When Lionel Messi stepped up to take a second-half penalty, PSG fans would be forgiven for thinking ‘not again’.
Their expensively assembled squad has made Champions League collapses something of an art form in recent times; Marcus Rashford’s last-minute penalty in 2019 springs to mind, but the ‘remontada’ outweighs everything else.
Back in 2017, PSG took a 4-0 lead to the Camp Nou but inexplicably lost 6-1 in the biggest act of self-destruction since Jeremy ate Mummy.
While the two teams have moved in opposite directions since, another Barca goal on Wednesday night could have instigated the mother of all meltdowns.
Keylor Navas thought otherwise. Messi hit his spot-kick hard and straight, but Navas dived to his right and blocked it with his legs (even if replays suggested the penalty should have been retaken). As the ball spun up onto the crossbar and was eventually scrambled away, two things could be observed.
First, Barcelona visibly deflated and never truly threatened to make a comeback afterwards. We may now have seen the last of Messi on the Champions League stage – at least in a Barcelona shirt.
But, beyond the obvious headlines, Navas had made himself the hero of the tie. It was he who stood strong when the possibility of ignominy raised its presence once again like the spectre at the feast.
Denying a Lionel Messi penalty when it mattered most… continue reading