Skip to content

FC Barcelona seizes control of Champions League series with 2-0 win over Manchester City

Feb 18, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT

Vincent Kompany, Lionel Messi

Manchester City’s hopes of a seminal four-trophy season took a big blow Tuesday, as a bid for the biggest title among them, the UEFA Champions League crown, now looks like one tough, uphill slog.

Leo Messi scored from the penalty spot early in the second half, having created the opportunity himself and put the home team a man down for 35 minutes in a match-turning (most likely even a series turning moment) moment that was quintessential Messi, an arresting dribbling burst.

Dani Alves’ 90th minute goal from a tough angle was certainly significant, too, putting this battle of giants further out of reach for the English club.

Barca’s 2-0 win Tuesday at the Etihad Stadium leaves the La Liga giants well in control of the teams’ Round-of-16 two-leg series.

In fact, this was the match of a Round-of-16 bunch, one that does come stocking stuffed with some other dandies.  Barcelona controlled possession in a match with a “finals” feel, although the Citizens’ tactics were proving prescient for 50 or so minutes, as Manuel Pellegrini’s men made excellent use of the time on the ball they could wrestle from Tuesday’s visitors.

For Gerardo Martino’s Barcelona, criticized recently as the worst side from the Nou Camp in years, this win meant more than seizing control ahead of the return leg back in Spain. Barcelona had just one win in six Champions League matches on the road. Further, Martino’s club was winless in five away matches against English clubs.

Pellegrini raised eyebrows with the choice to deploy Aleksander Kolarov, usually a defender, in the midfield in front of Gael Clichy. Samir Nasri would surely have been the most attack-minded choice, although there are concerns that the French international is not fully fit. Also, the team was in more of a 4-4-1-1 rather than the more standard 4-4-2.

(MORE: What we learned in Barca’s win Tuesday at Manchester City)

Most will excuse Pellegrini if those selections looked slightly on the conservative side – because his tactics did prove correct. While Barca generally held a big edge in possession, real scoring chances were quite few and City goalkeeper Joe Hart was mostly a spectator before the break.

Meanwhile, City refused to be stretched, perhaps occasionally frustrated by the inability to get the ball (or even get close to it, sometimes) but breaking with real authority when gaining control. David Silva found Alvaro Negredo with an early ball right down the middle for City’s first chance, following 18 minutes of almost all Barca possession.

When the home side wasn’t going direct, they aimed crosses for Negredo, generally looking to exploit one of their big edges in this compelling series: in size.

That’s not to say things were all that rotten for Barca, whose ability to keep the ball was a confidence builder and a tactically sound bit of its own, even if it did all look a bit punchless at times.

Messi’s moment broke open the stalemate in the 53rd minute as Barcelona won a ball along its let side. More accurately, City winger Jesus Nevas lost the ball and may have been fouled, although it looked more likely he was attempting to cover for a poor dribbling choice by throwing himself to the ground.

Either way, Andres Iniesta spotted Messi, who had quickly worked himself into the gap between City’s center backs. Iniesta zipped a ball into Messi’s path and the trailing (and slightly out of position) Martin Demichelis, probably the weak link along the Citizens back line, was in big trouble.

When Demichelis lunged in a desperate bid to stop Messi just outside the penalty area, he instead fouled the wily Argentine. The initial contact appeared to take place just inches outside the penalty area, but the result wasn’t just a spot shot – his sending off as the last man on a scoring opportunity left City a man down for more than half an hour.

(MORE: Cesc Fabregas tells world Barca isn’t finished)

Messi’s left-footer from the 12-yard spot went right down the middle, as Hart dove to his left. It was his 66th Champions League goal.

