Manchester City 0 Barcelona 2 - comment: Not the worst Barcelona side, but despite Lionel Messi inspired victory, they are not the team they once were

Mourinho’s comments that this is the worst Barcelona side in recent memory are exaggerated, but they are not the side of three years ago

ETIHAD STADIUM

The carousel still spins but it doesn’t make the opposition as dizzy as it used to. At times this was more like the magic roundabout than the fairground Waltzer Barcelona used to get their rivals on – and that will make City even more frustrated about having failed to stay in this tie.

Barcelona completed  played 391 passes in the first half but Xavi’s early long-range effort was their only shot on target. The passing remains the same but the pressing is gone and while that matters less in La Liga, it struggles against stronger European opposition.

The first three times Leo Messi touched the ball he had it taken off his toe by one of City’s two central defenders, Martin Demichelis and the outstanding Vincent Kompany. When he did finally make room for a shot he blazed it over.

Read more: Pellegrini blasts referee Eriksson after Messi penalty
Manchester City 0 Barcelona 2 match report
Manchester City v Barcelona player ratings
Lionel Messi analysis
Comment: Not the worst Barca, but not the team they one were
Comment: Pellegrini still searching for the final pieces of his jigsaw

Alexis found no joy down the right and Andres Iniesta bounced off Pablo Zabaleta on the left. But the reason for Barça's lost high-pressure game is not to be found in their front three but in their back four.

Under Pep Guardiola they boasted Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal, both capable of parking themselves on the half way line knowing that their pace and athleticism would get them out of trouble.

On Tuesday night Puyol looked on from the sidelines as one of the surplus squad members – his body no longer able to do what his heart and head command. And Abidal is playing out the last few seasons of his career at Monaco.

 

Barcelona had the chance to replace those two players in the summer, but despite having money to spend – €57m (£47m) according to them; closer to €90m as it was later revealed – they spent it all on another striker and not on a defender.

Martin Demichelis brings down Lionel Messi to concede a penalty (PA) Martin Demichelis brings down Lionel Messi to concede a penalty (PA)   On Tuesday night Neymar started on the bench alongside Pedro, a further demonstration of the abundance of wealth they have in attack, while their defence creaked at times and was unable to sit high and help the team press the opposition as they used to.

That summer money could also have been spent on replacing Dani Alves, who was outplayed in the first half by opposing full-back Aleksandar Kolarov, pushed forward to attack him from wide midfield, and more than his match. The Brazilian came into his own, scoring the second goal in the second half but only when he was freed of defensive duties.  

The effectiveness of this City side for large parts of the game and the way they nullified Messi in the first half will be of little immediate consolation to Manuel Pellegrini after the Demichelis lapse cost them a goal and a player.

But as he plots the second leg he should be encouraged by how even with 10-men they rattled the team who have won the Champions League twice in the last five years.

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring past Manchester City's Joe Hart (PA) Lionel Messi celebrates scoring past Manchester City's Joe Hart (PA) Barcelona will have second-half substitute Neymar closer to full match fitness for the Spanish leg, but with no defensive reinforcements to return and because of Barcelona’s “we only play one way” philosophy, their attacking instincts will not be inhibited so there will be chances.

There was panic on Tuesday night whenever Barcelona conceded a free-kick from a wide area. And even with 10 men City found a way behind Barça’s full-backs late on as, with the man advantage, Gerardo Martino’s team threw more men forward.

Jose Mourinho’s comments that this is the worst Barcelona side in recent memory are exaggerated, but they are not the side of three years ago, especially if Sergio Aguero is back for the second leg.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices