Match Report: FC Barcelona 2 Manchester City 1 (Barça win 4-1 on aggregate)

Barça 2-1 Man City Messi goalBarça reached the last eight of the Champions League this evening after a 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Camp Nou completed an overall 4-1 aggregate score. It was always going to be difficult for City after the 0-2 result in the first leg but the visitors had chances to take the lead before Leo Messi finally opened the scoring tonight in the 67th minute. Vincent Kompany grabbed a consolation goal for City in the 89th minute but Dani Alves assured a Barça triumph on the night with an injury time winner.

Tata Martino decided on the same formation as at the Etihad with Andrés Iniesta employed as a left-sided forward, the only change from the first leg being Neymar in place of Alexis on the right. Barça began strongly as though the players wanted to prove something after Saturday’s defeat at Valladolid, and the crowd was soon getting behind the team when Messi sprinted back to rob Kun Agüero near the Barça area.

Messi was looking particularly keen, perhaps inspired by facing Argentinian team-mates Agüero and Zabaleta or perhaps in need of answering the questions being raised over his work-rate. In the 9th minute he should have won a penalty after Lescott’s lunge but the French referee Stephane Lannoy waved play on. Three minutes later the Argentinian made a splendid burst into the area but despite keeping the ball in play after going past City keeper Joe Hart, he ran out of space as he tried to squeeze the ball in.

However, it was by no means all Barça. City looked to get forward quickly through James Milner on the left while David Silva also had his moments. The first chance for the visitors came in the 17th minute when Milner swung a leg at Kolarov’s low cross but he failed to get good contact and sent the ball well wide. Then just a minute later Neymar had the ball in City’s net only for the goal to be incorrectly ruled out for an inexistent offside called against Jordi Alba.

The game continued at a high tempo but the chances began to dry up while the foul count went up. Fernandinho had already been booked for an early foul on Sergio Busquets and ref also brandished yellow cards at Kolarov for a foul on Neymar and Zabaleta for a waist-high swing that caught Iniesta. Soon after Iniesta was in the wars again after a crunching tackle from Zabaleta gave him a nasty-looking jolt on the knee. City played on as Iniesta lay on the deck and after a patient build-up Silva had City’s best chance so far but sent his 20-yard shot well over.

Camp Nou breathed a sigh of relief when Iniesta recovered after treatment and soon after he chipped a ball forward to Neymar who controlled with his head, taking advantage of Kolarov’s slip to bear down on goal, but the Brazilian fired his shot narrowly wide of the near post.

The first half ended with chances at both ends. First Messi slipped a pass through for Xavi who sliding in could only poke his shot straight at Hart. Then, Toure Yaya, on his return to Camp Nou, chipped in a splendid ball into the area for Silva who showed his class to flick the ball back for Nasri who fired his shot straight at Valdés. Messi was not to be outdone, showing brilliant footwork to open space for Neymar on the left of the area, Hart stormed out of his goal and Neymar jinked inside and shot for goal only to be thwarted by Fernandinho’s header off the line. Then just before the break Fabregas received the ball inside the area on the left but his low cross was intercepted by Kolarov before Piqué could pounce.

Dzeko replaced the disappointing Agüero at half-time and just a couple of minutes into the second half after a disputed ball in the Barça area the ball ran to the lanky striker but Valdés was well behind his low shot. Barça began to show a little sloppiness and City started to push further forward. Barça dropped back, as we have seen previously under Martino, and looked for the counter attack. Then in the 51st minute Lescott gave a poor pass to Neymar who sent Messi scuttling down the right, Lescott regained his position but Messi brilliantly cut inside him, the Argentinian set his sights but there was no golazo as his low drive bounced out off the far post.

Barça 2-1 Man City Valdés save 2014Relying on the counter-attack, however, was a dangerous game to play against a team with City’s qualities. A minute after Messi’s post, Neymar lost the ball, leading to a City attack down the left, Kolarov crossed and Dzeko rose to send a powerful header towards the top corner only to be denied by a breathtaking save from Valdés. City had another chance two minutes later after another cross the left deflected off Piqué into Zabaleta’s path but the City right-back sent his shot inches wide.

