How Barcelona tore up the history books
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Barcelona's ground-breaking 6-1 win against Paris Saint-Germain will be talked about for decades to come, but how on earth did they do it? UEFA.com's Chris Burke explains.
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Barcelona's 6-1 win against Paris Saint-Germain is destined to resonate through the ages, the Catalan giants becoming the first team to wipe out a 4-0 deficit in European competition – and completing their task with almost the final kick for added drama.
But how did they do it? And what happened to the Paris team that sparkled at home? UEFA.com's Chris Burke highlights five reasons why Barça stunned the watching world.
Barcelona's unshakeable belief
With eerie prescience, both Luis Enrique and Luis Suárez spoke on Tuesday of the need to play "for 95 minutes" – and, would you believe it, Sergi Roberto struck the decisive blow in this breath-taking contest with 95 minutes on the clock. The timing was uncanny, but it merely underlined how much Barcelona believed in their 'remontada' mission.
True, the home side's faith was dented when Edinson Cavani left the Blaugrana needing three goals with around half an hour to go. So too were the hopes of the Camp Nou crowd, who sang "Sí se puede" (Yes we can) during their weekend win against Celta Vigo, but Neymar reminded everyone how quickly games can change.
His two late goals put the outcome back in doubt and the stadium was a seething cauldron as players and fans alike almost willed the sixth goal into the net.
Luis Enrique's revenge
Barcelona's 4-0 loss in the first leg was above all framed as a tactical victory for Paris coach Unai Emery, and the damage to Luis Enrique's reputation was immense. Shaken by the experience, two weeks later he announced he is going to step down in the summer, with few begging him to change his mind.
Enrique now deserves to bask in the moment. This, above all, was his triumph, the 46-year-old reacting to that Parc des Princes reverse with a swift tactical overhaul. Trialling an effective 3-4-3 in the run-up to this match, Barça turned the tables with an intense pressing game that neutralised Marco Verratti in particular, and forced the visitors into a succession of missed passes. Emery had no response.
Paris too timid
Just as Paris's first-leg success owed much to a poor display from their opponents, so too the French side played a major part in their own downfall. Gone was the swagger of their Valentine's Day victory, Emery's men defending too deep in the opening period and refusing to come out of their shells until they were three goals down.
"The first half was our fault and we didn't manage to press or do things with the ball," said the Paris coach, who is certain to have some explaining to do.
In addition to an overly cautious approach, Paris were also guilty of giving away cheap goals. Just four players in the visiting line-up had never previously graced the Camp Nou turf, and three of them looked daunted by the occasion as the Paris rearguard crumbled.
Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp should perhaps have come out more decisively for the opener and he was also beaten too easily by Neymar's free-kick, while Layvin Kurzawa scored an own goal for the second and Thomas Meunier's slip allowed Lionel Messi to make it 3-0 from the spot. Fellow defenders Marquinhos and Thiago Silva hardly covered themselves in glory either.
Chances taken, chances missed
Although Les Parisiens barely existed as an attacking force, this whole tie could have been so different if Cavani had beaten Marc-André ter Stegen soon after scoring his goal. The visitors enjoyed their brightest period after the Uruguay forward's effort, but there was a complacency to their finishing as both he and Ángel Di María spurned excellent chances.
In contrast, Barcelona's players made their opportunities count, not least Luis Suárez with the deftest of headers for the opener and Sergi Roberto keeping his nerve to steer in the historic sixth – a goal that will be played and replayed for decades to come. "If Paris can score four goals, we can score six," said Enrique in the build-up, and his players proved him right.