Messi masterclass demonstrates gulf between sides
UEFA Champions League
Wednesday 18 March 2015, 19.45 KO
City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure (Bony 71), Milner (Lampard 87), Nasri (Navas 46), Silva, Aguero
Unused: Caballero, Zabaleta, Dzeko, Fernando
Booked: Fernandinho, Kolarov, Silva, Nasri, Demichelis
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi
Man of the match: Joe Hart
After the poor performance at Burnley on Saturday, Manchester City faced a daunting trip to the Camp Nou for their second leg against Barcelona. With the odds seemingly insurmountable, it would have taken near enough a miracle, or indeed a "typical City" performance, to turn the tie around.
After facing criticism over his much maligned formation at the weekend, City manager Manuel Pellegrini opted for a 4-5-1 formation. The idea was simple, stifle Barcelona's wonderful midfield, and try to gain a foothold in the game. The problem was that Barcelona were so calm and composed on the ball that, even with the extra numbers, City struggled to contain the hosts.
Lionel Messi was magical in the first leg, and seemed to somehow go up another gear, tormenting City and setting up the first goal, which was finished nonchalantly by Ivan Rakitic. The concern for City was that the hosts would kill the tie off before half time, but to their credit Pellegrini's side dug deep, with the help of a fantastic performance from Joe Hart.
The England international thwarted Messi, Suarez and Neymar multiple times to give the Blues the slimmest of chances of progressing. Indeed, the Premier League champions were gifted a lifeline, when Sergio Aguero was adjudged to have been fouled by Pique. The Argentine star missed the subsequent penalty, however, with Ter Stegen saving comfortably to his right.
It was a tough night for Pellegrini's side, and in truth the scoreline flattered them, such was Barca's dominance. City are still clearly some distance off the best teams in Europe, but the priority now is clearly to secure a Champions League place for next year.