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UEFA Champions League: FC Barcelona 1-0 Manchester City: Match Review

A recap of Barcelona's thoroughly entertaining and dominant 1-0 victory over Manchester City at the Camp Nou, as Barça prepared for the Clasico by securing their safe passage into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals

Michael Regan/Getty Images

FC Barcelona were somewhat wasteful on the night, but were still far too strong for English Premier League champions Manchester City at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night, as a 1-0 win secured the Blaugrana’s safe passage to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. Their superiority was evident right from the start, and Ivan Rakitić’s goal around the half-hour mark seemed to mark the start of a rout, only for a combination of Barça profligacy and heroics from Joe Hart to keep the hosts from winning by a greater margin.


Manchester City




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There were no surprises on the selection front from Luis Enrique at least; Dani Alves and Jordi Alba returned from their suspensions to take position on either side of defense while Jeremy Mathieu partnered Gerard Piqué in the centre. Javier Mascherano started at pivote with Ivan Rakitić and Andrés Iniesta in support, while of course, the fabled attacking triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were united again up top.

Manchester City on the other hand dropped one of their iconic defenders to the bench. No, not the out-of-form Vincent Kompany, but one of their best performers from the first-leg at the Etihad: Pablo Zabaleta. Aside from that, it was largely as expected from Manuel Pellegrini. The question is: would his team have enough about them to pull off an improbable comeback?


After a somewhat edgy start to proceedings, Barcelona promptly slipped into their usual style of play and before long, the warning signs were there for Manchester City. All the naivety that was not only evident in the first-leg but throughout their European escapades was on display once more. Having dispossessed Barcelona on the edge of their own area, Vincent Kompany hesitated in possession and Dani Alves was immediately on hand to pick his pocket.

The smart play from the Brazilian enabled the full-back to play his compatriot through on goal, and Neymar looked set to put this tie out of sight. One-on-one with Joe Hart, Neymar beat the keeper, but he could not beat the frame of the goal and could only watch on as his effort rebounded off the inside of the post and rolled out of play for a goal-kick.

Before long, Neymar was at it again. His dazzling footwork was too much for the City defense to handle and after taking on all-comers, the Brazilian superstar threaded a cute pass back to Lionel Messi on the edge of the area.

Receiving possession with multiple City defenders in pursuit, Messi somehow found Andrés Iniesta with a precise pass, only for Iniesta to return the favour with an equally impressive return pass. With a slight feint, Messi evaded the challenge of James Milner and created just enough space for a shot on goal, albeit from a tight angle – a shot that was well saved by Joe Hart in the City goal.

Evidently, Neymar was feeling confident. Lionel Messi was involving himself in the game and before long, we saw the net ripple – unfortunately not as a result of a goal, rather as a consequence of a close miss as Messi’s long-range free-kick brushed the roof of the net.

There had been chances, but with 20 minutes on the clock neither side had made a breakthrough and this match was as finely poised as ever.

Barça of course were the better side. They were creating more chances and asking more questions of the City defense – who were struggling to find answers within the confines of the game. Before the half-hour mark, no less than three Manchester City players had found their way into the book; Fernandinho, Aleksandar Kolarov and David Silva all on yellow cards for various indiscretions. Put simply, the visitors couldn’t cope and it wasn’t long before that was reflected in the scoreline.

Chalk it up to a counter-attack if you must, as Barça broke forward at speed following the breakdown of a rare City attack, but really, the visitors should have got back and got more support from the likes of Yaya Toure and company. As a consequence, they afforded Lionel Messi too much time and space to pick a pass – and what a pass, a trademark curler with his left foot to find the overlapping run of Ivan Rakitić.

The Croatian had ghosted into space unseen, unknown to the City defense, but now with the ball at his feet, City had seen him – but it was too late. His first touch was exemplary, cushioning the ball with his chest to set himself up perfectly for a cheeky little lob over the onrushing Joe Hart. This wasn’t just a goal. This was a statement.

This was a work of art.

