Barcelona pulls off historic Champions League comeback to defeat PSG

FC Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, left, and Neymar celebrate after defeating Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of a Champions League quarterfinal matchup on Wednesday.
(Quique Garcia / EPA)

Barcelona completed the biggest comeback in Champions League history by beating Paris Saint-Germain, 6-1, to reach the quarterfinals on Wednesday, scoring the decisive goal of a 6-5 victory on aggregate in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

With Neymar on inspired form, Barcelona score three times from the 88th minute. Sergi Roberto’s dramatic late goal sent the Nou Camp fans wild and made their team the first to overturn a 4-0 first-leg defeat since the Champions League format started in the 1992-93 season.

PSG seemed certain to go through after Edinson Cavani scored a valuable away goal following Barcelona’s opening salvo of three goals, which included a Lionel Messi penalty.

Barcelona needed three more goals to advance, and the feat seemed impossible even after Neymar found the net with a free kick in the 88th minute.

But the Brazil striker converted a penalty in the 90th and then followed up with a chipped pass for substitute Roberto to steer the ball beyond goalkeeper Kevin Trapp in injury time.

The winner sent Barcelona’s bench flooding onto the pitch as the stadium celebrated the club’s 10th consecutive appearance in the quarterfinals. Coach Luis Enrique, who announced he would leave the club this summer, embraced Neymar and any other player or staff member within reach.

“I don’t think anybody stopped believing,” Luis Enrique said. “I want to point to all those who kept their faith in us after we lost 4-0. This win is dedicated to them.”

Barcelona played with all the intensity that PSG was lacking for the entire match, and didn’t need its trademark passing attacks to get its first three goals.

PSG coach Unai Emery’s strategy of not pressuring Barcelona backfired, as his team sat back and passively let the hosts hem them into their box.

The visitors’ entire backline was frozen when Rafinha’s routine cross came into the box in the third minute, and Luis Suarez was able to nod a bouncing ball over Trapp.

PSG was running scared from there on, lamely trying to hunker down in its area and wait for the clock to tick down.

Defender Layvin Kurzawa was at fault for Barcelona’s second goal in the 40th, when he turned Andres Iniesta’s back-heeled flick into his own net.

Another PSG defender, right back Thomas Meunier, was behind Messi’s penalty in the 50th after he clumsily thrust his shoulder into Neymar’s legs while trying to recover his position in the box.

Emery finally ordered his players briefly forward.

That was when Cavani stepped in for French champions, rifling in Kurzawa’s headed pass.

But Barcelona never stopped pressing, despite needing three goals.

And Neymar led the way, pulling off one of the most remarkable sequences seen at the ground of the five-time champions.

He struck first with a curling free kick from the left flank that slipped inside Trapp’s near post.

Next, he took responsibility for converting the spot kick after Suarez was shouldered down by Marquinhos in the box.

But the best was saved for last, when his pass was lofted over the defense and fell for Roberto to get his boot forward and turn the ball into the net.

Barcelona had set a precedent in the 2012-13 season’s Round of 16 when it became the first team to erase a 2-0 away leg loss by roaring back to beat AC Milan 4-0.

But nothing compared to the challenge faced against PSG, a side that hadn’t lost in 16 matches overall and completely outplayed Barcelona during the first leg in Paris.

It was a demoralizing end for PSG. The French side was on the verge of avenging quarterfinal exits to Barcelona in 2013 and 2015 and earning an elusive marquee victory that its Qatari owners were longing for. Instead, it must remain in the second-tier of talented but ultimately flawed European teams.

“We wasted a great chance and we know it,” Emery said. “In the final minutes, we lost all that we had achieved.” In the night’s other second-leg match, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat trick and Christian Pulisic claimed his first Champions League goal as Borussia Dortmund overcame Benfica 4-0 to advance with a 4-1 win on aggregate. The draw for the quarterfinals will be held in Nyon, Switzerland on March 17.