BARCELONA 1, MANCHESTER CITY 0 (Barcelona win 3-1 on aggregate)
Joe Hart prevented what would certainly have been a thrashing in the Nou Camp for Manchester City as they lost 1-0 on the night a 3-1 on aggregate against Barcelona in the Champions League.
Hart was acclaimed by the Barcelona team and City fans in the Nou Camp on the final whistle after a string of World Class saves to keep the scoreline respectable against a dominant Barcelona side.
Andres Iniesta claimed that Barcelona would make Manchester City ‘suffer’ in the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie at the Nou Camp and they duly delivered another masterclass as they put the Champions of England out of Europe.
Once again it was the hope that killed City as Hart’s penalty save at the end of the first leg was matched by an outstanding spot kick save by Marc-Andre ter Stegen from Sergio Aguero towards the end of the game.
Barca’s Croatian midfield Ivan Rakitic scored the goal that effectively ended the fight and Barca could have scored more but for heroics by Joe Hart on the night. The England ‘keeper ended the night with crucial saves well into double figures and City were saved by the woodwork more than once.
Jordi Alba could have finished things off in the second half with a tap-in for what would have been a fully deserved second goal on the night for Barcelona but it was overruled by the offside flag.
City were once again found wanting against Barcelona who not only outmatched them for skill and possession but also crucially displayed a fitness and work-rate far beyond that on show from a languid and already-beaten City.
With 15 minutes to go City had a glimmer of hope after Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano conspired to bring down Sergio Aguero.
The Argentine’s poor spot kick was saved by Ter Stegen to pile the misery on for City who had to rely once again on their own goal-keeping hero Hart and the woodwork to keep Barca down to one goal on the night.
FIVE PROBLEMS FOR MAN CITY THIS SEASON
It looks like City may well finish the season trophyless if they can’t recover a six point deficit against Chelsea to retain the Premier League but here’s where they
1. City haven’t improved their team since Roberto Mancini left the club. Much has been made of the fact that City have spent £327m on new players in the last four years and yet there are only two changes from the side that faced Napoli in 2011 to the side that lost at the Etihad against Barcelona – Joleon Lescott and Gareth Barry were been replaced by Martin Demichelis and Fernando. Not many players signed under Manuel Pellegrini have been playing regularly this season which adds to the sense of a lack of competition and complacency at the Etihad in recent months.
2. The current Manchester City first team lack pace without Sergio Aguero and Jesus Navas, while quick, isn’t consistent enough with his end product. Without pace and width City look one dimensional if they don’t play with a certain intensity.
3. Barcelona displayed their usual impressive work rate which has noticeably missing from City’s ageing side. Too many players such as David Silva, Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure don’t really close the ball down. If City can’t change pace, or direction, or keep the ball better their options are limited.
4. The success of City at set pieces, both attacking and defensive seems to be drifting. Once a great source of attacking goals, City have been relatively poor this season from set plays with only 5 goals this season so far compared to 21 goals last season.
5. With a certain set of players available, the playing style and tactics show a lack of flexibility under Pellegrini. While 4-4-2 and City’s existing squad is usually enough to beat most clubs in the Premier League there have been occasions where the opposition have arrived with a game plan to counter City and their plans are increasingly working. 4-4-2 looks notoriously archaic in Europe without the right players, and City increasingly don’t appear to have the right players.