Barcelona at their very best, exuding confidence and swagger from every pore; Samir Nasri took offense and chopped down Neymar at the half-way line to earn himself a caution. A helpful reminder that these two sides probably don’t belong on the same field; there were worlds between them in just about every sense. And that’s not a discredit to City – there’s not a side on the planet that could cope with Barça in this form.

More chances followed and perhaps this match should have been out of sight by half-time. Lionel Messi’s superhuman vision was picking the City defense apart and only Neymar’s tendency to over-elaborate was holding us back from adding a second goal to our tally. That and the pesky woodwork.

Bacary Sagna’s somewhat over adventurous trip forward predictably ended in disappointment and with space to exploit on the counter, Barcelona did just that – Neymar drove into the space vacated by Sagna and kindly not filled by one of the City midfielders, before deciding that enough was enough. Having dragged Vincent Kompany out wide, there was now space in the centre for Luis Suarez to run into – Neymar picked him out and Suarez was through on goal.

Again, Barcelona were one-on-one with Joe Hart, who tried in vain to reach the ball before the Uruguayan, but again he was beaten. Suarez poked the ball past the English number one, only for his shot to bounce off the foot of the far post.

At the interval, Barça may have only been one goal to the good, but make no mistake, they were in complete control.


Manuel Pellegrini attempted to stop the bleeding with a change at the break; Jesus Navas replaced the petulant Samir Nasri, the very same Nasri who was lucky to escape a red card in the first-half for his blatant kick-out at Neymar. An astute decision in some senses, but one that probably wouldn’t change an awful lot in terms of the flow of the match.

Indeed, it didn’t. Lionel Messi continued to toy with the City defense and within minutes of the restart he created another golden chance for his teammates. This time Jordi Alba was the beneficiary and again Joe Hart was called into action. It was a fine save, and before long Hart was at it again, this time springing to his left to parry Lionel Messi’s long-range strike on goal.

At the other end, City weren’t troubling of their own accord, but Marc-André ter Stegen was creating some problems with his over-confidence in possession. I mean, who tries to dribble past Sergio Aguero? Honestly? Who attempt this? Of course, ter Stegen failed miserably and gifted the Argentine forward possession, but his shot was blocked by Javier Mascherano and the German got away with it.

It was a needless risk and demonstrates above all why Claudio Bravo starts ahead of him in La Liga.

Still, Barcelona were in control and that was good news, both for their progression to the next stage and as preparation for the Clasico. Chances were being created, almost at will and all without exerting too much effort. The brief glimpses were enough – and should have extended our lead. Again, Messi was the creator, threading through Luis Suarez who this time found the side-netting with a wild left-footed effort.

And after a calamitous few moments in the Barça area in which City threatened to find an equaliser, the hosts broke free on the counter-attack and again had a chance to double their lead. Neymar’s decision-making was perfect, threading through a sublime pass at just the right time to release Lionel Messi, who attempted to round Joe Hart – only for the Englishman to deny him with his outstretched glove.

A similar fate awaited Barça’s next attack as Messi was again thwarted by Hart as he attempted to dribble free of the final challenge; we were inches away from scoring our second, yet without it there was always that nagging feeling that City might, just might get something out of this tie. Maybe there was only a 1% chance, or less, but it was there – and that nagging anxiousness persisted.

So, when we scored our second goal the feeling would subside, no? Well, it should have – but the second goal didn’t arrive. Not just yet anyway. Jordi Alba may have had the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for offside and correctly so as the Catalan strayed offside as Neymar made his initial shot on goal.

Minutes later, Barça had yet another chance to score their second – Neymar was played through on goal and opened up his body to apply the finish. We could see the net rippling...but Hart again rushed to the rescue.

Barça were missing chances...City were still  in the tie, and then a twist...a penalty for the visitors. It appeared to be Gerard Piqué who was the culprit, although I’m still unsure whether he first made contact with the ball before colliding with Sergio Aguero. Whatever the case, Gianluca Rocchi pointed to the spot and Sergio Aguero stepped up with the chance to start the comeback.

