BARCELONA 2, MANCHESTER CITY 1 (BARCELONA win 4-1 on aggregate)
Manchester City’s European adventure is over for another season and talk of a quadruple turned into a double in the space of four days as City lost 2-1 to Barcelona (4-1 on aggregate) and had Pablo Zabaleta sent off shortly after a heated penalty appeal on behalf of Edin Dzeko who had been brought down by former Manchester United defender Gerard Pique.
City might not have had to face Barca had Manuel Pellegrini realised that an extra goal against Bayern Munich in their victory on German soil during their final group game would have meant City would not have had to risk a tie against another group topping club such as Barcelona.
Vincent Kompany’s late equaliser turned out to be merely a consolation after Lionel Messi had capitalised on Joleon Lescott third error of the night and Dani Alves’ injury time winner finally put an end to City’s Champions League hopes.
There was to be no talk of referee bias from City manager Manuel Pellegrini tonight – not least because the Chilean was in the Presidential Box at the Nou Camp serving the first game of a two match ban for claiming that the referee for the first leg of this tie, Swede Jonas Eriksson, had favoured the Catalans.
In the Nou Camp it was Barcelona who had every right to be aggrieved for a series of early refereeing decisions that deprived them of a pair of first half goals that would have ended the City adventure earlier and got City a debatable equaliser in the dying minutes of the game when Joleon Lescott looked offside as Kompany scored.
City’s goal led a charmed life, with an early penalty claim for a foul on Messi by Lescott turned down and a Neymar goal which was chalked off for offside against Jordi Alba who looked onside in replays.
Joe Hart was right back in form with saves from Neymar, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi but the resistance was finally over with yet another mistake by a City central defender who wasn’t Vincent Kompany.
City in comparison had very little attacking threat, with just Samir Nasri’s shot straight at Victor Valdes to show for their first half efforts, which was reduced yet further when Sergio Aguero was replaced at half time after again falling victim to injury.
The Argentine left with a reported recurrence of his hamstring injury and he was duly replaced by Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian could have scored the first goal of the night but both he and Pablo Zabaleta spurned chances early in the second half.
Messi almost capitalised following a mistake by Lescott but could only hit the woodwork after making space for a shot.
In the end, it was Demichelis and Lescott mistakes that cost City over the course of two legs in this round of 16 tie. Two second half errors by Lescott at the Nou Camp exposed City’s defence. Messi hit the post the first time but there was to be no reprieve the next time as Cesc Febregas put the Argentine wizard through and he chipped Hart in the 67th minute.
City, like the French referee Stephane Lannoy, were hit with a body blow ten minutes later when Dzeko was bundled over by Pique. No penalty seemed to be forthcoming and Zabaleta was sent off for angrily manhandling the referee while demanding the spot kick.
The drama wasn’t over, however, as Vincent Kompany grabbed an unlikely 89th minute goal from a corner after Edin Dzeko’s flick-on, was allowed to stand despite deep suspicions of offside by Joleon Lescott who was in front of Valdes.
Dani Alves made sure that there was to be no famous comeback as justice was done with the winner as the game went into added time when Andres Iniesta rounded Hart and slipped in the flying full-back to win the game and the tie for Barcelona.