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Barça host Atlético Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Cup quarter final on Wednesday night. The game is sure to bring back memories of a quarter final between the same two sides back in 1997 – one so incredible that people in Barcelona still remember where they were the night that Barça beat Atlético 5-4. For those watching on TV, the extraordinary events were made all the more surreal by the absence of any commentary due to the local station, TV3, being on strike. For those in the Camp Nou on the night of March 12, it was a memory to cherish for the rest of their lives.
The first leg at the Calderón had already provided plenty of thrills. Barça, with current manager Luis Enrique in the side and the late Sir Bobby Robson on the bench, had picked up a decent enough 2-2 draw. Two away goals are normally handy in a knockout competition. But the second leg was anything but a normal game.
Atlético came straight at Barça with striker Milinko Pantic firing on all cylinders. The Serb banged home a hat-trick in the first half to put his team well in command. Barça had even lost their away goals advantage and now needed four to make it into the next round. Everything had gone wrong, and even the most optimistic of supporters weren’t holding out much hope for the second 45 minutes.
But what a turnaround was to come! Robson made the brave decision to send on Stoichkov and Pizzi. In a flash, Brazilian superstar Ronaldo, in his solitary season at FCB, scored twice to restore at least some semblance of hope. But then Pantic scored his fourth of the evening. Barça were 4-2 down and still needed three goals.
Barça’s chances seemed to have dissipated to nothing, but the Camp Nou believed in the miracle. Boosted by the roaring crowd, Figo scored an absolute screamer and then Ronaldo got Barça back level at 4-4. But that wasn’t enough. Atlético would still be going through on away goals. And then, with seconds to go, Juan Antonio Pizzi popped up score one of the most celebrated goals ever to be seen at the Camp Nou.
Against all the odds, Barça were through. They would go on to thump Las Palmas 7-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals and then beat Betis 3-2 at the Santiago Bernabéu to lift the trophy.
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