City did offer a reasonable account with just 10 men, creating some bother here and there; Silva’s stinger at the end of a swell City sequence was the best chance, forcing a fine 76th minute save from Victor Valdes. Still, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez and the other Barca attackers did more to keep Hart busy at the other end.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy; Toure, Fernandinho, Navas, Silva, Kolarov; Negredo

Barcelona: Víctor Valdés; Dani Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Alexis Sánchez, Messi, Fabregas

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Raheem Sterling will turn down any Liverpool contract offer until end of season

    Mar 29, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT

    Raheem Sterling, England Raheem Sterling, England

    Sterling isn’t interested in negotiating a new deal until the summer — even if it’s for $270,000/week — and a few reassurances are made.

  2. Luis Suarez says if he comes back to England, it would only be with Liverpool

    Mar 29, 2015, 2:55 PM EDT

    Suarez Getty Images

    Luis Suarez was candid as ever after Gerrard’s charity match, and he opened up the possibility of a Premier League return down the road.

  3. WATCH: Thierry Henry displays silky move at Gerrard charity match

    Mar 29, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT

    Henry Getty Images

    Thierry Henry showed off his sparkling passing skills at Steven Gerrard’s testimonial.

  4. Aron Johannsson replaced on USMNT roster by Jordan Morris due to toe infection

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:43 AM EDT

    Morris Getty Images

    The United States loses one of their goalscorers from Friday’s friendly, but now it’s a youngster’s turn to make a statement.

  5. Southampton posts first profit since administration

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:14 AM EDT

    Southampton Getty Images

    A whopping turnaround, led by owner Katharina Liebherr, has taken place at St. Mary’s and the financial evidence is there.

  6. Belgium coach says Januzaj must earn his spot back at Manchester United

    Mar 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    JanuzajWilmots Getty Images

    If Adnan Januzaj wants to make a return to the Belgium squad, he must focus on earning playing time at his club first.

  7. Report: Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner set to sell team to UK group

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:13 AM EDT

    Lerner Getty Images

    An agreement has reportedly been reached between the current American owner and a domestic ownership group.

  8. Gareth Bale fires back at club critics after Wales success

    Mar 29, 2015, 7:34 AM EDT

    Bale Getty Images

    Gareth Bale knows what people are saying about his recent play at Real Madrid, but he’s not listening.

  9. MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 0-0 Seattle Sounders

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:41 PM EDT

    Zach Loyd, FC Dallas Zach Loyd, FC Dallas

    A disappointing result for FCD, given Seattle’s lack of Dempsey and Martins, but a great one considering their early red card.

  10. MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Portland Timbers

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT

    Vancouver Whitecaps Vancouver Whitecaps

    Three more points for Vancouver, who win it late on Robert Earnshaw’s Whitecaps debut. He scores for everyone.

  11. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 1-0 LA Galaxy

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    D.C. United Getty Images

    It was the late, late, late show at RFK Stadium, and despite being thoroughly outplayed, D.C. United go home with three points.

  12. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 0-1 Sporting Kansas City

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:04 PM EDT

    Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City

    Sporting KC get their first victory of the season, while NYCFC suffer their first defeat of the year — and history.

  13. EURO 2016 qualifying roundup: Netherlands, Italy rescue draws; Bale, Wales go top

    Mar 28, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    Gareth Bale, Wales Gareth Bale, Wales

    It wasn’t a great day to be a traditional European giant, but it was a great day to be Gareth Bale and Wales.

  14. MLS Snapshot: New England Revolution 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes

    Mar 28, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution Getty Images

    A dominant performance — and the three points to match — from the Revs…finally.

  15. Orlando City SC field a four-man bench due to injuries, MLS playing through int’l window

    Mar 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Kaka, Orlando City SC Kaka, Orlando City SC

    Think that MLS playing through int’l windows isn’t a big deal? Let’s ask Orlando City what they think about it.

  16. If you only read one story on Sol Campbell today, let it be this one.

    Mar 28, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT

    Preview Screening of 'Invincibles' Getty Images

    Campbell was capped 73 times, and is England’s second-youngest captain. Clearly he knows that, too.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment