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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent