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Barca Rewind: Raphinha's Brace Seals Barcelona's Victory in the Champions League Quarterfinals

Before this year, FC Barcelona last played in the quarterfinals of the Champions League three years, seven months, and 28 days ago. 

March 12, 2024, Fermin Lopez, Joao Cancelo, and Robert Lewandowski would score the three winning goals, pushing Barcelona to the quarterfinals and what was just a couple of steps away from Champions League Title No. 6.

"After four years without being in the quarterfinals, the word is excitement. We are looking forward to a great tie and being in the semi-finals," said Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez in a recent press conference.

On the other hand, Paris Saint-Germain are pursuing a maiden title. They made it to the Finals for the first time in club history in the summer of 2020, but a 59th-minute strike by Kingsley Coman of FC Bayern would crush their dreams of securing UCL glory.

The current manager of the Parisian club, Luis Enrique, will be facing his former club in the quarterfinals. The ex-Barcelona manager took a poke at the Blaugrana in a recent interview. 

“I want to do good work. I want my team to win the game. I want to prove to them and to myself that I'm at the top of the game as a professional. And that means beating Barca," Enrique said.

It would all come down to Wednesday night's first leg of the quarterfinal matches between FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes, in which the Blaugrana would take possession in the early minutes of the match. 

Six minutes in, striker Robert Lewandowski hoists a chance towards Brazillian teammate Raphinha. Despite efforts, PSG’s Gianluigi Donnarumma denies the possibility. Around 15 minutes in, ex-Barcelona player Ousmane Dembele’s ball deflects from the corner, the third missed shot of the night for the Parisian club. 

Twenty minutes in, Lewandowski creates a chance for Barcelona, but the header is deemed off the line when PSG’s Nuno Mendes comes in for Donnarumma, defending the goal. PSG’s Kang-in Lee would create a chance once more for PSG, but the shot would get denied by Barcelona goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter-Stegen. 

In an attempt to deflect and score again, Kylian Mbappe attempts to shoot, but was already offside at the time of Lee’s attempt. Barcelona’s Joao Cancelo would defend against Mbappe, but the defense would be checked through VAR to check for an offense that could facilitate a red card. 

Around the 37th minute, Lewandowski propels through, leaving PSG’s defense at odds as Barcelona’s Lamine Yamal takes possession of the ball to take a pass in the right corner. Donnarumma cannot deflect the pass as Raphinha takes possession of the crossshot to plant the shot in the top corner. 

GOAL! Raphinha scores his first Champions League goal and the first of the matchup. Barcelona now leads the match 0-1 at the Parc des Princes.

 Moving towards halftime, Barcelona attempted to create another chance to retake the lead. The Balugrana’s defense continued to swarm Mbappe despite the Frenchman’s efforts to take possession of the ball. Lamal takes possession once more as two additional minutes are added into halftime. Lewandowski attempts a shot from the chest as the ball strays offside. 

Second Half Heroics

A few minutes after the second half commences, Dembele takes a sudden shot to equalize 1-1. The quick turnaround demonstrated PSG’s possession during the first minutes of the second half. Portuguese midfielder Vitinha created another chance for PSG, but Ter-Stegen blocked the chance. 

This wouldn’t stop Barcelona’s momentum, as Lewandowski once more created a near chance, but the header went amiss at the goalpost. Barcelona continued to battle through the first leg of the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and Uruguayan defender Ronald Araujo continued to block twice for the Blaugrana. 

Meanwhile, on the sidelines, Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez is preparing two substitute changes. The changes were made on the field in the 59th minute. Portuguese forward Joao Felix and returning midfielder Pedri are now in for Yamal and midfielder Sergi Roberto.

Within the first minute of being subbed in, Pedri takes possession in assisting Barcelona's second goal for the night. Raphinha takes on the pass, facilitating a perfect possession in a central area to receive the clip from Pedri.  

ANOTHER GOAL! Barcelona equalizes in the first leg as the team surrounds Raphinha, cheering their teammate on. 

Both teams continue to create chances throughout the second half, attempting to take the lead of the first leg and aggregate of the quarterfinals. Pedri and Raphinha attempt to create a chance for Joao Felix. Just as the ball is inching towards the goal, the PSG goalkeeper deflects it once more. 

Xavi makes another double substitution, bringing in striker Ferran Torres and defender Andreas Christensen. Two minutes after being subbed in, the birthday boy Christensen would score a header for Barcelona, creating a lead against a now-defeated PSG. The shot was assisted by midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who shot at a curling angle to create a chance for Christensen to jump and take it head-on. 

Luis Enrique continues substituting more players to attempt another equalizer against the Catalan team. In for Ilkay Gundogan is Fermin Lopez, who is part of a young generation stemming from the Barcelona football academy La Masia. An additional two minutes were added to overtime as PSG attempted to equalize. Ultimately, Barcelona’s defense and Ter-Stegen’s hands would stop their efforts. 

FULL-TIME! Barcelona has officially won the first leg of the Champions League, with Raphinha being named the man of the match. Through assists from Yamal, Pedri, and Gundogan, Raphinha and Christensen were able to score the points of the game, ascending the Catalan over the Parisians at home. 

However, for Xavi, this is only the beginning. 

“I’m thrilled and very proud of the team. But it’s just half of the work. The game in Barcelona will be difficult because Paris Saint-Germain is one of the best teams in Europe.” 

The Barcelona manager also finds an advantage of the young generation taking possession of the first team. 

“We have to be proud (of the youngsters). Players from La Masia have more commitment. I think we are a new Barca and in a good place. It’s a small advantage so that we will recover well for the home second leg.”

For Luis Enrique, defeat is the foundation of redemption. 

“We’ll have to play as a team and try to overcome Barcelona. We will go with the best attitude and commitment to try to win the match.”

Post-match, Culers were quick to celebrate on social media, with videos circulating of fans chanting at the rival stadium, “Au revoir Paris-Saint Germain.” 

The second half of the quarterfinals ended at home for the Blaugrana. Beforehand, though, Barcelona continued its race for the La Liga title, facing Cadiz, currently ranked 18th. 

Up next on the Barca Rewind: FCB vs Cadiz, featuring a star-studded bicycle kick by forward Joao Felix.

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