At this point of the game City looked in with a real chance if only they could score the first goal. Messi kept the visitors’ defence occupied with the occasional break but in this period the ball was more often than not in the Barça half and Piqué had to react quickly after Mascherano nearly gifted a chance to Fernandinho.

City’s dominant spell lasted for around fifteen minutes but little by little, thanks mainly to the hard work from both full-backs and the intelligent play of Iniesta, Barça began to regain control. The goal finally came when Fabregas tried to slip a pass through for Messi, Lescott got in the way but also got in a muddle as the ball bounced off both his legs before running through to Messi who pounced with a delightful flick past Hart with the outside of his left boot.

Barça 2-1 Man City Messi goal celebration 2014Xavi might have made it 2-0 soon after, but Hart made a full-stretch save to keep out his 20-yard drive. Now needing three goals City brought on Negredo and Navas but the miracle never looked likely. Any chance the English team had was blown when the referee failed to see Piqué’s clumsy challenge on Dzeko in the 78th minute. It should have been a penalty and to make things worse for City Zabaleta received a second yellow card for his protest.

Martino introduced the fresh legs of Alexis and then later Sergi Roberto as Barça tried to play out time. However, in the 89th minute, as many believed was inevitable at some point in the tie, City scored from a corner. Dzeko rose above everybody to head the ball down and Sergi Roberto played Kompany onside and the Belgian defender stabbed the ball in from four yards. The last laugh was for Barça. Sergi Roberto and Alexis combined to send Iniesta into the area, Hart came out and when Iniesta couldn’t find a shooting angle he pulled the ball back to Alves for the Brazilian to add to the injury-time goal he scored in the first leg.

Barça 2-1 Man City Jordi Alba 2014Following the horrible show against Valladolid tonight’s performance was a vast improvement. There was a renewed intensity and the players again proved that when they put their minds to it they can still play some great football. However, there were still some lapses and the first 15 minutes of the second half were worrying. Whether we intended to sit back or whether it was forced on us it was not a common sight to see an away side have so much possession in our half at Camp Nou. Unfortunately, another negative side was again the form of Neymar. He was better than at Valladolid and showed a lot more involvement but his tricks sadly all seemed to come to nothing. I’d like confirmation that he was again disappointing as I accept I may have watched him more critically after calling for him to be benched today. I still find it staggering that after his run of form he was preferred over Pedro and Alexis for this game.

City gave a better showing than in the first leg and they will undoubtedly remorse over some refereeing decisions over the two games. However, there were two important decisions early in tonight’s game that went their way and ultimately they lost the tie by being too conservative at the Etihad and through the mistakes of Demichelis and Lescott. City were of course without Matija Nastasic for both games but considering the money they have spent and the size of their squad you’d think they would have been able to find better cover. It might be a bit off the subject of tonight’s game but this is just another indication of the difficulty we are going to face in signing a good central defender this summer.

Barça: Valdés 7.5; Alves 7.5, Piqué 6.5, Mascherano 7, Alba 7.5; Xavi 6.5, Busquets 6.5, Fabregas 6.5 (Sergi Roberto m86, 6); Neymar 5.5 (Alexis m80, 6.5), Messi 8, Iniesta 7.5.

Man City: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov; Touré, Fernandinho; Nasri (Navas m74), Silva (Negredo m72), Milner; Agüero (Dzeko h/t).

Goals: m67 Messi 1-0, m89 Kompany 1-1, m91 Alves 2-1.

Yellow cards: m9 Fernandinho, m23 Kolarov, m30 Zabaleta, m54 Fabregas, m73 Kompany, m78 Zabaleta = red.

