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In 2017, Barça produced one of the most famous comebacks in European football history. Four years later, and unless they can produce a similar miracle in Paris, there will be no place for them in the Champions League quarter finals this season.
Despite taking the lead from the penalty spot, they ended up losing 4-1 at home to a rampant Paris Saint Germain side and now have a massive mountain to climb when this tie resumes on March 10 at the Parc des Princes.
Without fans inside the stadium, the Champions League atmosphere is never going to quite the same. But the football was as electric as ever from the moment the referee had blown his whistle for the first time.
Goals looked inevitable and Barça finally broke the deadlock from the penalty spot. De Jong was tripped in the area and Leo Messi made no mistake with the kick. 1-0 Barça! And with a little more luck Dembélé could have made it two… So far so good...
PSG bite back
But that wasn’t the full story. PSG, finalists in this competition last season, might have been missing both Neymar and Di Maria in attack but their forwards had still given the Barça defence plenty to think about. Going behind fired them up even more. Pedri and Piqué had each cleared what looked like certain goals for Icardi and Mbappé, but there was no stopping the latter on 33 minutes. And PSG were back level.
The rest of the half was agonising to watch. PSG were on top on and could have taken the lead earlier than they did had Ter Stegen not come to the brilliant rescue against both Kurzawa and Kean.
Little changed after the break. Les Parisiens were playing confident flowing football and creating all the real chances.
Frustratingly, just when Barça had found their shape again, and PSG were starting to lose some of theirs, the French side scored their second. A powering counter-attack and Mbappé took his chance well.
Barça had barely had time to recover from that and they had another goal to recover from. Kean rose to meet a free kick with his head, and that was three.
Barça needed to get something back to make the task in Paris less cumbersome, and pushed hard to do just that. But that always brought the risk of leaving too much space at the back, and Mbappé pounced on the moment. That was his hat-trick, and that was Barça in deeper trouble than ever.
They’ll need to score four in the second leg. Six if PSG score. It has been done before… We can still dream.
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