There are nights when you wonder why you bother with football. There are nights when investing so much time and emotion into following a sport played by millionaires you will never meet seems insane.
Then there are nights when it all seems entirely worthwhile. Watching Barcelona’s historic comeback in the most implausible of circumstances justifies every wasted hour spent staring at a 0-0 slowly petering out.
“If they can score four goals against us, we can score six,” said Barca manager Luis Enrique the day before the game. “We have nothing to lose and a lot to win.”
The heavy defeat in Paris had prompted a tactical shift. Now playing a loose 3-3-1-3 formation with Messi in a central role, Barca had won by five goal margins in their previous two games.
Yet no one really thought a comeback was going to happen. No team in history had ever come back from a four goal deficit in the Champions League.
Suarez scoring in the third minute gave the Catalonians hope. A lucky own goal just before the break and a Messi converted penalty just afterwards had the players dreaming.
Cavani’s thumping goal brought them back to reality. Barca now needed to score another three goals in the final thirty minutes; the game was over.
The next twenty-five minutes were almost painful to watch. A dejected looking Gerard Pique was the perfect image to represent this end of an era.
Barcelona were done as one of Europe’s ultimate elite. They were about to crash out at the Round of 16 stage for the first time since 2007.
Then Neymar scored a free-kick.
It was a goal made almost ludicrous in how out of nowhere it emerged. PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp barely even registered the ball as it flew past him.
It was the eighty eighth minute and Barcelona began to believe again. PSG held their breaths and prayed for the final whistle as the fight went out of them.
Neymar had predicted he would score twice in this game. So he did, converting a penalty controversially won by Suarez at the very end of normal time.
PSG had shipped two goals in as many minutes, five on the night, and now had to survive for another five minutes of injury time.
Marc-André ter Stegen conceded four goals in Paris three weeks earlier. He won a free-kick on the halfway line with less than a minute to play.
Neymar took the free, only for the ball to come back out to him. He jinked past a PSG player and floated a delicate ball into the box with his weaker left foot.
Sergi Roberto, who had lost his place in the team after a career low performance in Paris, got a foot onto the ball. And the footballing world went insane.
Unai Emery will likely lose his job after this result. With PSG trailing in Ligue 1 for the first time in five years, the Spaniard’s tactical calamity causing a capitulation has doomed him.
Yet PSG’s unprecedented bottling of a situation barely even qualifies as a sub-plot in this insane story. This is a tale, first and foremost, about Barcelona.
In one night Luis Enrique’s team went from goners to favourites. With Barca top of La Liga and already qualified for the Copa Del Rey final, another treble is suddenly on the cards.
And who could ever say they will not win it all this year? Barcelona proved with the unlikeliest comeback in Champions League history that nothing is beyond them.
Luis Enrique said his team could score six. We will never witness a match like this again.