Barca were 3-0 up with 40 minutes remaining, but the Uruguayan pounced to leave the Catalans needing to score six
This was greatest comeback in Champions League history. Perhaps football history too.
Sergi Roberto’s stoppage time strike helped Barcelona come back from 4-0 down against PSG to complete an astonishing 6-1 victory.
Edinson Cavani seemed to have crushed Barcelona’s hopes of an unprecedented result with a vicious half-volley after the Catalans scored three, but Luis Enrique’s side refused to give in and went and scored three more.
The Uruguayan hitman’s rocket brought Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez and Co. back down to earth with a bang, before they bounced back up again and reached for the stars.
Luis Enrique threw caution to the wind and played without full-backs in the 3-4-3 Barcelona have been practicing since the first leg, and his gamble paid off.
What had seemed a pipe dream for Barcelona started turning into a nightmare for PSG when Suarez nodded home in the third minute after a scramble in the box as Marquinhos panicked and bungled his clearance.
Roared on by a Nou Camp that has rarely felt so alive, Barcelona pushed high up the pitch, asphyxiating the visitors, with the defensive line of three playing much of the first half around 30 yards out from Trapp’s goal.
In the 40th minute Andres Iniesta’s backheel flick forced the dumfounded Layvin Kurzawa to slice it into his own net with Trapp in no-man’s land.
PSG had their backs to the wall, foolishly abandoning the high-pressing strategy that served them so well in Paris and allowing the Catalans to push the dagger closer to their throat as the minutes zipped by.
And when Neymar forced a penalty by colliding with the slipping Thomas Meunier, Messi smashed it home to nudge Barcelona onto the verge of an historic comeback.
In the 62nd minute Kurzawa made amends for his own goal when he beat Ivan Rakitic in Barcelona’s area to knock the ball down to Cavani.
Time stood still as the Uruguayan shaped his half-volley, Ter Stegen stood still as it rifled past him into the roof of the net, killing the tie thanks to the away goals rule.
Neymar’s sensational free-kick gave Barcelona a sliver of hope once again and he added another from the penalty spot in the 90th minute.
Five frantic minutes of stoppage time followed with Roberto providing the finishing touch to send the Nou Camp into pure pandemonium.
This is why football makes us dream
Cold hard logic dictated that Barcelona would not be able to comeback from such a brutal deficit, but the impossible being made reality is what keeps us coming back to football time and time again.
In the build-up Luis Enrique insisted that if PSG could score four against his team in Paris then Barcelona could hit them for six at the Camp Nou. That a comeback was even thinkable is incredible in itself.
And Barcelona’s self-belief tripled when Suarez headed home after just three minutes. They racked up the pressure and the chances, pelting Kevin Trapp’s goal.
The crucial second came five minutes before half-time, with Messi adding the third five minutes after it.
Neymar got the fourth late on, but by then Cavani had intervened, with his strike effectively killing the game, because Barcelona needed six thanks to the away goals rule.
It didn’t stop this from being an incredible night of football.
Camp Nou turned into a cauldron
Luis Enrique said in his pre-match press conference that it wasn’t in Barcelona fans’ culture to turn the Camp Nou into a cauldron, somewhere like the San Paolo on a big european night.
Instead he asked the fans to create waves of pressure, which they did, and his team rode them as they dominated PSG.
Banners were hung up around the city on Tuesday night by Barcelona’s ultras, with messages of support for the team, and that atmosphere was carried into the stadium, which has rarely seen as raucous an evening as this, especially in the past few years.
Flags were waved in every stand, huge canvases were wielded around the stadium, with the largest draped down from the grandstand reading ‘Everyone with the team’.
And a stadium which can often feel like a theatre as fans politely applaud the art presented to them was transformed into a furious bowl of fire, with PSG shaken by it and Barcelona energised.
Moura’s mare makes PSG miss Di Maria
Angel Di Maria was brilliant for PSG in the first leg, a key element of their 4-0 win in Paris, tormenting the defence and netting two goals.
However since that game he has been struggling with a muscle problem and was benched by Unai Emery, with Lucas Moura starting in his stead.
Although in theory the Brazilian should have been able to run riot against a Barcelona side not using full-backs, he squandered several opportunities with slack touches and bad ideas.
With Di Maria on the pitch PSG would have had an outlet when they hacked the ball away, instead of Edinson Cavani’s aimless running.
The Argentine was eventually introduced to a chorus of boos—for his Real Madrid past—in place of Lucas in the 55th minute.
It was no surprise that his arrival gave the visitors the kick they needed to push on and grab the away goal that would kill the tie.
Andres Iniesta gamble pays off
Since returning from injury a few weeks ago Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta has not reached his best level.
He was helpless to prevent PSG running riot in the first leg and since then has not impressed either as a starter or a substitute.
Luis Enrique found it impossible to leave him out of the starting line up for this clash, partly for his experience on massive Champions League nights, but also for the immense quality he has.
Including him in the team was a bold move, because it changed the balance Barcelona had found in their new 3-4-3 formation.
While Iniesta found it hard to match the pace of the game at times, he came up with a magic moment just before the interval, with his backheel forcing Layvin Kurzawa to hack the ball into his own net for Barcelona’s second goal.
Despite failing to complete their impossible comeback, Barcelona showed the spirit and attitude they will need to complete their La Liga turnaround.
Having lurked behind Real Madrid for most of the season they are now ahead of their rivals and with the Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu to come in April, have a fine chance of going on to win the title for the thirst season running.
And PSG, while they have a lot to think about after a shoddy first half display, showed the mental strength to play at three goals down and grab the crucial away goal.
After coming through this, walking through fire, might they finally find success in the Champions League?