City outclassed in Europe once again
UEFA Champions League
Tuesday 24 February 2015, 19.45 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Fernando, Milner, Nasri (Fernandinho 62), Silva (Sagna 78), Aguero, Dzeko (Bony 68)
Unused: Caballero, Mangala, Navas, Lampard
Goals: Aguero (68)
Booked: Fernandinho, Clichy (sent-off)
Referee: Feliz Brych
Man of the match: Silva
Tuesday night saw Manchester City host Barcelona in the Champions League second round. After falling short last year, many were hoping that Manuel Pellegrini had devised a winning formula to help knock Barcelona out, and put City in the quarter finals for the first time.
Pellegrini decided boldly to stick with his much maligned 442 formation, with Edin Dzeko again being asked to partner Sergio Aguero up front. In midfield, with the suspension of Yaya Toure, James Milner and Fernando were given the difficult task of shielding the defence, with David Silva and Samir Nasri asked to supply the front two. In defence, Pablo Zabaleta retained his spot, as did Vincent Kompany, whilst Eliaquim Mangala and Aleksandr Kolarov were dropped to the bench in favour of Martin Demichelis and Gael Clichy.
Before the game Samir Nasri talked about not making silly mistakes, or showing Barcelona too much respect, but City stood off their Spanish opponents and gave them far too much space. It was no surprise to see Lionel Messi involved in the first goal, as his cross wasn't dealt with by Vincent Kompany, and Luis Suarez reacted quickest to fire the ball home.
It was a disastrous start for Pellegrini's side, who were losing the ball far too easily, coupled with not pressing well enough to win it back. The midfield three of Rakitic, Iniesta and Busquets completely overran City's two man midfield.
It wasn't long before City found themselves two goals down. Messi again was instrumental, and Luis Suarez again the scorer, as he latched onto Alba's cross to guide the ball home. It was yet more poor defending from City, who allowed Suarez to run unmarked through the area to score.
The second half saw a much improved Manchester City performance, with Fernandinho coming on for Samir Nasri to add more balance to the side. It had an immediate impact, with the Blues showing more energy into the midfield, andlifted the performance of other players around him. Fernando had a particularly poor first half but started to grow in stature, winning many crucial tackles in front of his own box.
Sergio Aguero, a man who has been City's saviour so often this season, pulled one back to give Pellegrini's side a lifeline. The Argentine took his goal wonderfully, firing over the onrushing Ter Stegen and City briefly had some momentum, but were pegged back when Gael Clichy was sent off for two bookable offences. It made an already difficult task virtually impossible, and at this point you suspect most City fans would have settled for a 2-1 defeat.
As the game seemed to be petering out, Pablo Zabaleta inexplicably brought down Lionel Messi in the box, giving the Barcelona star a chance to essentially wrap up the tie. The man who scored from the spot last year was denied by Joe Hart, as well as putting his header wide from the rebound.
It could potentially be a significant moment in the tie for City, who know they have to put up a huge performance in the Camp Nou in order to stand any chance of progressing.