Barcelona forward Pedro has pointed to Lionel Messi as the reason for the Catalan side’s 1-1 Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, which sends it through to the semifinals on away goals.
Messi was restricted to the bench for over an hour after concerns over his fitness, and in his absence Barca struggled, falling behind to a Javier Pastore strike five minutes into the second half.
But the Argentine left his fingerprints all over the game shortly after his 62nd-minute arrival, as his driving run opened up the defense, eventually allowing Pedro to rifle home the equalizer.
And despite scoring the all-important goal, Pedro was quick to lead the acclaim for Messi, telling reporters: “Messi is a very important player and he put in a great effort [after coming on]. He was the catalyst; we changed after he came on and we have to thank him for that.
“PSG are great rivals and perhaps it took us a while to get into our rhythm at the start. We're very happy. I think having managed to get the equalizer in the end we deserved to go through.”
Fellow forward David Villa also heaped praise on Messi’s game-changing display, saying: “Leo [Messi] is the best player in the world, his sole presence changes a game. I congratulate him for the commitment he showed with the club and with us.
The 31-year-old, who supplied the assist for Pedro’s goal, went on to share his thoughts on his team’s experience in the game.
“We struggled a lot, PSG's counterattacks were dangerous and lethal, they were in our side of the field a lot but despite that, I think we did well," Villa continued.
“We knew about their weapons, with a lot of good counterattacking players, but we still conceded many balls and crosses, which doesn't happen to us often on other days.
“I'm very happy after suffering a lot, it's a good way to win. We're very happy to be in the semifinals and now we will wait for the draw. The semifinals will be complicated no matter the opponent.”
There exists the possibility that Barca will face Real Madrid in a repeat of the 2010-11 semis, with Jose Mourinho’s men also in Friday’s draw after dispatching Galatasaray in the previous round.