A second half Lionel Messi penalty and one from Dani Alves was enough to give Barcelona a 2-0 win over 10-man Manchester City this evening.
Tata Martino left Neymar out of the starting line-up, opting instead for Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez and Andres Iniesta up front. Manuel Pellegrini meanwhile, was without Sergio Aguero, so went with Alvaro Negredo as the lone front-man supported by David Silva.
They may have been the visitors, but the Blaugrana immediately settled into their usual rhythm, keeping the ball for extended periods, but never threatening Joe Hart’s goal.
The Argentine Coach said in his pre-match Press conference that whoever had the lion’s share of the ball would win, and the Catalans were doing a good job of that in the opening exchanges. City’s light blue wall however, was holding firm – Vincent Kompany in particular, was timing his challenges to perfection.
Time on the ball nearly counted for nothing though on 20 minutes when Silva laid in Negredo with a superb through pass. The former Sevilla striker however, narrowed down his own angle and chipped wide of Victor Valdes’ post.
The Premier League outfit were now controlling the game, and almost turned that dominance into a goal, but the referee blew for a free kick on Valdes after Silva’s cross resulted in a goal-mouth scramble.
It was ebbing and flowing the match, and next it was Barca’s turn to have an extended spell on the ball. Again however, there were very few genuine attempts on goal. Messi and Xavi both had pot-shots from the edge of the area, but neither troubled Hart too much.
The atmosphere was heating up at the Etihad by this point, with a few flying challenges going in, and some cheeky pulls of shirts going unpunished.
After the break, the visitors looked to get out of the blocks a bit quicker, and get their reward on 53 minutes. Messi raced through on goal before being brought down by Martin Demichelis inside the area. The former Malaga man was given his marching orders, and the Argentine striker converted himself from the spot.
It was always going to be tough for the Citizens with 10 men thereon in, and despite battling manfully it was Barca who nearly doubled their lead on 70 minutes. A neat interchange between Alexis and Dani Alves found the Brazilian, but his effort went wide of the far post.
Despite being a man down though, Pellegrini’s men rallied late on and almost equalised, only for David Silva’s volley to be saved superbly by Valdes.
With just seconds to go until the final whistle though, Dani Alves latched onto Neymar’s pass, before slotting the ball under the onrushing Joe Hart for a second.
Man City 0-2 Barcelona
Scorers: Messi pen 54 (B), Alves 90 (B)
Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Touré Yayá, Navas (Nasri 57), Kolarov (Lescott 57), Silva, Negredo (Dzeko 74)
Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Cesc (Roberto 86); Alexis (Neymar 74), Messi Iniesta
Red card: Demichelis 53 (MC)