BARCELONA MAKE HIS­TORY

Ney­mar the livewire in amaz­ing win

New Straits Times - - Sport -

BARCELONA needed a miracle to make his­tory on Wed­nes­day. Three, to be pre­cise.

Just min­utes away from elim­i­na­tion, Barcelona had to con­jure up three in­stant goals and it was Ney­mar who stepped up.

The Brazil­ian striker first scored from a free-kick in the 88th minute then a penalty two min­utes later be­fore float­ing a per­fect pass for Sergi Roberto to score the dra­matic win­ner in the fifth minute of in­jury time as Barcelona beat Paris Saint-Ger­main 6-1 to com­plete the big­gest ever come­back in the Cham­pi­ons League.

Roberto’s strike gave his team a 6-5 vic­tory on ag­gre­gate, mak­ing Barcelona the first side to over­turn a 4-0 first-leg de­feat since the cur­rent for­mat started in the 1992-93 sea­son.

PSG seemed cer­tain to go through af­ter Edin­son Ca­vani scored a valu­able away goal fol­low­ing Barcelona’s open­ing salvo of three goals, which in­cluded a Lionel Messi penalty, be­fore Ney­mar turned it all around.

“This is the best match of my ca­reer,” Ney­mar said. “It was dif­fi­cult af­ter the match in Paris. For the past week I have been crazy to play this match, and we have made his­tory.

“I just told Sergi Roberto to get in the area, that he would score a goal.”

The win­ner sent Barcelona’s bench flood­ing onto the pitch as the sta­dium cel­e­brated the club’s 10th con­sec­u­tive ap­pear­ance in the quar­ter-fi­nals.

Coach Luis En­rique, who an­nounced he would leave the club this sum­mer, em­braced Ney­mar and any other player or staff mem­ber within reach.

“What de­fines this vic­tory is faith, the faith of my play­ers, the faith of our fans. No child or adult here at Nou Camp will for­get this night,” En­rique said. “I have never seen a bet­ter com­mu­nion be­tween team and sup­port­ers. We over­ran them, they didn’t cross mid­field.”

PSG coach Unai Emery’s strat­egy of not pres­sur­ing Barcelona back­fired, as his team sat back and pas­sively let the hosts hem them into their box.

“We wasted a great chance and we know it,” Emery said. “The first half was more about our mis­takes.”

The vis­i­tors’ en­tire back­line was frozen when Rafinha’s rou­tine cross came into the box in the third minute, and Luis Suarez was able to nod a bounc­ing ball over goal­keeper Kevin Trapp.

De­fender Layvin Kurzawa was at fault for Barcelona’s sec­ond goal in the 40th, when he turned An­dres Ini­esta’s back-heeled flick into his own net, de­light­ing the 96,000-plus crowd.

Another PSG de­fender, right­back Thomas Me­u­nier, was the cul­prit be­hind Messi’s penalty in the 50th af­ter he clum­sily thrust his shoul­der into Ney­mar’s legs while try­ing to re­cover his po­si­tion in the box.

Emery fi­nally or­dered his play­ers briefly for­ward and Ca­vani re­sponded for the French cham­pi­ons, ri­fling in Kurzawa’s headed pass in the 62nd mo­ments af­ter he had hit the post in the vis­i­tors’ only threats.

But Barcelona con­tin­ued to press for­ward with Ney­mar lead­ing the way.

He struck first with a curl­ing free-kick from the left flank that slipped in­side Trapp’s near post.

Next, he took re­spon­si­bil­ity for con­vert­ing the spot-kick af­ter Suarez was shoul­dered down by Mar­quin­hos in the box.

The best was saved for last, when his pass was lofted over the de­fence and fell for Roberto to stretch out far enough and turn the ball into the net.

“I just threw my­self for­ward,” said Roberto, who went on in the 76th minute. “Af­ter the loss in Paris, we were all very down. But this team, if there is some­thing we have proven, it’s that we are made for nights like this.”

Barcelona mid­fielder Arda Tu­ran tweeted af­ter the match: “You call it “foot­ball team“, we call it “Barça.” You call it “miracle“, we call it “nor­mal” #ForçaBarça.”

What de­fines this vic­tory is faith, the faith of my play­ers, the faith of our fans. No child or adult here at Nou Camp will for­get this night. Luis En­rique Barcelona coach

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