Match Report

City v Barcelona match report

Aguero
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Tue 24 Feb
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City are down but certainly not out after a spirited second-half against Barcelona kept the Champions League fires burning heading into the second leg.

The Blues were 2-0 down with barely half-an-hour played, but a much-improved display after the break saw Sergio Aguero reduce the arrears, though Gael Clichy’s sending off shortly after curtailed a complete revival of fortunes.

With almost the last kick of the game, Joe Hart saved a Lionel Messi penalty in a dramatic climax that City will take heart from.

Realistically, City’s best hope against opposition of this quality was to keep a clean sheet, but with a stellar forward line containing Messi, Suarez and Neymar, that was never going to be easy.

Line up

It is not in the Blues’ nature to sit back and soak up the pressure, particularly at the Etihad, so Manuel Pellegrini had to decide to stick or twist in an effort to get the better of the Catalans who came into this game on the back of a shock home defeat to Malaga.

City, by contrast, had given one of their best performances of the season in seeing off Newcastle United three days earlier – so which way would the axis tip with the first goal of a game like this so crucial?

...City v Barca..

 

The sell-out home crowd only had to wait 16 minutes to find out as Vincent Kompany’s attempt at a headed clearance struck Suarez and the former Liverpool man, as quick as a flash, buried a low shot past Hart from six yards.

Already, it felt like the Blues had a mountain to climb.

Edin Dzeko headed the ball a foot or so wide during a rare City attack in the minutes that followed, but there were too many misplaced passes against a team who punish such profligacy and just past the half-hour, Suarez struck for the second time as he was burst into the six-yard box to turn in Jordi Alba’s low cross.

Two down and just 31 minutes played, it was going to take a monumental effort for Pellegrini’s side who had looked like a shadow of the team that had swept Stoke and Newcastle aside in the previous two games.

Barca

It almost got worse, too, as Daniel Alves clipped the crossbar just before half-time with a cross-cum-shot and had that gone in, the tie would have been done and dusted barely a quarter of the way through.

City emerged from the break more inventive and playing with far more intensity and it almost paid off within five minutes of the re-start as Edin Dzeko found himself in space as the ball came into the box but he headed straight at the keeper from five yards out.

Then Aguero curled a shot inches wide four minutes later after a purposeful run as the Blues attempted to build up a head of steam –but it was a goal that was needed to try and rattle the La Liga giants and on 68 minutes it finally came

...City 1 Barca 2...

 


Fernandinho fizzed a ball into the feet of David Silva on the edge of the box and Aguero raced on to his delicate lay-off and, reminiscent of his title-winning goal against QPR, he muscled his way through and buried the ball past Stegnen to give City a much-needed lifeline.

Aguero

But having worked a way back into the game, a second yellow card for Gael Clichy reduced the hosts to ten men just five minutes later and shifted the balance the visitors’ way yet again. Replays suggested Clichy was unfortunate with Alves making the most of what was nothing more than a clumsy challenge.

Suddenly, the focus was not conceding again and maybe accepting a one-goal defeat was still salvageable and as the game ticked into added time, it seemed that would be the case.

Clichy

But as Messi raced into the box, Pablo Zabaleta’s mistimed tackled was deemed a penalty and all the second-half hard work seemed in vain.

Just as he had last season, Messi put the ball on the spot knowing that a goal would make Barca odds on favourites to progress into the quarter-finals - even with another 90 minutes still to play – but this time Hart was equal to the brilliant Argentine as he beat his shot out and then watched Messi head the rebound wide.

Hart

It was an oddly uplifting end to the contest and the reaction of the City players and fans suggests this tie is far from over.

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