Neymar’s tweet before the match read “While there is a 1% chance, we will have 99% faith.” No team had ever erased a 4-0 deficit in the Champions League at this stage of the competition before and the task looked uphill for even a side like Barcelona.
Statistics and history was on the opposing side of Barcelona whilst a UEFA study on the Champions League predicted a win for Barcelona. PSG were just a step away from knocking out Barcelona out of the Champions league, Barcelona have previously been knocked out of the last 16 against Liverpool way back in the year 2006-07.
Barcelona had an amazing run in the month of March with amazing display against the likes of Sporting Gijon and Celta Vigo, score line reading 6-1 and 5-0. Little did the Catalans believe that they would see a similar score line against the side which defeated them 4-0 in Paris.
When Edinson Cavani volleyed one past Ter Stegen, the signs of Barcelona getting knocked out of the tournament was imminent. Up in the Nou Camp, the PSG fans found something to cheer about and their voices started turning loud.
Angel Di Maria, who came in as a substitute was familiar with the hostile atmosphere at Camp Nou due to his previous stint with Real Madrid put a finger on his lips as the Catalans fans faces starting fading. The Catalan fans also visibly slumped in their seats.
If there was one man in the entire stadium who believed his team could score six past the Parisians it was the manager Luis Enrique himself. Luis Enrique, was mocked visibly after the press conference where he was quoted as saying “If PSG can score 4 goals against us at Paris, we can score 6 against them at Camp Nou”.
Before the Cavani’s strike, Barcelona were leading 3-0 and needed a solitary goal to go into the quarter-final of the tournament. Neymar, was the catalyst for the third goal as a foul from Thomas Meunier gave Barcelona a chance to go 3 goals ahead in the crucial fixture.
The unlikeliest of comeback was truly on its way in Camp Nou and the Camp Nou turned a hell for the Parisians. Cavani’s strike meant that Barcelona had to score 3 times more to overturn the deficit, thanks to the away rule by UEFA.
Unai Emery’s plans to stop Lionel Messi was a partial success but it backfired on him as Neymar and Suarez capitalised on it to lead Barcelona from the front. Luis Enrique, modified the formation to have a more attacking line-up than the previous one at Paris.
Enrique utilised the 3-4-3 formation with Messi playing as the No 10, with the front 3 consisting of Suarez, Neymar and Rafinha. This move ensured that the Argentinian was not restricted to the wings and could move around freely in the middle of the park.
Could Barcelona score 3 goals with just three minutes to go?
Barcelona, scoring 3 goals in the last three minutes of the game looked impossible, but it was the moment when Neymar was at his calmest self. With Messi not impacting the game as he regularly does, Enrique had to find someone else who could make an impact to the game.
The young Brazilian managed to find the tiniest of spaces in the Parisians box to cause a trouble or two for their defence. The Brazilian managed to find a free kick on the edge of the box. Little did Kevin Trapp expect what was coming from the other end.
Kevin Trapp, set up his wall casually and looked confident with the ball placed 30 yards out from goal. With a two-step run-up Neymar curled the ball over the wall and into the top corner at the near post. Trapp stood there helpless as he was caught in a terrible tangle and sank down on his knees in disbelief. Was it the beginning of the end for the Parisians, only time would tell.
Neymar’s Brazilian team-mate Marquinhos’ knee contact was enough to trip Suarez down and the referee pointed at the spot. Barcelona, had won another penalty and when people were expecting Messi to drive another one down the middle, it was Neymar who stepped up to take the penalty.
Neymar, stepped up and with his usual dance-like run up struck the ball to the left of Trapp, who had jumped to the opposite end. Was there enough time for one last goal? The clock struck 90.00 as the ball found the empty net.
Would PSG suffer a nightmare?
Barcelona led 5-1 on the night and 5-5 on aggregate, it would not be enough for Barcelona to move on to the next stage, thanks to the away goal rule.
By this point in the match, PSG had capitulated and were mentally broken. They were just not damaged mentally but also broken from inside thanks to the damage caused by Barcelona. With over 95,000 people raising their roof and roaring at every goal, it was like Barcelona played with 12 men on the pitch.
PSG, had made only four successful passes, three of which came from kick-off. The fans were waiting for the moment and the moment arrived. Goalkeeper Marc-Andrea Ter Stegen, of all people won a foul in the PSG half when he tried to recover the lost ball.
With PSG, well and truly ropes and time running out, Neymar kept his cool and delivered the knockout punch.
Barcelona had been attempting to cross balls into the box all game to bypass PSG’s midfield but had no luck whatsoever against their defence. So, Neymar did the next best thing; he chipped the ball over the defence who played a high line to keep the Barca attack at bay.
It wasn’t a routine long ball. He wasn’t throwing up a prayer. It was a calculated move with the amount of space available between the defensive line and the goalkeeper. Gerard Pique was tightly marked. Messi was nowhere to be found. Suarez waited on the periphery of the human bodies in the box.
Sergi Roberto, got on to the end of the Neymar’s cross to score a beautiful volley which separated both the teams. The flag stayed down and the comeback was complete. In six minutes, Neymar had produced a performance that not only turned the table but also made the Camp Nou to stand on their feet. A 1% chance became a 100% certainty.
“This is the best game I have ever played. For what it meant, for what we experienced and because I am in great form.” – Neymar