How UEFA.com's Graham Hunter reacted to Barcelona's stunning 'remontada'
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Among the lucky witnesses to Barcelona's remarkable 6-1 win over Paris, Graham Hunter had to make sense of it all after the final whistle.
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Football can be so stunningly unbelievable, when it is played like this, that people use the phrase: "There are no words!"
But there are. They tumble out of you, but it is how to pack in all the visual images and in which order to put them.
The sight of Lionel Messi running in the opposite direction to his team-mates when the definitive sixth goal went in and leaping onto the wall behind the goal to celebrate, without any trace of restraint, into the arms of dozens of Barcelona supporters after the Liga leaders had overturned a 4-0 first-leg deficit.
The finest talent in Blaugrana history was – like the rest of the world when he produces his own little football miracles – reduced to the need to roar at the sky, to hug, to carouse, to pump fists.
That was surely the image: arguably the greatest-ever player made delirious with joy by someone else and, instantly, following his gut, his heart, rather than protocol. He celebrated with the passionate, hoarse-throated fans. I was there. I saw it.
What about Gerard Piqué, eyes red with tears? A symbol of the belief, a symbol that the victors never once stopped believing – even when they required three goals in three remaining minutes of normal time.
Piqué NEVER stopped believing. And yet, when that sixth goal went in, he could not believe it. Such is football at its very outer limits.
Luis Enrique danced around the pitch, forgetting he was not meant to be back on the playing surface he had once graced, but he was lost in marvel, completely overtaken by the moment. Except that he remembered to share it with his assistant Juan Carlos Unzué and goalkeeping coach José Ramón de la Fuente. They did a jig, embracing as they danced.
But remarkable scenes like this do not only embed themselves on the retina of your memory because of the winners.
Poor old Kevin Trapp, the Paris keeper so terrific since taking over from Alphonse Areola, sat there desolate on the same patch that Sammy Kuffour had beaten with his fists in disbelieving anger when Manchester United scored two goals in the last three minutes of the 1999 UEFA Champions League final.
Is there something about this goal, the 'Gol Nord' of the Camp Nou, which demands ultra-drama? That would be fanciful. But the pain which Trapp and company were feeling was so similar to that of Bayern 18 years earlier.
Paris, like Bayern, had opportunities to avoid this. They hit a post, Marc-André ter Stegen saved heroically from goalscorer Edinson Cavani and only the unreasonable would have criticised Unai Emery's men for thinking they were through when three goals clear on aggregate in the 87th minute of this round of 16 second leg.
Of the Barça fans present for the unexpectedly glorious finale, how many had actually stayed on to say, "Bad luck boys, but thanks"? Instead it was history-in-the-making. Bedlam. "A triumph for faith," Luis Enrique said when the dust had settled.
The roars died down and the players, so quickly calm and analytical behind the scenes, went home. But the memories, they will take forever to dissipate.