Shame, embarrassment, degradation, indignity, disgrace, disrespect, humiliation. Utter, utter humiliation.

The eyes of the world were focused on the Camp Nou Wednesday night as Paris Saint-Germain looked poised to reach their fifth consecutive UEFA Champions League quarterfinal. They brought with them a four-goal cushion from the first leg and a near-full squad with only Thiago Motta missing due to injury. Under the Catalan sky though, the reigning French champions fell apart. Unai Emery and the players had everything to prove–not only for the club but for the reputation of French football–and they drove it into the ground with their performance.

Words cannot begin to describe to what extent this was a catastrophe. From the opening whistle, PSG looked hopeless. The players seemed to have forgotten that they had beaten this team 4-0 a mere 22 days earlier and were left chasing the ball the entire game.

At half time, the 2-0 scoreline made it seem like the second half would be a tight affair but nobody could have predicted the five-goal thriller that would follow. Barcelona attacked in waves while PSG’s midfield and defense were left hopeless and their only solution was to hastily clear every incoming ball instead of trying to keep possession.

In the first half, we didn’t play with the attitude we had wanted. We wanted to continue like in the first leg. We wanted to sit back and hit them on the counter-attack. After the third goal, the team was better. We wanted to get a better result by scoring a second goal. In five minutes, we lost everything.–Unai Emery,

Yet, at 3-1 after Edinson Cavani’s goal in the 62nd minute, all seemed right in the world. Barcelona had to score three more times in order to overturn the aggregate score and PSG supporters were confident that la remontada was over. That confidence turned out to be a futile thought.

Emery’s men experience a brief burst of confidence following the goal but they were soon brought back to reality and the Barcelona onslaught continued. The hosts were out for blood and put Les Parisiens to the sword in the 88th minute needing three goals to advance. That’s when Neymar scored Barca’s fourth on the night and two minutes later he scored again. The aggregate score was now tied but PSG would still advance thanks to the away goals rule.

Into stoppage time the game went and that’s when the unthinkable happened. Sergi Roberto’s goal in the 95th minute completed the historic comeback and Paris supporters around the world were left stunned in disbelief. The main question wasn’t the usual ‘how did this happen?’ but ‘why did this happen?’

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Was Emery at fault? Many convincing arguments can be made that tactical changes could’ve tipped the game in PSG’s favor but even if it was 5-1 or 6-2 instead of 6-1, questions would’ve been raised. Emery shouldn’t be absolved of fault here but he should at the very least share the responsibility.

While tactical choices can be questioned, analyzed, and discussed, one thing is undeniable: the complete lack of presence from the players. When I say the players, I mean every single one of them. It was not a question of tactical aptitude or individual ability (as both of those led to the 4-0 win at the Parc des Princes) but rather an absence of desire.

Desire, passion, leadership, toughness, whatever you want to call it. The raw scarcity of both a physical and mental desire to win the ball or to at the very least work as a team was the epitome of this massacre.

There was no leadership, no common direction, no communication, no resistance. Bar Cavani, there was not a single player fighting to minimize the damage. This was a chance for the club to finally demonstrate its continental ambition, yet, when the lights were on, nobody showed up.

That’s what I feel is important to end with. Although the referee made numerous errors on the night and Barcelona being one of the best teams in the world, no excuse justifies this loss. No rationalization can possibly explain this demolition. Those 96 minutes have not only turned Emery and his men into Europe’s laughing stock, it has embarrassed millions of fans worldwide and, ultimately, it has challenged the question of whether or not the PSG project will ever succeed.

Complete and utter humiliation.

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Tags Barcelona Champions League Edinson Cavani Thiago Motta Unai Emery


  1. I blame Emery first and foremost! He did not try to employ the same tactics that had seen Paris win 4-0 at the Parc. Instead he opted to sit back and absorb pressure. That was a mistake from the off and not only did Emery look uncomfortable and jittery in his area, but that lack of confidence clearly filtered down to the players. It is clear that PSG is not an inferior team to this installment of Barça, but Emery, possibly due to his poor record vs the Catalan giants, believed otherwise and it showed. Had he told his team to go out and attack and get those much needed away goals by any means necessary they would have felt his belief and confidence, but instead the message was clear, sit back and play the way Barça wants teams to play against them. Hence you have your embarrassment for the ages, which will no doubt go down into the history books as infamously as 7-1 (Germany vs Brazil).

    This not only reflects poorly on Les Rougue et Bleu but as was mentioned earlier French Football as whole and puts PSG’s mental toughness squarely in question and rightly so. PSG were capable of not only winning this leg and the tie with it, but now they have shamed themselves, their fans and the league which they represent. The only questions left are: how long will this cloud hang over this team and will they ever be able to recover?

  2. I agree that there were WAY too many preventable flaws in Emery’s tactics and he set the team up both mentally and tactically so so wrong, but ultimately the players are at fault as well. Even without a well-engineered game plan, you should not permit yourself to concede 3 goals in the last 8 minutes

  3. The most stupid team I have ever watched play is PSG..why did lucas start the game,why was the approach of sitting back employed,why was di Maria selfish not to have passed to cavani to kill the game at 3-2,why do you keep on playing Thiago who is so overrated a rubbish that can’t even lead his team as a captain and why is areola on the bench for trapp that was a mess.except for Cavani who was PSG best last night,I will only pick Ravi or and Kurzawa as the only others that tried.unai emery shouldn’t take more than 20% of the blames,the players should take 80%,they lacked a leader in the team.rubbish night

  4. I don’t think it was Emery’s tactics were at fault, it doesn’t seem he planned to sit back and absorb. The problem is that from the start, the players collapsed mentally. How come ? Well, I still blame Emery for that. The mental preparation was not there. How come the whole team was unable (or unwilling) to fight ?
    The other problem is the lack of leadership among the players. We don’t have a leader who would shake everybody and wake them up. Silva, as good a player he is, doesn’t seem to be leader material. He is too fragile emotionally on big matches.

    What we need is players in the team who raise for the occasion, as Neymar for Barca. Ibrahimovic and David Luiz did have some of that fighting spirit, that willingness to not give up. Cavani does too, but maybe he’s missing some leadership character, so it has less impact on the team.

    Actually the problem is the same than last year against City. After a good performance (against Chelsea or Barca), the whole team becomes lethargic, unable to fight, and gives an easier qualification away. Maybe the problem is partly in the trainers (Blanc or Emery), but it seems something is missing from the team itself.

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