Luis Enrique’s men continue their slender march towards a major treble by thrashing Manchester City at home. Though the final score line of 1-0 is too meager to use the word ‘Thrash’ to describe Barcelona’s victory, it cannot be denied that the final score line doesn’t fully dictate the entire tale of the encounter.
If it was Lionel Messi who was weaving magic on the field for the home side, for the away side Joe Hart stood as firm as any tough wall adamant not to let any ball go past him. Without doubt the English goalkeeper was the most impressive player for the blues of Manchester. City was fortunate enough to have lost the away game by the score of 1-0.
Luis Enrique who was dealing the problem of replacing Busquets chose the most obvious way out. He fielded Mascherano in a holding role. Dani Alves and Jordi Alba were back in the squad and were displaying a clear influence both on the Barcelona attack and defense. At the back Mathieu was fielded alongside Pique.
Pellagrini opted to field Aguero upfront with Silva in a lopsided 4-4-2 with Silva dropping deep. It was a clear indication that Pellagrini was not impressed with the combination of Aguero with Dzeko the last time these two sides met. Toure returned in the midfield and his presence gave a real strength while City tried to get the ball forward.
Video Highlights Barcelona vs. ManCity 18-3-2015 Champions League
A delightful presence Josep Guardiola had arrived to watch his former team play at the Camp Nou. His expressions clearly showed his awe whenever Messi pulled off a magical move in the game. He couldn’t resist his delight when Rakitic scored the only goal of the game.
The game began with City taking the kickoff and right from the start City were showing signs of a tough fight-back. Surprisingly in the opening phases of the game it was City which was looking dominant and in control of the game. Barcelona couldn’t quite keep the ball in possession and could only get the ball upfront into the final third through quick breakaways. City was attacking from the start and had seemingly put Barcelona to back foot through its possession dominance. Barcelona was trying to play possession soccer at times but usually would rely on individual brilliance of Messi, Neymar and Suarez to get the ball moving forward.
Despite of the possession, the Blues were missing penetration which was much needed to score. The only realistic opportunity in the first half came when Milner almost got one-on-one with Ter Stegen but a timely intervention by Dani Alves managed to prevent Milner from taking a shot on goal.
City’s highline was making them highly vulnerable to break-aways by the Barca frontline. Messi was pushed outside the sideline as he tried to break past the last Manchester City man from the half way line. Also Demichelis was spotted man handling Luis Suarez just behind the half way line in order to stop the Uruguayan from collecting a long ball in ample lot of space.
There were a couple of free-kicks won and taken by Messi in the first half which just grazed the top of Joe Hart’s net.
There was a moment when Neymar got a golden chance to score as a mistake by Kompany granted the ball to Neymar straight into his feet inside the penalty box. Neymar shot the ball on the near post, deflected inside and it spun away along the goal line and behind the goal after crossing the far post. This was the first real chance of Barcelona in the game and had it been a goal it would have surely killed off the momentum of City early in the game.
Messi was running rampant and was humiliating the City players by nut-megging them occasionally throughout the first half. He delivered a brilliant ball onto the chest of Rakitic who had found ample of space in the left hand channel and he lobbed the ball comfortably over Hart and into the net. Credits to Rakitic for his great chest control.
The contest was heated as Nasri got himself involved in a tiff with Jordi Alba and also insanely earned a yellow for kicking Neymar blatantly on his shin. Among the others who got booked were Silva and Fernandinho for their challenges on Leo Messi.
The second half was the half when Joe Hart played probably his best game this year. He was forced into action by Barcelona as Messi, Iniesta and Jordi Alba took shots on target but only to be denied by the Englishman.
Later in the second half, Aguero got a chance in the 77th minute to inspire a fight-back among the travelling fans as he stepped on to take a penalty which was the result of his being brought down by Pique and Mascherano in the penalty area. However he missed the opportunity which would have proved a worthy reward for Joe Hart’s heroics at the back in order to keep City very much in the game by stopping several shots and thus holding onto just the one goal deficit.
Hart undoubtedly was the man behind City’s decent defeat yesterday as he denied Neymar to score on a golden one-on-one opportunity. He also won his individual battle with Messi several times in the game. Messi was rampant and if there was any City player which he couldn’t outclass in this game it was the City keeper Joe Hart.
Barcelona advance to the Quarter-finals of the competition winning 3-1 on aggregate and now have a decisive fixture against Real Madrid the coming weekend, a fixture which would probably decide the fate of the Liga title.
VENUE: Camp Nou, Barcelona
REFEREE: G. Rocchi
Ter Stegen; Dani Alves (Adriano 90’ +), Pique, Mathieu, Alba; Mascherano, Iniesta, Rakitic (Rafinha 84’); Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Manchester City (4-4-2):
Hart; Sagna, Demichelis, Kompany, Kolarov; Nasri (Navas 46’), Toure (Bony 72’), Fernandinho, Milner (Lampard 87’); Silva, Aguero
Dani Alves 80’ (Yellow)
Kolarov 20’ (Yellow)
Demichelis 82’ (Yellow)
Silva 27’ (Yellow)
Fernandinho 15’ (Yellow)
Nasri 35’ (Yellow)