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. Olave suspended two matches, Cahill and Morales fined for incident Wednesday

    Aug 1, 2014, 5:55 PM EDT

    Morales AP

    A head-scratching moment by the New York defender cost him two games, while the ensuing melee dug into the wallets of others.

  2. Learn the chants for every Premier League team!

    Aug 1, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT

    Countdown15

    With helpful videos, NBC is getting you ready for the upcoming Premier League season just days away!

  3. Crimean conflict envelops soccer as Russia and Ukraine each lay claim to clubs

    Aug 1, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT

    Ukraine AP

    Despite reports to the contrary a month ago, it appears the newly-added Crimean clubs will indeed play in the Russian leagues next season.

  4. Reports: Frank Lampard likely to take a short-term loan at Manchester City

    Aug 1, 2014, 3:52 PM EDT

    Lampard AP

    After 13 years at Chelsea, there’s a good chance Frank Lampard could play at Stamford Bridge again…in a lighter shade of blue.

  5. Updated team-by-team list of Premier League transfers this summer

    Aug 1, 2014, 3:18 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 2.48.16 PM

    Arsenal, Newcastle and West Ham are among the teams who’ve loaded up on talent.

  6. VIDEO: Comedian Mike Myers talks Liverpool love, North American soccer

    Aug 1, 2014, 2:34 PM EDT

    article-2711446-2024907900000578-802_634x402

    Myers and actor Daniel Craig were among the luminaries on hand to watch Liverpool take on Manchester City at Yankee Stadium.

  7. Friday transfer rumor roundup: Latest on Hummels, Lampard’s City loan?

    Aug 1, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT

    Frank Lampard AP

    Silly season has reached an absurd level, with even sports books creating rumors out of club links.

  8. US U23 list for Bahamas camp unveiled as Olympic prep continues

    Aug 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Lee Yong, Luis Gil AP

    Birmigham City defender Will Packwood and Southampton goalkeeper Cody Cropper are on the list of U-23 stars preparing for the Bahamas.

  9. Guus Hiddink to Netherlands headlines trio of new international hires

    Aug 1, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

    dick-advocaat AP

    Serbia and the Ivory Coast also tab new bosses as the race for continental and world glory continues.

  10. Red card salute, swear jar donations help fund for slain Michigan ref

    Aug 1, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT

    Soccerly Soccerly

    Fans of Detroit City FC helped raise money for slain Michigan referee John Bieniewicz via a “swear jar”, then saluting him with silent red card salute.

  11. Europa League penalty miss from Tom Huddlestone is hard to watch

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    York City v Hull City- Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    A great save followed up by an awful rebound, as Hull draws Trencin 0-0 in its Europa League debut.

  12. Jenkinson, Hangeland, Ferreyra all find new Premier League homes

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    Brede Hangeland AP

    West Ham, Crystal Palace and Newcastle have all added players for 2014/15, according to reports.

  13. New York City FC could be a proving ground for Man City youth

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:23 AM EDT

    NYCFC Lampard Soccer AP

    Would City’s best prospects playing in MLS be a boon for the league, or lend the league a minor league image it’s trying to escape?

  14. Liverpool set to land Sevilla, Atletico Madrid backs to boost defense

    Aug 1, 2014, 8:36 AM EDT

    Spain v Bolivia - International Friendly Getty Images

    Alberto Moreno of Sevilla is the key cog of the pair, appearing 40-plus times for Sevilla in its run across La Liga and the Europa League.

  15. Report: Red Bulls meet Ronaldinho’s reps; Reunion with Henry coming?

    Aug 1, 2014, 7:57 AM EDT

    Ronaldinho AP

    Brazilian outlet UOL says Ronaldinho could be on his way to Major League Soccer, as the Red Bulls up the ante in NY rivalry.

  16. MLS weekend preview: Conference leaders, surging Galaxy take to NBC, NBCSN

    Aug 1, 2014, 1:03 AM EDT

    graham_zusi Getty Images

    A nine-match weekend sees MLS return to NBC, with NBCSN set to broadcast games in Kansas City, San Francisco.

  17. José Mourinho insists Chelsea needs Fernando Torres

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT

    Chelsea's Fernando Torres celebrates scoring a goal against Manchester City during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London Reuters

    Manager remains insistent the Spanish international will stay at Stamford Bridge.

  18. George John undergoes season-ending knee surgery

    Jul 31, 2014, 9:03 PM EDT

    George John 3

    Successful procedure marks the end of John’s 2014 hopes.

  19. For Napoli, hairstyle part of Marouane Fellaini’s appeal

    Jul 31, 2014, 8:12 PM EDT

    Fellaini Getty Images

    De Laurentiis confirms the partenopei’s interest in the afro-laden star.

  20. Clarence Goodson set to miss eight more weeks

    Jul 31, 2014, 7:22 PM EDT

    clarence_goodson Getty Images

    Toe injury to sideline the U.S. international for an estimated 10 games.