Written By: Olusegun Odegbami
No one could have pre-written the script of what happened Wednesday night.
I count myself lucky to be alive to have watched one of the most amazing football matches I have ever seen.
History was made when FC Barcelona upturned a 4 – 0 defeat away to Paris Saint Germaine in Paris with an incredible 6-1 victory in the return leg in Barcelona to become the first club in the history of the UEFA Champions League to make such a recovery and move on to the next round, the quarter finals.
Even in those days in the 1970s when football in Africa was just getting out of the stone-age and scandalous score lines between teams playing at home and away were ten-a-Dollar, such a feat was never recorded.
The interesting thing about the match is that PSG, in my opinion, did not play badly. They had a well-scripted plan which they also executed well enough until the dying minutes of the match, making Barcelona do all the ball possession without allowing them the space and time to create any clear chances in front of their goal.
The result of the match did not reflect the game played by both teams.
The best that most football ‘experts’ and pundits gave FC Barcelona was a good victory, meaning that they would win well but not qualify for the next round. That was a feat considered a bridge too far with the display put up in the first leg by PSG. It was a masterful performance, a well-organized and well-earned victory.
The truth is that FC Barcelona of 2017 are not the same as the team of a few years ago when the team mesmerized the whole world with pure and unadulterated football romantically called Tiki Taka, characterized by ceaseless running, quick pressing, seamless passing, darting movements back and forth, with an uncommon creativity in front of opposing goals that was sheer poetry to watch.
But time has taken its toll, slowly but steadily. The current Barcelona team is ageing gracefully with many of its biggest stars either in their 30s or fast approaching it. Even Barca’s brightest star, the incomparable Lionel Messi, has lost a little of his sting and cutting edge. Even in this state, FC Barcelona are still so good they are right there amongst the best teams in the world, and if there is one team that has the capacity and ability to up-turn a 4 – 0 defeat, it is FC Barcelona. Yet before last Wednesday, even reckless optimists gave them no chance to do the impossible and create history.
Incidentally, that’s exactly what happened. FC Barcelona did the impossible and created history. It took 7 minutes of unbelievable drama that has now given a field day to conspiracy theorists. Otherwise, looking at how the match was played no one could comprehend how the final score line came about.
Barcelona were not brilliant. None of their three megastars in attack was at their best. Not Messi. Not Neymar. Not Suarez. Even Iniesta was a shadow of himself.
But what the team had going for it was self-belief, determination, never-giving up spirit, and the winning attitude.
The match was not the best advertisement of beautiful football. Indeed, there were only very few moments of brilliance throughout. The first two goals of Barcelona were neither planned nor created. They came off simple errors by PSG defenders that had been playing well till then, denying the Barcelona forwards any opportunities to be creative in front of goal.
But when the elements take sides impossible things start to happen. Add some hard work on the field to a sprinkling of dodgy officiating at critical times, add plenty of luck to the mixture. The product is a “Miracle”.
There is no way else to explain or rationalize what happened.
The last three goals that took the score line to an unassailable 6 – 1, one goal beyond the reach of a very good, very organized but very unlucky PSG on the night, were conceded in the last 7 minutes of the match.
A close look reveals that the elements used Barca’s number 7 – Neymar. Those 7 minutes belonged to him. An ‘innocent’ free kick from the left side of attack. Before then Messi had taken every single free kick around the box for Barcelona. This time Neymar stepped forward. Messi was nowhere around the ball.
So, Neymar took responsibility. His kick was absolutely brilliant and unstoppable. Two minutes later, a second penalty kick, a soft one this time, was awarded. Many consider it too soft to be awarded. Messi left it again to Neymar. Neymar stepped forward and ‘bent’ it into the roof of the net.
Into the dying seconds of the match, it was Neymar again. His delightful lob with the left foot from the right side of attack was connected perfectly by a defender who was scoring his very first goal for Barcelona this season!
The deed was done. The impossible had happened. Barcelona 6, PSG 1! I was a witness.
So, the world now waits, full of expectation, for what FC Barcelona will do next after the miracle at Camp Nou. Nothing short of winning the 2017 Uefa Champions League trophy will be good enough! Particularly, not after such a stunning victory.
Unfortunately, Barcelona FC don’t look like the best team in Europe at the moment. I think that they have formidable contenders in Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and even Chelsea!
So, I don’t think they will win the UCL. What they did last Wednesday is better than winning the trophy! It is a gift that will live forever in the memory of all those lucky to have watched it!