Match Review: The GREATEST comeback ever: FC Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain

[Santiago Garcés]

To put what we have all just witnessed into words will be impossible. But I will do my best.

This will not be a tactical review, as my mind is still coming to terms with the match itself, and I will rather speak on the deeper themes of the events of last night.

We did it. We produced the greatest UEFA Champions League comeback of all time. But how? What exactly happened?

Going into this match, there were few of us who could have predicted what would soon transpire. Sure, we’re culés, but even the most optimistic of us could not have predicted that with seven minutes to go we would score three goals. Those last seven minutes will go down as some of the greatest seven minutes in sport history. Years from now, the question will be, “Where were you when Barcelona produced the greatest comeback of all time?”

The themes of last night’s victory are poetic in nature, and are life themes. That those of us who dare to dream, and have the courage and will to try, will always have a chance at success. No matter the odds.

My personal Man of the Match was Neymar, not just for singlehandedly carrying us to victory, but for the faith he showed before the match. It is rumored that Neymar had predicted he would score two goals, and that FC Barcelona would somehow prevail.

“As long as there’s a one percent chance, we’ll have 99 per cent faith”

-Neymar

Luis Enrique showed similar faith:

“If Paris Saint-Germain can score four, then we can score six”

-Luis Enrique

At the 80th minute, it seemed every wave of attack to be coming from Neymar’s channel. He seemed the only man truly believing we could still turn it all around. And what followed are lessons we can all learn from. Neymar da Silva is not just any extraordinarily talented individual. There is a reason he finds himself in the positions he is in today. As a teenager, Neymar had the world at his feet in Brazil, with virtually every major club in Europe desperate to bring him to their club. The level of belief and character Neymar showed is exactly what has brought him to such extraordinary heights. He believes. In his own ability, and that through sheer will, determination and hard work, that anything can be achieved regardless of odds. This is what separated him from every other talented teenager never to make something of himself, and this is also what separates each of us between those who succeed in life, and those of us that don’t. Courage. It is crucial we look deeper than the entertainment value of last night’s game, and rather at the themes at play.

What does this all mean? Firstly, it cements Luis Enrique’s place in the history of sport and not just football, if it wasn’t already cemented. Lucho had the world turn against him a few weeks ago. He did say after the first leg that he analysed the performance like no other. All of a sudden, we find ourselves somehow through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, with a Copa Del Rey final still to be played, not to mention that La Liga is back on, as we are currently on top of the log by 1 point, with Madrid now only having played one game less than us and el clásico still to be played). Do you know what I’m thinking? I’m sure you do, so let me not jinx us by even mentioning it.

Like most of you, I am still struggling to process everything that happened. I really am lost for words. As I write this, I have had few hours of sleep– not more than three hours. I got up this morning, still in disbelief, and decided to check the highlights to ensure what happened was not a dream, and in fact real. By the time I saw Neymar’s cross into the box and every blaugrana doing their best to somehow lunge their body trying to reach the ball, as I saw Sergi Roberto’s first touch, I felt a tear drop from my cheek as Roberto managed to lob the ball into the net. It really did happen.

I cried, not for the match. I cried from the poetry at play. That we each have the power in us to create whatever change in our lives. I feel privileged to be a part of this all, and to walk this journey with all of you. I feel inspired to look myself in the mirror to face the impossible obstacles of my own life, and to be as courageous as Neymar, showing Lucho’s faith, to believe. This is the beauty of sport.

I leave you with my favourite reaction from last night’s victory that sums up my own reaction: Those of you reading this from Barcelona, make sure you drink a ton of water today.

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  • yaofengchen

    Total Barca, you are a day late and a dollar short.

  • Jason Rodriguez

    Without Dani Alves, and with Messi playing a more centralized role, I knew this team hadn’t been playing well in the 4-3-3 formation! It’s great that Lucho finally realized it, and adapted accordingly, these last few games! With Rafinha on that Right-wing, it has just made a world of difference, as it tactically stretched out the PSG defense, and Messi playing that midfield! Messi might have been subdued a little, but the team kept on clicking with Ney and Rafa running both wings! No Alves, this is how they have to play!

