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. Follow Live: UEFA Champions League – Arsenal v. Galatasaray

    Oct 1, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    Arsenal's new Chilean forward could become a hero at the Emirates. AP

    The Gunners opened the Champions League group stage in disappointing form, losing 2-0 to BVB.

  2. Follow live: UEFA Champions League – Basel vs. Liverpool

    Oct 1, 2014, 2:24 PM EDT

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

    Can the Reds make it two wins from two in the Champions League?

  3. Zenit St. Petersburg 0-0 Monaco: Group C leaders cancel each other out

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:56 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-ZENIT-MONACO AP

    Zenit, Monaco remain top of Group C after a dour draw in Saint Petersburg.

  4. Roma tags Manchester City back for Totti tweet

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    Totti Getty Images

    The two sides had some internet fun after yesterday’s 1-1 Champions League draw.

  5. FIFA exec says they are looking into reducing Luis Suarez’s ban

    Oct 1, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT

    Suarez Getty Images

    The former president of CONMEBOL told Uruguayan TV that Suarez could return earlier than expected.

  6. Men in Blazers podcast: Wayne Rooney’s implosion, Derby Day and an MiBNT update

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT

    meninblazers

    That Wayne Rooney implosion? You’re gonna need Rog and Davo to break it down.

  7. Birmingham’s Jonathan Spector headed for scans amid injury worries

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

    Spector Getty Images

    The US fringe player picked a terrible time to be injured, with the international break on the horizon.

  8. Gedion Zelalem scores first-ever goal for Arsenal, and it’s a beauty

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:28 AM EDT

    Photo: Arsenal FC Photo: Arsenal FC

    With Zelalem weaving through defenders on the Arsenal U-19 team, it’s hard not to get antsy about the 17-year-old possibly playing for the United States.

  9. Bayern Munich pays back fans who rented skyscraper to watch match

    Oct 1, 2014, 9:52 AM EDT

    Photo: @clubnr12 on Twitter Photo: @clubnr12 on Twitter

    With their Champions League match in Russia behind closed doors due to a UEFA sanction, fans found a way to watch anyways, and the team rewarded the dedicated supporters.

  10. So much for bad hamstrings, Costa states he’s ready for Spain selection

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:25 AM EDT

    Costa Getty Images

    Jose Mourinho has pestered the media with information about Costa’s troublesome hamstring all week, but the player himself isn’t listening.

  11. Amid Newcastle crisis, Cheick Tiote says he wants out

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:47 AM EDT

    Tiote Getty Images

    Alan Pardew must deal with yet another off the field issue at St. James Park as reports he’s losing the dressing room don’t look any less true at the moment.

  12. It’s me again! Vincent Tan calls out Malky Mackay

    Sep 30, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Are you as tired of Vincent Tan as Cardiff City supporters are?

  13. Mats Hummels says his future is at Dortmund

    Sep 30, 2014, 10:50 PM EDT

    FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-BRAUNSCHWEIG Getty Images

    The German defender was courted by Manchester United and Real Madrid, but says he is at Dortmund for the long-run.

  14. UEFA Champions League preview: Liverpool face Basel, Arsenal defend the Emirates

    Sep 30, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Paris Saint-Germain v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Wednesday features eight Champions League matches, including important matchups for Premier League sides Arsenal and Liverpool.

  15. Xabi Alonso breaks Bundesliga record for touches

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:56 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Munchen v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The newly signed Bayern midfielder had 204 touches in Munich’s 2-0 win over FC Koln.

  16. Norway calls up 15-year-old for Euro qualifying

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT

    FBL-NOR-OEDEGAARD Getty Images

    Martin Odegaard made his international debut this summer as Norway’s youngest player ever.

  17. Why do Manchester City struggle so much in the Champions League?

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:27 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-ROMA AP

    With City struggling in the group stages once again, why does this keep happening?

  18. PHOTOS: David Beckham, Beyonce, Jay-Z among stars at PSG vs. Barcelona

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Stars on show: Beyonce, Jay-Z, Beckham. Stars on show: Beyonce, Jay-Z, Beckham.

    All the stars were out to play as PSG took on Barca in the French capital on Tuesday.

  19. Xavi breaks record for Champions League appearances

    Sep 30, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Club Leon - Joan Gamper Trophy Getty Images

    The Barcelona midfielder appeared in his 143rd Champions League match today.

Featured video

Week 6: Premier League recap