There was enthusiasm, there was spirit, but finally there was Kylian Mbappé and a brutal control of the reality of Barcelona.
Ronald Koeman’s team suffered a crushing 4-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night in the Champions League round of 16. and they will need another ‘comeback’ to get out of this. It doesn’t seem likely.
His full season is almost over, in terms of potential trophies, but this campaign never looked promising on that front after last summer’s 8-2 annihilation by Bayern Munich and the frustrated attempt to run away from Lionel Messi.
Koeman took on the mandate to move some of the veterans and bring in junior players, while also ensuring that Barcelona were never embarrassed again. So it’s sad, but not surprising, that they are here, no longer among the elite teams of the game.
They are on the brink of elimination in Europe, 2-0 down in the Copa del Rey semifinal against Sevilla, and eight points behind La Liga leaders Atlético de Madrid, having played one more match.
A series of good results in 2021, the recovery of Messi and the rise of 18-year-old star Pedri González gave Barcelona hope, which was further increased by the injuries of Neymar and Angel di Maria that ruled them out of this first leg clash in Catalonia.
The pendulum passed from the favor of the PSG runner-up in 2020, when the round of 16 draw was made, towards Barcelona. Or so we think. The first half reflected that in an end-to-end, roll-with-the-punch thriller.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen and the nervous Sergino Dest were able, between them, to stop Mbappé in the first minute, while Pedri’s sublime pass to Antoine Griezmann was wasted by the forward.
Barcelona went ahead through Messi, scoring their fourth Champions League goal this season, all from the penalty spot, after Layvin Kurzawa knocked down Frenkie de Jong.
It was an accidental trip from the French full-back, a soft penalty that sparked memories of the two conceded in the infamous 6-1 comeback in March 2017, but made contact with the Dutchman.
Messi’s penalty was emphatically scored at home (no wonder Manchester City are interested in it!) And 2021 is now the 17th consecutive calendar year he has scored in the Champions League, equaling the Real legend’s record. Madrid, Raúl González, established between 1995-2011.
Ousmane Dembélé should have doubled Barcelona’s lead, but sent a soft shot to Keylor Navas, who recalled his infamous failure against Liverpool in the first leg of the 2019 semi-final that should have sent his team 4-0 up. . Instead, the score stayed at three and we all know what happened at Anfield …
Barcelona had to pay, then and now, with Mbappé shooting rapidly at PSG level. If you had a lucky moment when his lazy touch to control bounced toward him instead of away from him, there was no luck in what happened next.
Reacting at lightning speed, he cut to the left and then passed Ter Stegen, against the roof of the net.
Mbappé’s junior compatriot Griezmann fired wide at the other end in a strong Barcelona counterattack as they showed they were still in the fight.
Mbappé’s influence only grew in the second half, as he showed why he will be the next soccer superstar, trying to take the reins of Messi himself in this match.
His second was a poacher’s shot and after the unmarked Moise Kean headed in the third, Mbappé produced a brilliant kinky effort to kill Barcelona and the tie on a quick counter.
Barcelona rushed Gerard Piqué back from a nearly three-month injury for this game, but he might as well have stayed home while Mbappé played for Barcelona, who were always backing away, shaking and eventually collapsing.
This wasn’t an 8-2 humiliation at the end of an era like against Bayern, but it didn’t turn out to be a fair fight at the end, either. It showed how far Barcelona has left to recover what it was.
It also shows why Messi was desperate to leave in the summer. And why could I do it next summer?
There may still be more to fall before Barcelona can rise again.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.