BARCA PASS CITY TEST
ROUND OF 16, FIRST LEG
MAN CITY 0
(Lionel Messi 54-pen, Dani Alves 90)
Lionel Messi and Dani Alves punished 10-man Manchester City in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie at the Etihad Stadium this morning (Singapore time).
Four-time World Player of the Year Messi struck from the penalty spot with 54 minutes gone after being brought down by Martin Demichelis, who was sent off.
The win is all the more remarkable considering that Barcelona had drawn twice and lost thrice in their last five Champions League away encounters against English sides.
City had their chances but Barcelona dominated possession throughout and were rewarded when Alves struck the second in the last minute.
City had set up well in an attempt to soak up Barcelona pressure and catch them on the break, but the task proved beyond them after Messi punished a mistake early in the second half.
The Argentinian raced away and, although replays suggested contact by Demichelis may have been just outside the box, a straight red card was brandished and the penalty awarded.
The hosts kept on pressing but they failed to make the most of their opportunities and they were picked off again as time ran out.
Barcelona coach Gerard Martino had said the key to victory was possession and so it proved, as the visitors controlled the ball for long spells.
Yet, City appeared to have been expecting that having packed the midfield.
Fernandinho's return from injury allowed manager Manuel Pellegrini to deploy five across the middle, with Alvaro Negredo operating as a lone striker.
After 14 minutes largely on the back foot but, with Barca yet to create a clear-cut chance, Vincent Kompany picked out Negredo with a long ball.
The powerful forward controlled well on the edge of the box but Javier Mascherano, with whom he regularly battled, managed to scramble the ball away.
Negredo caused more trouble in the box after Jesus Navas crossed from the right but Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson penalised him for a foul on goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Barca had another scare as Valdes was beaten in the air by Kompany at a corner but he scrambled back to gather on the line.
Negredo had another chance from outside the area but shot straight at Valdes.
All these chances punctuated spells of prolonged Barca possession and the Catalan side eventually pierced the hardworking City backline.
Cesc Fabregas played in Andres Iniesta only for Yaya Toure to get back and Messi linked well with Xavi Hernandez and Iniesta before shooting over.
Joe Hart then saved well from a strong Xavi shot and Kompany bundled Messi over. Negredo had another chance to open the scoring before half-time but glanced a header wide from Navas' cross.
City were to regret those missed chances as Barcelona upped the tempo in the second half.
Bursting through on goal, Messi left his marker Demichelis in his wake. The latter could not keep up and slid in in a desperate attempt to tackle, but succeeded only in tripping his countryman.
Contact appeared to be just outside the area but Eriksson pointed to the spot and sent Demichelis off. Messi calmly stroked home the penalty down the centre as Hart dived to his left.
Pellegrini sent on Joleon Lescott to reinforce the defence but recognised damage limitation was not an option and also introduced Samir Nasri.
Nasri was soon in the action and had a shot blocked from a Negredo lay-off.
Barca could have taken even greater command of the tie as Xavi shot over and Alves fired across goal.
City broke again but Gael Clichy wasted an opening and a well-struck Silva volley was clutched by Valdes.
The hosts, however, may have had a stroke of luck as Gerard Pique had a late goal ruled out for a marginal offside.
Edin Dzeko had a late chance for City but was harshly penalised for a foul.
Alves then got behind the defence and fired past Hart to put Barca in the driver's seat for the quarter-finals.
- PA Sport.
MORNING LATEST CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
l MAN CITY: Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Gael Clichy, Jesus Navas (Samir Nasri 58), Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Aleksandar Kolarov (Joleon Lescott 58), David Silva, Alvaro Negredo (Edin Dzeko 74)
l BARCELONA:Victor Valdes, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas (Sergi Roberto 86), Alexis Sanchez (Neymar 74), Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta People have been saying this is not the same Barcelona of previous years but we've got a great result tonight and we've proved a point to some people.
- Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas
Pellegrini blasts ref after loss
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini blasted Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson after his team lost 2-0 to Barcelona at home this morning (Singapore time).
Eriksson awarded Barcelona a penalty and sent off City defender Martin Demichelis after he had tried to tackle Lionel Messi but ended up in tripping him from behind.
Pellegrini (below), who was usually reserved in his criticism of match officials, did not mince his words as he criticised Eriksson, who has held a Fifa badge for 12 years and officiated 22 Champions League and 87 Uefa matches.
Said Pellegrini: "I spoke to him (Eriksson) at the end and told him he should be very happy because he decided the match.
"Barcelona had no chance to score until the penalty against Demichelis.
"The referee was not impartial. He did not have any control of the game.
"I think it was not a good idea to have a referee from Sweden in such an important match.
"He did not call for a foul on (Jesus) Navas before the penalty. On the penalty, the foul was made outside the box. But, more importantly, we were building up the play.
"The first mistake was not giving a foul against Navas and then deciding it was a penalty when it was not a penalty."
'NO SWEDES, PLEASE'
Asked why it was relevant that the referee was Swedish, Pellegrini replied: "More important football is played in Europe than in Sweden, so a big game with two important teams - that kind of game needs a referee with more experience."
The Chilean was also angry that Eriksson had been chosen for the match after he had previously dismissed two Barcelona penalty claims in the 2012 Champions League quarter-final against AC Milan at the San Siro.
"I think it's a mistake to nominate a referee who has mistakes against Barcelona to have the same referee here," he said. - Wire Services.