Insane Barcelona comeback against PSG in 6-1 epic puts Catalans into Champions League quarterfinals


The greatest comeback in the history of soccer occurred at the Camp Nou in Barcelona on March 8, 2017.

Paris Saint-Germain was supposed to have ended Barcelona’s dynasty three weeks ago in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 matchup. Because it so comprehensively dismantled the Catalan juggernauts at home in a 4-0 win that it was globally assumed that the tie was over. PSG, after all, is a very strong team. And surely not even Barca and its best-ever attacking trident could get the five goals it would need – without surrendering one.

It had never been done before. Nobody had overcome such a large first-leg defeat. Or even come close.

Indeed, Barcelona wouldn’t get five goals without surrendering one. It gave up a goal. But then it just went and scored six of its own to advance to the quarterfinals 6-5 on aggregate with three goals after the 88th minute. A Neymar free kick, a 90th-minute Neymar penalty and a 95th-minute Sergi Roberto winner – his first goal in a year and a half – with a diving dink from a Neymar pass.

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Barca’s 2-0 halftime lead, before getting a third goal in the 50th minute on a Lionel Messi penalty, brought Luis Enrique’s side within just a goal of doing what was believed to be impossible. A 62nd-minute volley by Edinson Cavani, however, seemed to kill off Barca’s chances at last – reawakening the long-simmering debate over the merits of the away goal rule.

Surely Barcelona wasn’t going to get another three. But Neymar’s late heroics salvaged Barca’s European campaign in dramatic fashion, keeping departing manager Luis Enrique’s season on track for a second treble in three years.

In the third minute, a poorly cleared ball in PSG’s box bounced in front of Kevin Trapp and was nodded over both the goalkeeper and the goal line by Luis Suarez. The ball was cleared about a yard past the line, as goal-line technology vindicated a good goal.

Both sides had penalty shouts in the span of a minute. PSG’s Julian Draxler had the most credible one when his cut-back pass hit the sliding Javier Mascherano on the arm. There was little the Argentine could do though, and PSG’s pleas for a penalty were probably rightly ignored.

Neymar then zipped a warning shot just wide, and PSG responded by completely packing it in and absorbing pressure with all 11 men in its own third. This is a dangerous ploy against Barcelona, even when it needs at least three more goals.

Barca began penning PSG in ever deeper, trying to spot a crack in the wall. And in the 40th minute, it would get a second goal – reaching the half-way point towards pulling an improbable extra time out of this dumpster fire.

A poorly cleared ball was stolen by Andres Iniesta deep in the box. He back-heeled it towards goal, where Layvin Kurzawa miss-hit the clearance and then was unfortunate to swing the ball into his own net.

After the break, Iniesta flicked a ball behind Thomas Meunier for Neymar. Meunier tripped and took out Neymar on his way down. Referee Deniz Aytekin initially refused to award a penalty, but the goal-line assistant changed his mind. Messi converted to make it 3-0.

In its pursuit of a fourth, Barcelona opened up further and further, finally creating room for PSG to counter. Cavani began to threaten. In the 52nd minute, he pinged a shot off the post. Meunier beat Neymar, but Cavani’s sliding finish caromed off the outside of the framework.

But then the Uruguayan would score anyway. Barca’s Gerard Pique went walkabout with the ball up the middle, forcing Ivan Rakitic to commit a foul to break up the counter-attack when Pique lost the ball. On the free kick, Rakitic lost Kurzawa, who headed the long, lofted ball back for Cavani, who slammed home the volley.

And that was that.



Cavani got through once again but was denied one-on-one by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. Barcelona looked defeated. Things got chippy. Neymar kicked out at an opponent and was lucky to only get a yellow card. Suarez dove and got a yellow as well.

Lionel Messi found a rare bit of room and then a seam to slip through after the deep turnover by PSG, but he scuffed his finish wide.

After Di Maria was denied a seemingly obvious penalty, Neymar curled in a beautiful free kick to put his team back in the game. Sort of. Two more goals were needed.

But then Suarez was brought down, somewhat dubiously, and Neymar converted.

And then with just about the last kick of the game, in the final seconds of extra time, Sergi Roberto managed to connect with that Neymar chip over the pack, redirecting the ball past Trapp and bedlam ensued.

This Barcelona team has shifted the paradigm of aesthetic ideals and possibilities in soccer over the past decade. But never before had it pulled off anything like this. It was a night that will be remembered for as long as the sport of soccer is.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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