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Beaten 4-0 away by Paris in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League round of 16, Barcelona needed to make history to recover. They did – and how.
Only the most relentlessly optimistic Barcelona fans believed in their team's chances after the Valentine's Day massacre of their 4-0 loss away to Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the round of 16.
No side had ever recovered such a heavy deficit in the UEFA Champions League, and Barça coach Luis Enrique soon announced he would step down at the end of the season. Little by little, however, hopes of a legendary 'remontada' took hold at the Camp Nou, with Enrique himself setting the tone. "If Paris can score four goals, we can score six," vowed the man scapegoated after the first leg. Bold talk, but could they actually pull it off?
• Neymar Joint-top scorer in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League, the Brazilian began the match with just two goals under his belt from the group stage – but an unerring ability to turn any game.
• Lionel Messi No cause is ever lost with this man in your line-up. Barcelona's all-time record scorer was closing in on 500 goals for the club and had struck ten times in the group phase before Paris kept him quiet at the Parc des Princes.
• Sergi Roberto The right-back had been ever-present during Barcelona's European campaign before being sacrificed in a switch to a 3-4-3 for the Paris decider. But he was ready on the bench if needed.
All Paris had to do was stay calm and not concede an early goal. That plan went out of the window when Luis Suárez headed Barcelona in front within three minutes, and the hosts added a crucial second before half-time via Layvin Kurzawa's own goal. The Camp Nou faithful roared – and a miracle comeback took on even more concrete shape when Messi converted from the spot shortly after the interval.
Unai Emery's men were wilting, defending too deep, seemingly overawed, but they hit back with what appeared to be a killer blow on 62 minutes, Edinson Cavani producing a fine finish. Suddenly Barcelona required three goals to win, and it could have been worse when Cavani tested Marc-André ter Stegen soon after.
With two minutes left, Paris still looked certain to advance. But then the seemingly impossible happened. Neymar curled in a free-kick and registered again with a penalty at the start of stoppage time, before setting up substitute Roberto to dink the ball beyond Kevin Trapp in the 95th minute. Cue pandemonium. Against all odds, the 'remontada' was a reality.
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- As it happened: Barcelona 6-1 Paris
- Graham Hunter on Barcelona's 'unbelievable' night
Sergi Roberto, Barcelona defender: "In that final moment, Neymar crossed the ball and I gave everything to get there. I went for the ball... and it ended up in the back of the net. It was a very special moment for me and one I'll always remember. It's for moments like this that we're in this game."
Luis Enrique, Barcelona coach: "This is a crazy, unique sport. Children and adults here tonight will never forget what happened. I dedicate this win to all the Barça fans who kept faith in us. We were massively criticised after the first leg."
Elsewhere that evening
There was a revival act in the night's other last-16 decider as Dortmund overhauled a 1-0 defeat away to Benfica by triumphing 4-0 on home turf. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did most of the damage with a hat-trick, while 18-year-old Christian Pulišić buried the other goal for his first UEFA Champions League strike.
How Europe's press reacted
Marca, Spain: "Never say never. Not even if your team need to win by five goals. Not even when the opposition score and you need three goals in just half an hour ... In football, anything is possible. Let no one doubt it again."
L'Équipe, France: "Why climb so high only to fall so low? [Paris] shouldn't have made us dream three weeks ago, taking us by the hand and by the emotions, only to abandon us like that, leaving us stunned, speechless by the spectacle of that collapse."
Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy: "The Barcelona miracle changed football. Until 8 March 2017, football was something. Now that something is old, outdated, changed forever. The border of 'impossible' was moved far away."
The Daily Telegraph, England: "This club, these players, have done everything. But they have never done this."
Zeit Online, Germany: "God is a Barça fan."
The 'remontada' mantra had to be reiterated after Barcelona lost 3-0 away to Juventus in the quarter-finals – but this time the magic deserted them. Messi and Co were held to a goalless draw in the return and had to watch arch-rivals Real Madrid go on to lift the trophy for a second successive year.
They also lost key man Neymar in the summer, the major architect of their remarkable victory snapped up by the team who's dream he had crushed. The Brazilian joined up with fellow new boy Kylian Mbappé as Paris coach Emery, despite intense criticism, held on for another year.