City Defeated As Barcelona March On In Manchester

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    Updated: February 18, 2014
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    Manchester City faced a near full-strength Barcelona side at the Etihad Stadium in the first-leg of their last 16 Champions League tie on a cold, wet and windy night in Manchester. It was arguably the toughest draw that City could have faced and now with the first-leg over, things are looking a whole lot tougher. 

    Barcelona started brightly, moving the ball quickly and crisply over the turf with the City players chasing and harrying them without ever really getting close. 

    Barca passed and passed but they never looked like penetrating the solid and compact City defence, marshaled as ever by their imperious captain Vincent Kompany.

    City continued to press Barca and when they did manage to win the ball back they broke with pace. David Silva picked the ball up on the left hand side and slipped the ball across to the jet-heeled Jesus Navas on the right.

    The breaks came to nothing though and the game soon resumed its normal pattern with Barca probing at the City backline without ever looking like testing Joe Hart. 

    City were struggling to retain possession as Barcelona pressed them high and hard, hunting in packs, and winning the ball back in City’s half time and again.

    City did manage to fight their way back into the contest though and a long ball to lone striker Negredo was cleared at the last by Mascherano just as it looked like the Spaniard might find the space to fire a shot on goal.

    Yaya Toure, the ex-Barcelona man, was beginning to show the power and purpose that he has been showing all season in the Premier League as he brushed off a couple of challenges in the centre of midfield and slipped the ball out wide to Navas in space.

     

    The Spanish winger whipped a cross into the box but Negredo was adjudged to have fouled Victor Valdes as he challenged for the ball and the danger for Barca passed. 

     Barca were still bossing the possession but they were creating little and the next half-chance of the game also fell City’s way.

    David Silva picked the ball up in the space between the defence and midfield; he turned and slid the ball into the path of Negredo behind the defence.

    The striker took the ball past Valdes but the angle proved too narrow and his cross come shot drifted across the face of goal with no City player following up. 

    David Silva was finding pockets of space in front of the Barcelona defence and on the rare occasions City got the ball to him he looked dangerous. The ball was played out to him on the left wing and he was chopped down by Dani Alves, earning the Brazilian full-back the first yellow card of the game. 

    Silva stepped up and whipped the free kick into the box himself. The dangerous delivery tempted Valdes from his line but he was beaten to the ball by Kompany. The ball looped towards the goal but the Barca keeper was able to scramble back and clutch it just before it crossed the line. 

    Manchester City continued to press and when they forced a mistake on the edge of the box the ball was slipped into the path of Negredo once again but this time his snapshot from just outside the box was straight at Victor Valdes. 

    Negredo was the next man to go into the book for a late challenge in what had become a scrappy period of the game.   

    Barcelona finally managed to craft a couple of half chances of their own. Messi had a shot from outside the box that sailed harmlessly over the bar and Xavi went close with a swerving long-range effort that Hart comfortably pushed away.

    The game continued in the same vein as the half drew towards its conclusion. Barca with most of the possession but little sight of goal and the flow of the game being broken up by niggling and needless fouls. The latest of these being a rash lunge by Kolarov that earned him a yellow card.

    The referee blew his half-time whistle with a red card appearing to be more likely than a goal. 

    The second half began in a similar fashion to the first, Barca passing, prodding and probing patiently without penetration as City chased, harried and harassed without result. 

    The game finally came roaring to life in the in the 53rd minute. 

    Navas thought that he was fouled in the right hand channel but the referee waved play on and with City players committed to the attack Barca found themselves with space to attack for the first time.

    The ball was slipped into the path of Messi behind the City defence and he advanced towards the box. Martin Demichelis found himself the wrong side of his Argentinean compatriot and dived in from behind in a rash effort to get the ball.

    Messi was sent tumbling inside the box although it looked from the replays as if initial contact may have been made just outside. The referee pointed for the penalty though and brandished a red card to Demichelis.

    Messi himself stepped up to the spot and calmly stroked the ball down the middle as Hart dived to his left to put Barca ahead.

    Lionel-Messi

    It had been difficult enough for Man City to get the ball back with eleven men so with ten they were left with a mountain to climb.

    Pass masters Barcelona were well and truly on top, using the extra man to their advantage. They attacked in waves with Iniesta, Xavi and Fabregas pulling the strings in midfield and Dani Alves always available on the right hand side. 

    Man City made two changes, shoring up the defence by bringing on Lescott and freshening up the attack with Nasri. 

    The next chance fell to the Frenchman after an intricate interchange with Negredo found Nasri free on the edge of the box, but his shot was blocked by the Barca defence before it could trouble Valdes.

    City pressed and harried, led by Nasri, who would not let the Barca midfield or defence settle on the ball for a second, but the extra man told and they were able to move the ball around the pitch without ever looking in serious danger. 

    Another spell of patient Barcelona possession ended with Alves in the right hand channel cutting the ball back to an unmarked Xavi on the edge of the box. The Spaniard had time and space but his side footed first-time effort flew hopelessly over the bar. 

    Alves went close himself a few minutes later when he was set free in the box following a sharp one-two with Alexis Sanchez. The Brazilian fired a low shot across the goal but the ball flew agonizingly wide of Hart’s far post. 

    Man City continued to press forward, searching for the equaliser. Gael Clichy was found in the left hand channel with time and space, his cross was poor though and Valdes gathered it easily.

    Barcelona made a change of their own, introducing Neymar in place of Sanchez. 

    The game had become a scrappy affair again and Barcelona duo Busquets and Mascherano found themselves in the book for rash challenges. 

    Man City went close to equalising again as a raking cross-field ball found Zabaleta on the edge of the box.

    The Argentinean full-back cushioned the ball beautifully into the path of David Silva with his first touch. The little Spaniard controlled it on his chest and smashed a volley at goal with his weaker right foot.

    Valdes was equal to the task though, getting down sharply and holding onto the ball. 

    After the game City boss Manuel Pellegrini was less than complimentary about the performance of the referee but the next decision went City’s way. 

    MANCHESTER CITY V ARSENAL

    Xavi picked up the ball in midfield and slid an exquisitely disguised ball through to Fabregas who squared for Pique to slide into the net. The goal was ruled out though as the linesman ruled, incorrectly as replays revealed, that Fabregas was offside from Xavi’s initial ball. 

    City continued to forward, playing balls up to Edin Dzeko, who had come on to replace Negredo, but the Barca defence marshaled him, along with the rest of the City attack, comfortably and Valdes remained relatively untroubled. 

    The game entered the final minute of normal time and it looked as if City would be heading to Barcelona a single goal behind. But then Dani Alves picked the ball up in the right hand channel again. He exchanged passes with Neymar and burst into the box beyond Clichy.

    Hart came out to meet him but the Brazilian kept his cool and slotted the ball under the English keeper and into the corner of the net to make it 2-0 to Barca.

    Barcelona had the chance to extend their lead further in injury time as Messi and Neymar combined to set the Argentinean free on the edge of the box. The shot from Messi was tame though and Hart gathered it easily.

    The Manchester City players had worked their socks off and they looked exhausted as the referee blew his final whistle. They now head to Spain in three weeks time with their Champions League hopes hanging by the tiniest of threads. City fans can find one faint ray of hope in the fact that they should at least have Sergio Aguero back by then.

     

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