Thursday, March 23, 2017


LAST Wednesday night I was chatting to my brother John about the Champions League games that night and about whether Barcelona had a chance of qualifying against Paris Saint Germain.
I said Barca hadn’t a hope as a 4-0 deficit was just too big a mountain to climb, even with Lionel Messi and co at their disposal. My brother, on the other hand, suggested that I could be wrong and boldly predicted they would qualify.
I, of course, told him how crazy he was and ended the conversation by saying “sure what would you know?”
Oh, how those words came back to bite me a couple of hours later.
We witnessed the greatest comeback in the history of the Champions League, and perhaps the history of football, as Barcelona did the unthinkable and beat Paris Saint Germain 6-1 on the night and 6-5 on aggregate to qualify for the quarter finals.
I don’t think anybody could believe what they were witnessing when Sergio Roberto popped up with the 95th-minute goal to break the hearts of the PSG players and fans. The whole game was full of incident from the very first minute until the very last.
Barca came flying out of the traps and they clearly believed they could get something from the tie. PSG haven’t had the greatest of records in the Champions League in recent years and when Suarez scored after three minutes, you could tell it was going to be an interesting night.
The first moment I believed Barca would qualify was when Lionel Messi made it 3-0 just after half time, but that hope only lasted about 10 minutes because PSG grabbed a very important away goal to make it 5-3 on aggregate which left Barca needing three goals in the final 30 minutes of the game.
With nine minutes of the game left and the scores still the same, I paused the TV and started to watch a film because the game was all-but over. Not long after that my phone started to go a bit mad with text messages and they were all about the Barcelona game so I quickly switched back over and fast forwarded to the 88th minute when Neymar scored a wonderful free kick.
I couldn’t believe what happened during the next seven minutes. PSG absolutely capitulated and Barca pounced on them, albeit it with the help of a dodgy decision for the penalty which Neymar converted. Then Sergio Roberto scored with the last kick of the game which cued the best celebrations I have seen on a football pitch since Nathan Arnold scored the winning goal in the play-off final last year for Grimsby. (Okay, maybe the Grimsby celebrations were not quite at that level, but that was what it felt like to me!)
It’s amazing the difference a few weeks can make in football. After losing 4-0 in the first leg in Paris I don’t think many Barcelona fans gave their side much hope of coming back and still being in the hunt for the Champions League this year.
After the first leg, Barca as a club were in crisis, or so it seemed. They were virtually out of the Champions League and Real Madrid had all-but secured another La Liga title. To top it off, their manager Luis Enrique announced he would leave the club at the end of the season. Fast forward a couple of weeks and things have all changed. A couple of dodgy results for Real has put Barca back in the hunt for the La Liga title and the crazy night at the Nou Camp has them still in the Champions League. All that remains now is to see if Luis Enrique will go back on his decision to resign at the end of the season.
While I say his decision to resign, I do, of course, really mean the club’s decision to sack him and let him save face by resigning instead of being sacked. I wonder what will happen if Enrique leads Barcelona to Champions League glory at the end of the season because surly the club will have egg on its face if they let the manager leave after something like that.
Of course, there is a long way to go in the Champions League but after the events of the last week only a fool would bet against this being Barcelona’s year once again

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