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. Pep Guardiola on Manchester United: ‘They don’t have enough money’

    Sep 17, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT

    FC Bayern Muenchen - Training & Press Conference Getty Images

    The Bayern Munich manager claims Manchester United didn’t have enough money to lure away star players from the German giants.

  2. Newcastle fans planning to protest Alan Pardew

    Sep 17, 2014, 8:23 AM EDT

    Newcastle United v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    The “Sack Pardew” movement has reached new heights at St. James’ Park.

  3. Eden Hazard set to sign extension at Chelsea

    Sep 17, 2014, 7:37 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Manager Jose Mourinho believes the Belgian international will have a new deal in place at Stamford Bridge within a month.

  4. Portland, DC United both win in CONCACAF Champions League play

    Sep 16, 2014, 11:57 PM EDT

    Urruti AP

    Maxi Urruti and Fabian Espindola both snatched braces as MLS sides went atop their groups.

  5. Iran manager Carlos Queiroz agrees to contract extension, vows to win Asia Cup

    Sep 16, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    Queiroz Getty Images

    Despite saying in June he would step down after the World Cup, the former Real Madrid manager has made a U-turn.

  6. Captain Clint fires Seattle Sounders to US Open Cup crown in 3-1 extra time win over Philadelphia

    Sep 16, 2014, 10:13 PM EDT

    Dempsey AP

    USMNT captain Clint Dempsey was Seattle’s savior in extra time as he delivered the winner in a 3-1 win and lifted his first-ever club trophy.

  7. Michael Bradley disagrees with president’s shot at Toronto roster

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:06 PM EDT

    Bradley AP

    President of Toronto’s ownership group, Tim Leiweke had harsh words for the Toronto FC locker room. Michael Bradley disagrees.

  8. Report: FA to overhaul work permit rules to cut down on non-EU players

    Sep 16, 2014, 8:23 PM EDT

    Dyke Getty Images

    Insanely strict new rules proposed by FA chairman Greg Dyke would eliminate non-EU players from the lower leagues completely and slash the amount in the Premier League by around 50%.

  9. Newcastle winger Jonas Gutierrez reveals he has cancer

    Sep 16, 2014, 7:46 PM EDT

    Gutierrez AP

    We now know why Jonas Gutierrez has barely featured for Newcastle in the last year or so.

  10. Jack Wilshere injured yet again to compound Arsenal’s woes

    Sep 16, 2014, 7:09 PM EDT

    Wilshere AP

    The man who can’t stay on the pitch has tweaked a very problematic part of his body.

  11. VIDEO: Real Madrid make history, notch 1000th goal in European competition

    Sep 16, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT

    Karim Benzema AP

    Benzema bags Real’s fifth goal on Tuesday, which turned out to be their 1000th goal in continental competitions. Wowza.

  12. Steven Gerrard saves Liverpool’s blushes; but should fans be worried?

    Sep 16, 2014, 5:59 PM EDT

    Liverpool FC v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Gerrard scores last-gasp winner, but Liverpool under-performed again in narrow win.

  13. Arteta: Arsenal “didn’t perform well enough” at Borussia Dortmund

    Sep 16, 2014, 5:27 PM EDT

    mikel_arteta_ciro_immobile

    Arsenal’s captain notes the danger of falling behind at BVB, while Klopp calls his teams performance “nearly perfection.”

  14. UEFA Champions League roundup: Liverpool win late; Real Madrid, Dortmund victorious

    Sep 16, 2014, 5:13 PM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo AP

    Contrasting fortunes for PL sides, as eight games kick off the new UCL season. Find out what happened, right here.

  15. Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Arsenal: Gunners outclassed by BVB

    Sep 16, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    ciro_immobile AP

    A dominant performance from the 2012-13 finalists made easy work of the visiting Gunners.

  16. Liverpool 2-1 Ludogorets: Gerrard grabs last-gasp winner after scare

    Sep 16, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Liverpool FC v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Dramatic finale at Anfield as Liverpool leave it late to beat Bulgarian minnows.

  17. Premier League player of month on pace for 67 goals (video)

    Sep 16, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT

    Chelsea Training & Press Conference Getty Images

    Okay, so it’s 66.5 goals but you know the rules of rounding and Diego Costa is your proverbial example of being on fire.

  18. LIVE – Champions League half time update: Real Madrid flying, Arsenal losing

    Sep 16, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

    Marek Suchy AP

    Real fly out of the traps, while Arsenal are caught on their heels. Updates on all eight games, right here.

  19. When Frank Lampard met Men In Blazers

    Sep 16, 2014, 3:08 PM EDT

    Source: New York City FC Source: New York City FC

    Remember that time Jose Mourinho told Frank Lampard he was the best player in the world … in the shower? No? Oh, right. That’s because you have to watch this.

  20. Orlando City announces retention of 7 players for first MLS season

    Sep 16, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    OrlandoCitySC.com OrlandoCitySC.com

    Kaka was obvious, but who else is making the move from USL PRO to Major League Soccer next season?

Featured video

Week 4: Saturday recap