I don’t know. You wait over 10 hours to see a goal go into the Barcelona net and then, in less than 55 minutes—like London buses—three of them turn up one after another.
In a pulsating 90 minutes, Barcelona’s defeat in Paris showed the watching world what we know of this Camp Nou team, namely occasional displays of Herculean strength in attack combined, unfortunately, with an Achilles heel when defending set plays. Or as a unit.
Obviously, Paris Saint-Germain had the advantage of playing at home, but once again this was a Barcelona side which put far too much trust in possession without really knowing at all times what to do with it.
It’s in this department that Luis Enrique has been found wanting this season, something Pep Guardiola used to call the positional game, by which he meant a structured form of attack which becomes almost instinctive and where everyone knows where they should be at all times and what they should be doing.
It requires discipline, movement, sacrifice and constant reminders from the coach about what is expected from his players, and in the revolution brought about by Guardiola at Barcelona it was his biggest single achievement.
The one time we did see it in Paris was with Leo Messi’s spectacular equaliser which brought to mind the great Barcelona side of old. Unfortunately we are not seeing enough of it from this Enrique side.
Instead, what we have are players who are not convinced this is the way to go, and—let’s not mince our words here—I mean mainly Neymar, who believes the solution is to go into battle single-handedly, hold on to the ball for far too long and cut inside instead of exploiting the flanks.
The result is the loss of the collective plan, sacrificed by too much emphasis being placed on the individual reliance on creation from the likes of Messi, Andres Iniesta or Neymar himself.
But it would be wrong to just single out Neymar. Dani Alves’ needless handball earned him a booking and also brought about the free-kick which was cleverly finished by David Luiz from close in.
Ivan Rakitic was also largely ineffective and will not be have been pleased with the part he played—or more specifically perhaps, didn’t play—in PSG’s second goal which came from a header following another set-play, this time a corner.
Despite some sterling defensive work from Iniesta, the player didn’t break through the lines of pressure enough, while Messi—as always, surrounded by players—once again found himself moving back or wide in order to get hold of the ball. Whenever that happens you always sense it isn’t going to be Barcelona’s day.
Paris Saint-Germain’s first two efforts resulted in goals and fair play to them for that, because that was the game they were playing.
They were excellent in closing down the centre of the pitch, and Marco Verratti had a fantastic game both defensively and offensively, as did Luiz and Marquinhos, whose last-ditch block from Jordi Alba’s effort almost certainly earned PSG their victory.
Barcelona meanwhile will look back to the Messi goal, which justifiably was voted the goal of the night by the television companies. It contained everything of the Barcelona of old.
First touch, movement of—and off—the ball, positional awareness and clinical finishing; in fact, just about everything this Barcelona should be doing instead of a pointless running around, with or without the ball.