It’s true that there doesn’t seem to be any form of beginning or end to football nowadays, and this continuous cycle of non-stop matches has worn down even the most passionate supporter.
But there’s one evening we can all get in the mood for, and that’s Champions League night! More specifically, that’s Champions League with Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and RB Leipzig…night!
Lionel Messi vs. Kylian Mbappe was always going to be the main event on tonight’s card, and the duo served us up a plate of goals, magic and heartbreak, all in equal size.
Barça were praying for a miracle in this second leg, having lost 4-1 at Camp Nou in February, but their attempts at Remontada #2 got off to the worst possible start. PSG were awarded a penalty by VAR (boooo) and Mbappe stepped up to take the edge off the hosts’ evening.
In doing so, he reached a huge milestone, set a new record, and drew comparisons with another of football’s wonderkids.
And one statistic felt like a very significant passing of the torch, as it involved the breaking of a record set by the majestic Messi when he was just a wee boy, tearing teams apart with his long, flowing locks.
Did he feel the pressure when stepping up to convert that spot-kick? Did Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s antics on the goal-line faze him in any way? Absolutely not.
But the old man still had some life in those little legs. Messi thundered Barça back into the game with an outrageous strike from distance, which seemed to gather momentum as it flew into the top corner of Keylor Navas’ net. No stopping that one, pal.
1-1 and game on in the Champions League. And approaching the end of the first-half, Barça were handed the chance to head into the dressing rooms with the lead, when the referee awarded a penalty for the visitors. Messi, having just banged one onto the Queen’s head from 30 yards, somehow missed from only 12.
At least there was one group of fans who enjoyed that miss…
Actually, make that two groups of fans…
Of course, credit has to go to Navas for his stop.
So, absolute drama. And with all that chaos, we almost forgot there was another game going on at the same time! Liverpool were aiming to see out their 2-0 lead from the first leg, and in fairness, were actually involved in a pretty fast-paced and exciting first 45 minutes.
The only difference is that Messi and Mbappe weren’t on the pitch. Instead, Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane were doing their best to make Jurgen Klopp’s evening as uncomfortable as possible. Same old, then.
But Salah silenced his critics, and thousands of you on Twitter, putting the game to bed on 70 minutes with a neat finish inside the near post. And breathe, Reds, you’re through.
You lot change your tune quickly. Once Salah had lit the way, Mane followed suit, and it was game over.
Over in Paris, Barça couldn’t find their way through the French champions for a second time that evening, and the hosts eventually eased into the quarter-finals. Of course, it was heartache for Messi.
Let’s hope we see him in the Champions League wearing a Barça shirt next year…