Barcelona are back in the Champions League semifinal for the first time in four years thanks to a dominant performance in the second leg of their quarterfinal against Manchester United, which ended with a 3-0 win at Camp Nou and a 4-0 aggregate score. After a really strong start from the visitors, Lionel Messi scored two quick goals and Barça took control of the rest of the game and had a very comfortable European night.
The first seven minutes of the game were completely dominated by United, who lined up in a 4-3-3 with Jesse Lingard as a false nine and pressed the hell out of the Barça backline, which led to at least three very dangerous chances for Lingard, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford. The Red Devils really bothered the Blaugrana passing, and Barça needed something to help them take control of the game.
For about a minute they thought they had a penalty when Ivan Rakitic was brought down by Fred inside the box, but VAR alerted the referee of a possible error and Felix Brych reversed his decision after looking at a replay. United were the better team on the pitch and looked ready to cause Barça trouble, and then they made two bad mistakes that cost them terribly.
First Ashley Young somehow gave the ball away near his own area, the ball came to Lionel Messi, and the captain ran past three United defenders before curling a gorgeous shot away from David De Gea and into the net. Three minutes later, after a nice sequence of possession from Barça, Messi took a hopeful shot with his right foot that looked like a routine save for De Gea, but the ball went under the Spanish keeper and Barça suddenly had a 2-0 lead.
The crazy turn of events destroyed United’s confidence, and Barça began to dominate possession, kept the visitors from counter attacking and finally settled into the game. Barça had a huge chance when Messi destroyed Phil Jones and played a beautiful pass to Jordi Alba who set up Sergi Roberto, but De Gea made an unbelievable save just before the end of the half.
At halftime, after recovering from a very bad start, Barça were in complete control and very close to a place in the semifinal.
The plan for Barça to start the final period was very clear: United would have no chance to counter attack or create chances on the ball, and the home team was going to dominate possession, be really patient on the ball and wait for the right moment to strike and seal the deal. The third goal came with 30 minutes to go, when Philippe Coutinho scored one of his trademark bombs from outside the box into the top corner, and the quarterfinal was over.
Because the game had effectively ended and United carried no threat, the Camp Nou crowd decided to have some fun. First they celebrated like crazy when Matthijs De Ligt scored for Ajax against Juventus in Italy, then gave a really nice ovation to Alexis Sánchez when the Chilean came on for United with 10 minutes to go.
Both teams really just wanted the game to be over, and the final whistle finally came to end a fantastic second leg performance from Barça. Apart from the first seven minutes, the home team dominated the entire game and the big players showed up in big moments. Messi and Arthur were just sublime, and Sergio Busquets had perhaps his best performance of 2019.
Barça are in the semifinal, and their road to Madrid most likely goes through Anfield. It won’t be easy, but this performance is really, really encouraging.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto (Semedo), Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur (Vidal); Messi, Suárez, Coutinho (Dembélé)
Goals: Messi (16’, 20’), Coutinho (61’)
Man United: De Gea; Lindelof, Smalling, Jones, Young; McTominay, Fred, Pogba; Rashford (Lukaku), Lingard (Sánchez), Martial (Dalot)