Enter stage right, Marc-André ter Stegenn.

In truth, it was a poor penalty from Aguero, but it was equally a fine save by ter Stegen as he atoned for his earlier moment of madness to keep the Argentine at bay. Crisis averted before it began.

Dani Alves picked up a booking in the following minutes to rule himself out of the quarter-final first-leg, while Neymar was again denied in a one-on-one with Joe Hart who was having the game of his career in the City goal. Without him, Barça could have easily been out of sight and probably even pushed for double figures, such was their dominance in the chance creation stakes.

With less than ten minutes to play, Lucho finally made his first change of the night; on came Rafinha Alcântara to replace the goalscorer Ivan Rakitić as the Blaugrana played out the final stages of the match, squandering even more chances to add to their lead, all the while conserving energy for the all-important Clasico ahead.

Until then, Visca el Barça!

Roll Call Info
Total comments 887
Total commenters 68
Commenter list 0nk0, Abdul95, Anders Thomassen, Arnau22S, BDBarca, BarcaBarca, BarcelonaCobayo1998, Catalan_Blood, ChalkLitIScream, Chatchai Chotiput, Delano Heerkens, DerkSensei, FCB4Ever, FCBMessi, FCBMo, FCB_Z8, GoBarca, Inder Methil, Jigish, KiwiBarca, Lapulga, LocoZZZ, LuisTeeth, M. Elzi, Navz, NoImagination90, PG9, Piquénbauer, Ragnar_Lothbrok, Rajesh1101s, Richzorz, Ruy Diaz, Sarim097, Sony13, Staralfur, Steven Cordero, StoichkovTheDagger, Swn.Culé, ThreePar, Tokjee, Varungrover, Willis1984, Youssefyasser, abdulla0207, barca990127, compneeyah, craig00000, elfonzo22, feeya7, footballfordoze, grinder.gpro, halsey, hdp78, jabesche, jithen, joe259, levix, llamas612, luck-ycoltsfan19, msalmanz, oddsbodiSkins, pagesiderageside, semperty, shirishstha, shreyarora, syredeathtrooper, totaalvoetbal, uday kakoti
Story URLs
# Commenter # Comments
1 Delano Heerkens 97
2 pagesiderageside 78
3 Anders Thomassen 57
4 NoImagination90 57
5 Ruy Diaz 46
6 Willis1984 42
7 BDBarca 42
8 Ragnar_Lothbrok 34
9 footballfordoze 32
10 BarcaBarca 28
11 luck-ycoltsfan19 25
12 FCBMo 25
13 feeya7 24
14 Steven Cordero 24
15 abdulla0207 22
16 shirishstha 21
17 halsey 20
18 Sony13 18
19 uday kakoti 14
20 FCB4Ever 14
21 llamas612 13
22 Navz 13
23 craig00000 11
24 FCBMessi 10
25 0nk0 9
26 oddsbodiSkins 9
27 StoichkovTheDagger 8
28 FCB_Z8 8
29 msalmanz 7
30 semperty 6
31 LuisTeeth 5
32 joe259 4
33 jithen 4
34 Rajesh1101s 4
35 Lapulga 3
36 totaalvoetbal 3
37 ChalkLitIScream 3
38 compneeyah 3
39 Abdul95 3
40 Swn.Culé 3
41 BarcelonaCobayo1998 2
42 Staralfur 2
43 DerkSensei 2
44 GoBarca 2
45 Tokjee 2
46 Catalan_Blood 2
47 elfonzo22 2
48 Chatchai Chotiput 2
49 PG9 2
50 hdp78 2
51 jabesche 1
52 Richzorz 1
53 barca990127 1
54 LocoZZZ 1
55 Arnau22S 1
56 syredeathtrooper 1
57 Sarim097 1
58 shreyarora 1
59 Youssefyasser 1
60 Varungrover 1
61 Inder Methil 1
62 M. Elzi 1
63 levix 1
64 ThreePar 1
65 grinder.gpro 1
66 Piquénbauer 1
67 KiwiBarca 1
68 Jigish 1

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