Attendance: 85,957

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10 Responses to Match Report: FC Barcelona 2 Manchester City 1 (Barça win 4-1 on aggregate)

  1. I confirm it for you Nic: Yes Neymar was a let down yet again. It seems to be a confidence issue for each time he took things upon himself he seems to almost pull a miracle (self pass header and shot / Hart out of his goal and chip). I think that Neymar needs to be freed like Messi. If I were Tata, I would tell him and the team that he (Neymar) is free to play as he sees fit then I can almost guarantee that we will see why we paid 100M for him. He sure has the talent he needs to be unshackled from the tiki taka and allowed to do maravillas every once in a while without fear of recriminations from boss Leo. On the game,we played well but we need a killer instinct in front of goal (God I miss Samuel Eto’o fils)…put the darn ball in the old onion bag…please. And why isn’t Pedro playing? Scratching my head on that one!

  2. FCB4LIFE says:

    As a team, we played much much better than the previous 2-3 games. Iniesta, Fabregas, Valdes, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Messi and Neymar had much improved performances.

    Few fun facts of my observation last night and through out the season so far

    1- Team Barcelona have struggled to have a convincing full 90 minutes the entire season.

    2- We played very well for about 72 minutes during this encounter against City @ Camp Nou

    3- There are a few players who tend to shut off for 15- 30 minutes or so in a game. Shut off as in play so bad, we forget his full name. And while playing badly, this individuals also conveniently slack off in the pressuring sector as well. A- Pique B- Neymar C- Messi D- Xavi. The collective 4 has been amongst the players not consistently at their game on several occasions this season. For Xavi you can blame the drop in intensity of the intensive pressuring on his age. But for the rest it is down to overall fitness and a sometimes a ‘take it for granted’ sort of attitude.

    4- I love Iniesta but it wouldn’t hurt for him to sharpen his long shots and finishing. He does so much hard work and there are times that he could use these added elements to finish it off himself. Iniesta is all build up and very rarely an end product. Finishing is one part that he certainly lacks by quite a mile really.

    Nic, once again,,,thanks alot for the awesome match report!! My take on Neymar’s performance last night –> VERY ENCOURAGING!!! Yes, you are a little too hard on him for this one.

    1- Neymar was hardworking
    2- Neymar was lively
    3- Neymar showed more focus in this 90 minutes than his previous 300 minutes on field with Barcelona

    4- Neymar is young. He will at times feel a little bad about not being the main man like how he is for team Brazil. One must know by now that it will take a whole load of effort to expect 2 players in the criteria of Messi and Neymar to perform equally well in one match as both players tend to have their best matches in the same similar zone. The strength of Messi and Neymar’s overall game play are very similar by nature and could cause a clash if there is no element of ‘give and take’

    Messi’s strength and overall game play- Dribbling from Right wing to inside, Having more central freedom / sufficient space in central areas. Looks for extra bodies only to combine for one 2’s and the rest of the dribbling and attack with the ball rest on his shoulders. Occasionally drops deep when feeling off beat and when opponent over crowds their own penalty area and at this point he will look to contribute more in the build up play in deeper central attacking positions almost like an attacking central midfielder (AMC) or a false 9. He frequently tends to supply killer balls to the runner on the left wing or channel in most occasions.

    Neymar’s strength and overall game play- Both footed!! Dribbling from left wing to inside, Having more central freedom / sufficient space in central areas. Looks for extra bodies only to combine for one 2’s and the rest of the dribbling and attack with the ball rest on his shoulders. Seldom drops too deep. Always sets himself in a more attacking position. A show pony. Thrives on complete freedom and space but must be constantly reminded of his work rate and pressuring as a team player!!

    When given the exact freedom he gets with team Brazil, Neymar will play at a much higher level I assure you. But this will also make Messi look a little lesser in the 90 minutes. Like I mentioned earlier. It is more like a give and take issue as they both share similar attacking zones. And to play this 2 together, I am convinced that only Pedro and Iniesta could be the third attacking player and definitely not Alexis as Alexis also plays better when given more “central” minutes. Alexis needs to come into the middle or be playing in the middle more often to have convincing results!

    In summary, I am satisfied with the end result and felt encouraged by the overall performance of the team last night. They PLAYED 70% to what I imagined them to play prior to kickoff =D

  3. FCB4LIFE says:

    There is a method to make Messi and Neymar perform much better as a combination through out 90 minutes.

