Blues face uphill struggle in second leg after Demichelis sees red
UEFA Champions League, Round of 16
Tuesday 18 February 2014, 19.45 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Navas (Nasri 57), Toure, Fernandinho, Kolarov (Lescott 57), Silva, Negredo (Dzeko 74)
Unused: Pantilimon, Richards, Garcia, Jovetic
Booked: Negredo, Kolarov
Sent Off: Demichelis
Referee: Jonas Eriksson
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta
City’s Champions League hopes are dangling by a thread – as two away goals for Barcelona look to be enough for the Catalan giants to make it safely into the quarter finals.
The away side were impressive throughout but found City’s back-line difficult to break down, with Hart rarely troubled in the first period. The City keeper was needed to punch clear a corner from Xavi, before that same man tried a speculative effort from range that Hart got over well to palm away.
Despite enjoying very little possession, the Blues actually carved out the better first half chances. Negredo, played through by Silva, tried to flick the ball over the on-rushing Valdes, but the effort didn’t make the goal and Kolarov couldn’t arrive in time to finish.
The Spaniard should have done better when Navas picked him out from the right flank, but under pressure from Pique, he could only flick his header wide. The game settled back into pattern: Barcelona possession, City stoic and disciplined at the back. Kolarov though was lucky not to be shown red for a two-footed lunge.
The same couldn’t be said for Demchelis early in the second half. City’s discipline broke and Messi was clean through on Hart. The Argentine defender dived in on his compatriot, but missed the ball and brought him down in the box. Red card and penalty – no arguments – and Messi got up to score.
An already difficult job became almost impossible, as the visitors exploited gaps and dominated possession more so than before. Still, though, City wouldn’t lie down: Nasri had a shot blocked en route to Valdes following a cute back-heel from Negredo.
Xavi headed well over Hart’s bar, before Alves should have doubled the visitors’ advantage. A series of one-touch passes put the right back in and he drilled a shot inches wide of the goalkeeper’s far post.
City were giving it a real go with ten minutes to play. Toure picked out Zabaleta on the right and he volleyed inside for Silva. The Spaniard brought it down on his chest and turned to smash at the far corner, but Valdes was down well to block. Dzeko almost nicked in between the two centre backs, but again the goalkeeper blocked – it wouldn’t have counted though, as the referee spotted a foul.
A 0-1 defeat would have been a tough enough task going to the Nou Camp, but, in stoppage time, Barcelona added a second to virtually end the tie. Another one-touch move sent Alves in on Hart’s goal – and this time he drilled it under the keeper and into the net.
Only a miracle now will see City remain in the Champions League this season.