  • Kneowell Anyanwu

    I think football fans around the world all suffered a sleepless night, the euphoria made me sleep 4hrs after the game and like Max I had just about 3 hours sleep before I rushed off for work, and like max again, in disbelief I literally watched almost all the available highlight youtube could offer at that time and numerous reactions around the world before the impossible doings of the team really sank in. Words really cannot describe, I lost my voice from screams, I cried joyfully, I gasped in disbelief of what I had just witnessed. Was supposed to dress very corporate to work but I wore my jersey to work just to brag and shame haters and changed back to my normal work clothing some few minutes before we opened to clients.
    Max covered the theme of the game wonderfully well (I don’t know how he managed that given we are all still blown away by the event) but for the sake of those who never see anything in what the coach does and consider him tactically inept I would like to point out a few things:
    Louis Enrique switched to the high risk 3-4-3 formation from the game against alaves after an unending and futile attempt to play the ball out from the back while playing 4-3-3, he realised it wasn’t working as he hoped it would but the process of adaptation of these guys was gonna take longer than expected. So he switched, and the results since that switch has been glaring for all to see (Messi also being the joker and the ace card at same time as always before and always will be except last night Atleast). Though we were pretty awful against PSG first leg, but games after that have been completely different. And in the second leg our ‘tactically inept’ coach tried a 3-3-1-3 formation, the selection of rakitic and busquet meant rafinha will freely do more work upfront on the wing with both the former covering defensively which of course gives Messi more room to roam and double as a 10 and also a false 9. Lucho left at fast paced Alba who so often than not provides width upfront (questions were raised here and curses were poured). Did the tactics pay off? Hell yeah! Was the play beautiful? Not exactly either, but lucho’s barca has never been all about the aesthetic play, but about work ethics, about grit, the right mentality and the winning spirit. Let me borrow a line or two from Kxevin (from fcbarcelonablog) who said lucho as the child whose home work is always smeared with ink and eraser but yet gets his answers right, in another article he described lucho as the maths student who always arrives at the correct answers with the wrong proofs and that pretty much sums up lucho’s methods, I mean, how else does one explain leaving a 30m striker on the bench for a midfielder-cum-defender in a match when you need goals like your life depends on it? How does one explain turan or Roberto’s selection over Paco alcacer who is a genuine striker? How else does one explain leaving Vidal on the bench for a roberto in matches past? These are questions we may never be able to answer, these same questions pop up in our minds in almost all of his substitutions and even squad selections and I figured we may never be able to explain any of these except we are in his mind. Argue with his methods all you want, yes he isn’t sold to “the barca way” like we hold in our head or the “the barca identity” postulated by cryuff and translated by guardiola, but not even the former can argue with his results. Cryuff would put two captains in a ship, but Enrique added the 3rd captain and tamed them for 3years. With them he has achieved an unprecedented feat. Lucho’s team has never been about aesthetics, it’s about the grit, the spirit, the attitude, the mentation. The reason tata will never be remembered in barca history is because his game has got aesthetics but lacks the qualities above. Lucho measures his work by effectiveness, and boy has he been effective! Even of we don’t win the UCL, history will never ever forget this feat. We may never see it again in our lifetime and guess who the manager of our great club was when this happened? I can tell what just echoed in your mind.

    • Jack

      The Barcelona board made the best decision to let him go. You may as well go with him. Thanks for supporting us all this while.

      • Kneowell Anyanwu

        Wasn’t a board decision, it was his own decision. No one can account for what happens behind the scenes. He was never meant to stay here forever, though he’ll always be cule by blood, I was here before he came and I’ll always be here, and I’ll support any coach that comes after him so long they enrich our history with results and trophies, I’m not a fan of doing that in a particular way or order so long it’s not parking the bus. Hate and chase the man all you want, erase him from all your minds and memory if you so please, but one thing you can’t do? You can’t erase him from the very elite pages of the club’s history books, his portrait in our museum will be up there with pep’s. And most importantly, you can’t erase him from the history of world football. Deal with that, not me.

        • serko10

          not really. what most people agree on is that the history will be the MSN history mostly. while talking about Pep his signature on the team was considerably bigger despite having an arguably superior squad in a few positions, but at the same time lesser squad in other positions, which is also arguably true. You’re a minority in your opinion when it comes to the elite of football. Lucho does not get the credit and praise you put upon him in general at all because he hasn’t lit the footballing world on fire for anyone as a manager, that was mostly MSN. That’s not even just my opinion, forget about me for a moment. The ammount of experts who disagree with you is mindblowing. And i know you won’t believe me, and that is fine, shove that aside for a moment, but i am not guided by the experts. I formed my opinion, and then found confirmation with the experts, not the other way ’round. If you think these “experts” are some obscure thing i made up, please do so. That would be willfully looking away. You have every right to your opinion, as i have every right to think it’s a bs opinion, me, and many arguably very knowledgable football experts, ex players, managers, and pundits. Adieu!

          • Kneowell Anyanwu

            Yeah you have every right to your opinion and those of your pundits, you can’t separate the team from the manager, a team is. Reflection of the manager. Give all the glory to MSN and feel good, but when you and your pundits are asked which manager led the team to success from 2014-2017 in an objective type question, I’m as sure as hell your answers won’t be MSN. Peace out

          • Kneowell Anyanwu

            Moreover, with all of peps signature, the world hasn’t forgotten messi-eto-Henry exploit, neither has the world forgotten messi-villa-pedro exploits. Neither have we forgotten the statement by pep that Messi made him the best manager in the world

    • Futbolistaviva

      Good post. You are spot on with your analysis.
      Lucho deserves massive props for the tactical setup, squad selection and substitutions. The players were of course immense. It was a team victory.
      The posters that argue with you about Lucho are nothing but little boy Barca fans. They are more interested in being right with their amateur opinions than the truth. Lucho has forgotten more about futbol than they will ever know.
      Visca Barca!

  • Ayanfe Dada

    There’s no team no matter how good they are that doesn’t have a coach. Those discrediting Lucho’s managerial expertise because of MSN have gotten it all wrong. MSN didn’t just magically become a deadly trio overnight. Luis Enrique’s input in making sure the three of them can play together perfectly is very vital. When Tata Martino was Barça’s coach we had both Messi and Neymar & even played more attractive football than Luis Enrique’s Barça but which side became triumphant and won multiple trophies? Luis Enrique’s Barça. Hate Lucho all you want and criticise his coaching methods but the trophies that he’s helped Barça win speak for themselves and it will forever remain in the history books of football that Luis Enrique’s Barça did the impossible and made the greatest comeback in the history of UEFA Champions League football to win 6-5 after being down 4-0. Now, that’s a FACT.

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      Facts they can’t argue with