The Blaugrana crashed out of the Champions League on away goals after a shock 3-0 loss in Italy that sees their treble hopes go up in smoke
The famous Champions League comeback happened after all on Tuesday – just not in the game everyone expected.
While all of the talk in the build-up was about whether Manchester City could overturn a three-goal deficit against Liverpool, few gave Roma much hope of a turnaround at home to Barcelona. But the Serie A side pulled off a rousing remontada to dash the Catalans’ Champions League dreams and also their hopes of winning the treble.
Barca had not lost in Europe or in La Liga all season prior to this match, but some warning signs were there. Last Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Roma arrived courtesy of two own goals and also a scoreline that flattered the Blaugrana hugely.
Roma had been excellent in the Camp Nou clash and the final result was excessive punishment. The tie appeared to be over. But against Leganes on Saturday, again Barca did not play well, needing a brilliant hat-trick from Lionel Messi to seal the victory.
Their place in the Champions League semi-finals nevertheless seemed safe. However, there were echoes of Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus away last season in the first 45 minutes of this match as Roma battered Barca, pressing high and bossing their rivals in a physical battle.
Edin Dzeko gave Roma the lead as he poked home following a lovely long pass by Daniele De Rossi after six minutes and the tie was alive. However, at half-time, there was still much work to be done for the Italian side and Barca’s first-leg cushion looked like it would be enough.
Pique pulled at Dzeko’s arm in a Roma break, though, and De Rossi scored from the penalty spot. The comeback was on. And although Marc-Andre ter Stegen made one superb save to deny the home side later on, Konstantinos Manolas completed a remarkable recovery as he headed home the third with eight minutes left.
Valverde threw on summer signing Ousmane Dembele, so surprisingly left out of the starting line-up in both games, but it was too late by then and Barca went out on away goals following a shock 3-0 loss at the Stadio Olimpico.
At that same stadium, Barca had completed a treble triumph by beating Manchester United in the Champions League final in 2009, after winning La Liga and the Copa del Rey under Pep Guardiola that season.
The Blaugrana looked to be on course for another treble this time, but that dream died on Tuesday in a tired performance which saw the midfield (in which Sergio Busquets was playing with a reinforced boot due to a troublesome toe problem) overrun and the forwards starved of service.
In the end, it was no more than they deserved, either. After a fortunate 4-1 win at home, Barca were brutally beaten by Roma and even if they had made it through, this kind of display is unlikely to have been good enough against a team like Bayern Munich or Real Madrid over two legs.
La Liga is almost won for Valverde’s side, while the Blaugrana meet Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final later this month, but failure in Europe for the third season running at the quarter-final stage will leave a sour taste in the mouth – especially if Real Madrid go on to win the competition again.