The Catalans produced possibly the greatest comeback in football history on Wednesday night
Barcelona's stunning 6-1 win over PSG will go down as arguably the greatest ever comeback in football history.
Trailing 4-0 from the first leg, the Spanish champions overturned that deficit with a remarkable 6-1 win at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night.
With the tie apparently over, the Catalans scored three goals after the 87th minute to progress to the quarter-final stage and confound all the critics who had written the team's obituary only a few short weeks ago.
However, now that the dust has settled on one of the most dramatic night's in European club football history, three things led to Messi and co.'s progression:
1. Luis Enrique's men went straight at PSG from the first whistle and attacked with the intention of going out on their shield if this was to be their last hurrah in this season's competition and this is to be commended.
2. PSG's tactics appeared to be to sit as deep as possible and invite one of the best attacking teams ever assembled on to them in the belief they could hold out. At one stage, all eleven players from the Parisian team were camped less than 10 metres out from their own box. And...
3. Barcelona's unsportsmanlike conduct which saw both Luis Suarez and Neymar go down any time they were touched - particularly in the box.
Is anyone going to talk about the cheating or do we only do that when it happens to us or Louth ? #BarcellonaPSG— Oisin Langan (@oisinlangan) March 8, 2017
While this win should be rightly hailed for what it was, we shouldn't over look the antics of two of the most skillful players currently gracing the pitches of Europe.
In the 48th minute, the referee originally signaled for a goal kick when Neymar jumped into Thomas Meunier who had slipped when turning in the box. The Brazilian should have been booked for simulation - similar to Jamie Vardy's acrobatics against West Ham in the Premier League last season which saw the Englishman booked and ultimately sent off for a second offence.
Neymar deliberately changed the line of his run to jump into the stricken defender in an attempt to con the officials. Originally he didn't, but the official behind the goal was duped and the referee then awarded a penalty.
It's the defenders fault for giving the Brazilian the chance to do so but the attacker clearly alters his run, takes a shorter step with his left leg so he can lean into his opponent and go over.
Five minutes later, Neymar again goes down in the box when in close proximity to Meunier but the officials don't buy it this time. The Brazilian should have been booked.
The diving/gamesmanship also shameful etc etc. But, if you're fighting for the impossible, you have to push everything...— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) March 9, 2017
Barcelona were awarded a second penalty late on when Suarez was slightly impeded in the box and went down as if his head was nearly hacked off. There is no doubt that he was touched on the chest but how both his legs stopped running at exactly the same time is one of the mysteries of anatomical mechanics. The two hands thrown over his head only added to the ridiculousness of the fall.
The Uruguayan had already been booked for diving in the 67th minute when he left a leg dangling for Marco Veratti. He didn't bite and the ref duly showed a yellow card to the South American.
In light of both the above, how Angel Di Maria wasn't awarded a penalty and Javier Mascherno didn't get sent off for clipping his shooting leg when one-on-one with Ter Stegen in the 86th minute is beyond belief. Had it been at the other end, odds are the home side would be taking another spot kick.
PSG were no angels themselves and Cavani was rightly booked for attempting to get Pique a second yellow at the end of the first half.
Barcelona's comeback win will live long in the memory but we shouldn't whitewash the cynical play that aided their remarkable win.