Barcelona forward Pedro has pointed to Lionel Messi as the reason for the Catalan side’s 1-1 Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, which sends them through to the semi-finals on away goals.
Messi was restricted to the bench for over an hour after concerns over his fitness, and in his absence Barca struggled, falling behind to a Javier Pastore strike five minutes into the second half.
But the Argentine left his fingerprints all over the game shortly after his 62nd-minute arrival, as his driving run opened up the defence, eventually allowing Pedro to rifle home the equaliser.
And despite scoring the all-important goal, Pedro was quick to lead the acclaim for Messi, telling reporters: “Messi is a very important player and he put in a great effort [after coming on].He was the catalyst; we changed after he came on and we have to thank him for that.
“PSG are great rivals and perhaps it took us a while to get into our rhythm at the start. We're very happy. I think having managed to get the [all-important] equaliser in the end we deserved to go through.”
Fellow forward David Villa also heaped praise on Messi’s game-changing display, saying: “Leo [Messi] is the best player in the world, his sole presence changes a game. I congratulate him for the commitment he showed with the club and with us."
The 31-year-old, who supplied the assist for Pedro’s goal, went on to share his thoughts on his team’s experience in the game.
“We struggled a lot, PSG's counter-attacks were dangerous and lethal, they were in our side of the field a lot but despite that, I think we did well," Villa continued.
“We knew about their weapons, with a lot of good counter-attacking players, but we still conceded many balls and crosses, which doesn't happen to us often on other days.
“I'm very happy after suffering a lot, it's a good way to win. We're very happy to be in the semi-finals and now we will wait for the draw. The semi-finals will be complicated no matter the opponent.”
There exists the possibility that Barca will face Real Madrid in a repeat of the 2010-11 semis, with Jose Mourinho’s men also in Friday’s draw after dispatching Galatasaray in the previous round.