    That method being.
    – Both Messi and Neymar must be forced to the right and left wing with duties of an inside forward….drifting inwards to supply combination and to supply the main central man in duty….that main man being Alexis Sanchez.

    1- Because in order for team work to set in, sometimes a player will have to be forced to be a team player first. In this case, Messi needs to re-learn the fundamental value of being a team player more than the center of attack / the center of attention. This will also create a proper sense of organization and order in team. Where the manager is incharge and there is no player bigger than the manager in the team!

    2- Whether we like to admit it or not——the fact is if Messi was put off from his game last night or if he was successfully shut down by the opponents defence, the entire team would have been in trouble. We would have been made to look very ordinary had Messi been taken out off the game as nobody would step into the main man position as Messi would not step off that position in most occasions either!!

    3- No player is bigger than the team. Success as a team as talented as Barcelona will rely on sheer teamwork and combination. Pedro and Alexis have wayy better team work qualities in them as compared to Messi and Neymar at current point. Is it a choice for them? No…Because they have always been made to supply support more than anything else for 1 man – Leo Messi

    I love Messi and I don’t deny that he did brilliantly last night, but I love FC Barcelona more!! Messi must learn to give and take at times!!! I would want to experience a free scoring Barcelona more often than just Leo Messi on that score sheet!!

  4. FCB4LIFE says:

    Neymar, Alexis, and Pedro are all high scoring players for their national team….and it is unfair for them to act as support players for one man day in day out!! This is just not the way! If we were to win anything, the manager must try to get the best of everybody when Messi is playing!!!

  5. tafeng says:

    I love barca, go go go……

  6. Tony stark says:

    Interesting observations and opinions. I did not see the match. I read the comentary and a lot of reports. I think you’re a bit harsh on neymar. The guy’s young and he came really close to scoring the opening goal. From what i’ve read neymar had a few lousy moments but i’m quite certain he could play better at barca than in brazil. As for messi, he played an important part, combing well with xavi,iniesta and neymar. He does pass the ball sometimes unselfishly,especially when recedes deeper in. Barca played well most of the times,except here and there. I do agree that some players just shut down (notably fabregas and mascherano)

  7. Caleb says:

    Neymar was not exceptional, but I will say I think you were a bit harsh on him, Nic. I think what he did with that header to himself was sublime, but you described it as rather humdrum: more a result of a defender slipping. There’s a reason why he slipped. Neymar caught him off guard. And I’m pretty sure Hart blocked the shot rather than it being wide.

    Not that one moment of brilliance makes the entire night brilliant, but in these sorts of games sometimes the match turns on that sort of thing. It deserved noting. He hooked up well with Messi at times and worked hard. He gave away some bad passes. He had some good ones. He was unsuccessful on some dribbles, but Messi has lead the league in being that category several times. Several last-ditch, perfectly-timed efforts were needed to stop Neymar from being in on goal. He certainly made some decent contributions to the game.

    Silva, what a player. I never understand why City sub that guy off when they are in desperate need of some magic.

    I’m glad we’re through. It was by no means easy considering the opposition and the circumstances.

  8. Thanks for the feedback on Neymar. My bad for missing Hart’s save (not an easy one to see)

  9. aburg says:

    I thought Neymar was very active and overall his performance was improved. Not his best, but nothing to be alarmed about. Interesting fact…we are the second best defence in la liga (one goal more than Atletico), and we kept the second best offence in the EPL (two goals less than Liverpool) at bay for 179 minutes – when the tie was already wrapped up. It bothers me when people mention how we are so terrible in defence, for a team of Man City’s calibre our defence didn’t suffer as much as everyone thought we would. Years ago we would have not been able to play on our own half and keep our composure, but we did just that. Good stuff, I’m looking forward to the quarter finals with more optimism! Visca Barca!!

  10. Pingback: Champions League Preview: Manchester City vs Barça | barçacentral

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