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior was a long way from his home in Mogi das Cruzes, Brazil. But he had practised this routine on the streets of his hometown since he was old enough to kick a ball.
Before the game kicked off at the Nou Camp, before the first pass, few believed that Barcelona would achieve what they did when the final whistle sounded. No side in Champions League history had overturned a 4-0 first-leg away loss, ever.
Deportivo La Coruna stunned Milan with a 4-0 win at Estadio Riazor in 2004, but they had an away goal after losing 4-1 to Milan at the San Siro. Last night, Barcelona didn’t have that luxury. They would have to conjure up a magical performance.
Suarez gets the ball rolling:
All eyes were naturally on Lionel Messi as the game against PSG kicked off. The mercurial Argentine was deployed in a deeper number 10 role by Enrique. However, it was the man starting to his left, the final piece of the jigsaw of Barca’s famed MSN attack, Neymar, who would prove to be the crucial difference between the two European giants.
Luis Suarez poached a goal within three minutes after PSG failed to clear their lines. However, just nine minutes in, Neymar tantalised Meunier with his trickery which led to a rather ominous handball shout. The referee ignored the Brazilian’s claims and the game continued.
The Brazilian would go on to give the PSG right back, Meunier, a night to forget. In the 17th minute, in a flash of brilliance, Neymar cut inside on to his right foot on a Barca counter and unleashed a blinding effort aimed at the far post. The ball curled in a few milliseconds too late and narrowly missed the top corner by a couple of inches.
Neymar takes centre stage:
The referee finally gave the Catalans a penalty after a brief period of indecision. Messi stepped up and slotted home, making it 3-0 to the home side. The scoreboard read 4-3 to PSG on aggregate, and the game was well and truly on.
However, Barcelona would land themselves in deep troubles soon after. In the 62nd minute, Edinson Cavani capitalised on a lapse in concentration at the back by the Blaugrana to make it 3-1. It dented the spirit inside the previously buzzing Nou Camp and ensured Barcelona had a mountain to climb if they were to make it to yet another quarter-final.
The Gods and Brazilian greats of the past must have been gleefully smiling down from the heavens, as this young man had finally emerged from the shadows of his Argentine teammate. In a big game, with time running out, Neymar proved to the world why it was him, and not any else, whom the Barca faithful could count on when it mattered the most.
Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi were on the pitch that night, and they all played their part in the victory without a shadow of a doubt. But the stand-out player, the talisman wasn’t the Argentine or the Spaniard or the Uruguayan, it was the kid from Mogi das Cruzes, Brazil. It was Neymar Jr.