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FOOTBALL

Miracle at the Nou Camp: Barça make history with 6-1 comeback

Neymar hailed the best game of his career after Barcelona pulled off the greatest comeback in Champions League history by scoring three times in the dying minutes against a stunned Paris Saint-Germain.

Miracle at the Nou Camp: Barça make history with 6-1 comeback
Barça supporters went wild in the Nou Camp at the miracle win. Photo: AFP

The Brazilian scored an 88th-minute free kick and a penalty in the 91st before setting up Sergi Roberto's clincher in the fifth minute of injury time, sealing it 6-1 as Barcelona overturned a 4-0 first-leg deficit.

The result, which sparked delirious celebrations at Barcelona's 99,000-capacity Nou Camp stadium, sent the Spanish giants storming into the quarter-finals at the cost of the stricken Paris club.

“This is the best game I have ever played. For what it meant, for what we experienced and because I am in great form,” Neymar told BeIN Sports.   

“I know that we have made history. A team like this can do anything.”     

The sensational win recalled Manchester United's injury-time double to win the 1999 title against Bayern Munich in the same stadium, and Liverpool's victory in the 2005 final after being 3-0 down to AC Milan at half-time.  

“It is a difficult night to explain with words,” said Barça boss Luis Enrique, who will leave the club at the end of the season.    

“It was a horror movie, not a drama, with a Camp Nou that I have seen very few times as a player or coach.
   “What defines this victory is the faith that the players and fans had.”    

But the defeat raised questions over the future of PSG coach Unai Emery, as club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi ominously called it “very hard to accept”.    

“This is a nightmare for everybody. Is Unai Emery still credible? This is not the moment to talk of this. After the game, we are all upset,” said the Qatari.


Photo: AFP

Pique predicts baby boom

Despite Luis Suarez's early opener, a Layvin Kurzawa own goal and Lionel Messi's penalty, Barça looked down and out when Edinson Cavani volleyed home what seemed to be the vital away goal for PSG.

However, Neymar restored Barça's belief as he firstly fired home a sensational free-kick two minutes from time and then converted from the penalty spot.

And substitute midfielder Roberto became the unlikely hero when he stretched to turn home Neymar's sublime chip over the defence, leaving the score 6-5 on aggregate as the crowd dissolved into ecstasy.

“I threw myself at it with everything,” Roberto told BeIN Sports. “We left Paris very down and now this is incredible.  

“We were prepared for all this. The fans were like 10 extra players and in the end this is all for them.”

Midfielder Ivan Rakitic said Barça had defied the critics after their first-leg humiliation in Paris three weeks ago.  

“It's crazy. After Paris, many people spoke hard about our team but tonight was special, we made history,” the Croatian told BT Sport.  

“We know we are the best team in the world.”  

As well as staying on course for a sixth title, the 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015 European champions set a new record by reaching their 10th straight quarter-final.

PSG coach Emery admitted his team went to pieces in the final minutes, but said they were badly affected by the two second-half penalties given by German referee Deniz Aytekin.

“In the second-half it changed. The (Messi) penalty got them off to a great start, but I was already calmer because I could see the team was responding better, were better positioned on the pitch and could do damage,” said the Spanish coach.

“We had chances to make it 3-2 and then the refereeing decisions, I don't know if they were right or not, but for sure they damaged us. Then in the last two minutes we lost everything we had recovered in the second half.”  

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, husband of Colombian pop star Shakira, predicted exuberant celebrations among the team's fans.  

“I would say to the hospitals of Barcelona to hire nurses,” said the father of two. “Tonight people will make a lot of love.”

By Kieran Canning

FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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