Champions league is considered to be the best European tournament for the football clubs since all clubs from different countries in Europe fight hard to lift that trophy. Real Madrid is the most successful club having won the Champions League for 12 times, although being a Barca fan I hated writing that but fact is a fact. Anyways Barcelona has also won the trophy five times, with Milan winning it seven times and Liverpool six times respectively.
Since the time I started following football as a sport Barcelona had the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, E’tto and Ronaldinho in the squad, Messi was still a young talent just like Ansu Fati these days. The tiki-taka style was the most beautiful thing I had come across, not because of the possession game but since you would get it back every time if you made space for yourself. I have been a Cule since then and have therefore seen Barcelona achieve a feat no other club has achieved winning a sextuple was the greatest achievement a club has ever achieved.
It was one such Champions League match, Barcelona was facing PSG in Paris, the date was 15/02/2017. I was in the college hostel and was watching the match with my friends. Barca had faced PSG twice and had won on both occasions but this time it was different, Barca were thrashed 4-0 in Paris it seemed like Barca had no answers to Di Maria. The PSG midfielder tore apart the Barca defense single-handedly scoring a 25-yard screamer in the first leg after his signature dance with the ball around Iniesta.
“It’s not very difficult to explain,” a shell-shocked Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “They were better than us from the start and put us under pressure. We couldn’t get out of it. We were inferior tonight.” The hopes were dim as no club had ever achieved the feat to overcome such a big lead and qualify for the next round. I was facing a different humiliation among my hostel friends that Barcelona is no more a club it used to be and Messi is no more a player he was once. I took it all as a true fan because we Culers stand by our team even at the hardest of times.
It was the doomsday, the date was 8th March 2017, it was time for the second leg between Barca and PSG. I had a mid-semester exam the next morning but who cared about the exam at that moment, I was scared and nervous therefore chose to watch the match alone because I lacked the courage to face my friends if we lost. “If a team can score four times against us, we can score six times against them. We have seen that before this season. We have nothing to lose.” said Luis Enrique, Barca Coach.
Barcelona had changed its tactics for this match it was a different formation never seen before fielded by Enrique 3-1-4-2 on attack and 3-4-3 on while defending was chosen as the tactics to overcome the previous result. Barcelona was playing the most aggressive football I had ever seen them play, as soon as PSG won the ball Barca pressed high and won the ball back. The first break came in the third minute itself when the high pressing Barcelona was attacking with almost 8 players in the PSG half. Luis Suarez headed the ball past the keeper despite having 8 defenders in the box, it was a sheer example of high pressing by Barcelona from the start of the game. The hopes of a memorable comeback was ignited and the whole stadium with a 96,000 spectators roared for the home side. On the 14th minute Barcelona came close to scoring from a Messi free-kick inches above the goalpost and then the16th minute Neymar’s try from 30 yards away almost got us all hypes up. Barcelona was just not stopping their high pressing strategy and it bore the fruits again with Iniesta pressing Marquinhos and forcing Kurzawa to score an own goal. With two goals in the initial 40 minutes the players were even more determined, they were displaying immense confidence in the field now. The first half came to an end after a few corners in the dying minutes for Barca.
The second half kicked off and in the 48th minute, Barcelona was awarded a penalty after Neymar was tripped in the penalty box by crawling number 12 Meunier for PSG. Messi stood in front of Kevin Trapp, the Argentine captain chose hos left side and took the penalty which went like a trace of a bullet past Trapp. Barcelona were ahead by three goals in the first 49 minutes of the game, the whole Camp Nou was celebrating. PSG was quick to make a counter-attack and Cavani almost scored from a cross by Meunier that got deflected from the goalpost. At 61st minute Edinson Cavani scored a half volley shattering a million dreams, a strike so strong that it gave no opportunity to Ter Stegen to even move a muscle. My heart sank, I had no courage to watch the game anymore but I still had hope in my team I knew they would fight back, even if they don’t win I won’t leave halfway.
The real rollercoaster journey awaited me ahead as the game went ahead. There were no real chances PSG started to dominate the game, with Cavani almost going past Ter Stegen in a one on one encounter, with the latter providing an excellent left leg save. Rio Ferdinand recapped, “From where [Neymar] is on the pitch, he’s got no right to even take that on.” as Barcelona was awarded a free kick in the dying minutes. It was at 87th minute when Neymar with a masterclass free-kick synonymous with that of Van Gogh’s art stroke got past Kevin Trapp giving no opportunity to the keeper. The hopes were revived and a slightest of light at the end of the tunnel was visible but Barcelona needed two more goals to make the greatest comeback ever. In the dying minutes at 89th minute Lionel Messi produced an aerial through ball to Luis Suarez who was tripped by Marquinhos in the penalty box, the referee blew the whistle and pointed to the penalty spot indicating a penalty. Ninety minutes 35 seconds on the Timer, Neymar scored the most composed trademark spot-kick to Trapp’s left with the latter committed to his right. Barca was 5-1 and now needed just one more goal, it now felt as if it was possible but at the same time it was such a nervous moment could it be the last brink of happiness. No matter what the result would turn out, the Culers were all proud of what they had seen a collective team effort never seen before.
Neymar had the possession of the ball with less than 2 minutes left in the clock, he sent a chipped aerial through ball into the penalty box with his weaker left foot and it was right between Sergio Roberto, a La Masia product, and Kevin Trapp. Sergio Roberto leaped towards the ball and with his right foot scored one of the most legendary Barcelona goals. This 5-second scenario where Roberto like a lion leaped towards its prey will always be carved in my memory as one of the most iconic footballing moments. I was so excited and overwhelmed with that amazing goal that I threw away my hostel keys (which I never found again) and ran through the whole floor calling out all those who mocked me during the previous leg. I felt proud although I was not there in the Camp Nou but I lived the moment none the less in the same way. I can proudly tell everyone I saw the ‘La Remontada’ live and it will indeed be one of the most iconic comebacks in the history of Champions League for years to come.
“I advise the hospitals of Barcelona to start hiring nurses because a lot of love is going to be mad tonight,” Pique said.
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