A sheer whirlwind of emotions engulfed the Camp Nou on Wednesday night as FC Barcelona pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sport to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
It looked as though all of Barça’s efforts would count for nothing when Edinson Cavani smashed the ball into the roof of the net on the hour-mark to leave Luis Enrique's men needing three more on top of the ones they had already scored earlier in the game.
But if anyone was to achieve the inconceivable, it was always going to be Barça, as the hosts struck thrice late on, with Sergi Roberto clinching a heart-stopping 6-5 aggregate win over PSG.
At the start of play, with such a high mountain to climb, Barça’s slim chances of turning the 4-0 deficit around pretty much demanded an early goal from the hosts. And the duly delivered.
Rafinha’s in-swinging cross was headed more up than out by PSG captain Thiago Silva, and his follow up attempt to clear was seized upon by Luis Suárez as the predator leapt to nod in a dream opener on three minutes.
Barca’s intensity was relentless, with the pitch seemingly tilted towards Kevin Trapp’s goal and though there were few clear chances in the first half hour, Leo Messi got hearts racing with a free-kick that flew just over the bar, which was quickly followed by a curling effort from range by Neymar which also went agonizingly near.
The next step of ‘Operation Comeback’ was ticked off before the break. Andrés Iniesta showe
d grit and perseverance to keep the ball in play and then class to backheel the ball into danger which was deflected in by PSG defender Kurzawa for 2-0.
The second half demanded more of the same and, again, Barça delivered exactly when needed. Five minutes in, Messi smashed in a penalty for 3-0 and it was very much ‘comeback on’.
Cavani (seemingly) ends Barça’s hopes
All of that optimism, all of that effort and all of that passion, however, quickly came crashing down when Cavani ruthlessly struck on 63 minutes (3-1), leaving the Catalans needing three more goals.
Regardless of Barça's ridiculously high standards, it just seemed a step too far after the emotional rollercoaster that had already ensued. But little did anyone in the Camp Nou know that things were just getting started.
An ending to end all endings…
On 88 minutes, Neymar masterfully whipped a free-kick into the top corner (4-1). A wonderful goal, but surely little more than a consolation, or so it appeared.
Deep into the five minutes of added time, Barça were awarded another spot-kick. Neymar took on the responsibility and stroked home for 5-1, and all of a sudden, the Camp Nou believed again.
But even the most optimistic Barça fan was not prepared for what would take place next. With every player in the PSG box, including Ter Stegen, a cross from Neymar into the area found Sergi Roberto who stretched liked he had never stretched before to seal the most epic of qualifications (6-1, 6-5 agg).
The famous Camp Nou has seen more incredible moments than most, but it will take an almighty effort to top what was witnessed on 8 March 2017.