THERE was to be no victory of miracle proportions for Barcelona tonight as they exited the Champions League to Juventus.
The Spanish outfit produced the greatest comeback of all time in the last 16, when 4-0 down to PSG from the first leg, they beat the French outfit 6-1 at the Nou Camp to go through on aggregate.
But tonight Juventus were very different opponents. Their defence remained strong throughout and their 3-0 first leg victory in Italy proved too much of a hurdle for even Barcelona to overcome.
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And so Juve gained revenge for their loss to Barcelona in the 2015 final in Berlin as they reached their second semi in three years.
For all the pre-match bravado of Barca boss Luis Enrique, Juve were pretty much in control the whole match. There was no danger of a Bianconeri collapse Paris St Germain-style this time like last round when Barca came back from 4-0 down to storm through.
The atmosphere was flat in the stands. You could tell Barca fans wanted to believe but didn’t really.
For all that they tried Barca never really looked like scoring, never mind getting back in the match.
They snatched at whatever chances they had.
For Juve it was almost like a procession towards the semi-finals. And, if anything, the Bianconeri could actually have gone ahead as Gonzalo Higuain twice and Juan Cuadrado came close in the first quarter.
On 18 minutes Messi missed a sitter from 10 yards out after Luis Suarez’s brilliant first-time pass. It could have changed the course of the match.
Enrique turned away in frustration.
Miraelm Pjanic played in Higuain but the Argentine’s first-time shot went straight at Marc Andre Ter Stegen.
Messi had a cut in his face as he crashed into the ground head first after Pjanic did him a back shortly before half-time.
It all went through Messi after the restart too but to no avail.
After 56 minutes the Barcelona hero let rip but Giorgio Chiellini got a toe to it and it flew inches wide.
Pjanic’s effort was deflected onto the top of the crossbar by Pique.
When Buffon spilled Neymar’s corner Suarez played to Messi but the Argentine fired over.
Moments later Messi slotted Sergi Roberto through but the youngster’s curler was inches wide.
Barca fans still gave their side a huge send off in the last five minutes when all was lost. Nobody left the stadium as they hailed their fallen heroes. But the biggest cheer came from the Italian contingent in the final whistle.
Speaking after the game, Barcelona’s Gerard Pique said: “Juventus are a great team and they were better than us in the tie and overall they deserved to go through. I wish them the best and I think they could win the trophy.
“It was a very difficult result to come back from although we tried until the end. They’re Italian and they defended very well. They knew how they wanted to play and got their objective. We created chances but little by little we realised we had a mountain to climb.”
And boss Luis Enrique added: “I will remember what happened in the first half in the Juventus Stadium for a very long time.
“Our participation in this tournament this season has been unforgettable but we had a very poor first half in Turin and that has cost us dear.”
In tonight’s other quarter-final, Monaco beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 at home, to triumphing 6-3 on aggregate.