FULL TIME: Barcelona 2-1 Manchester City (agg 4-1)
And that’s that. City surround the referee for some additional moaning, but nothing’s going to change what’s happened here. Barcelona are going through to the quarters, deservedly so, though City gave a good account of themselves tonight. It wasn’t quite enough, but it’s all experience in the bank for next season. And at least for once nobody can trot out the usual refrain of Typical City.
90 min +2: That’s how QPR should have dealt with things.
GOAL!!! Barcelona 2-1 Manchester City (Alves 90+1)
Iniesta is released into the area down the right. He draws Hart, makes for the byline, then pulls back for Alves, who sidefoots strongly into the right-hand side of the net. It’s 4-1 on aggregate to the home side.
90 min +1: Problem is, there’s only two added minutes this time. Not only that ...
90 min: Then again, look how City won the Premier League!
GOAL!!! Barcelona 1-1 Manchester City (Kompany 89)
A corner for City down the right. Milner swings it to the far post. Negredo meets it, 10 yards out. He heads back across. Kompany sticks out a leg to guide home into the bottom right, the Barca back line having mistimed their 1986 Arsenal Offside Trap pastiche. Too little, too late.
87 min: The corner isn’t worth wasting a single word on, and yet look at this.
86 min: Out of absolutely nothing, Alves flicks the ball inside from the right for Messi, who slides a ball out left for Fabregas. The former Arsenal man shoots goalwards, but it’s straight at Hart, and turned out for a corner. He’ll be doing nothing else this evening, departing for Sergi Roberto.
84 min: City push Barca back. There’s even a bit of corner action. But nothing comes of it.
82 min: Alves reaches the byline down the right. He cuts back for Iniesta, who can’t get a decent shot away. City weren’t good in the first leg, but they’ve been staunch tonight, and don’t deserve to lose this tie by a four-goal margin.
81 min: I suppose the ref’s wrong decisions have balanced themselves out over the evening - there’s no way City can complain about the overall picture, and nothing’s affected the result - but what a business. “I think the mystery behind Pellegrini’s picking of Demicheles has been solved tonight,” suggests Ned Wall. “He’s not Joleon Lescott.”
78 min: CITY DOWN TO TEN MEN! City have benefitted from a few decisions tonight, but they’re on the receiving end here. And how. Dzeko runs in from the left, and is shaping to shoot just inside the area as his ankle is clipped by Pique. It should be a penalty, but it’s not given. City surround the referee, and Zabaleta is shown the red card for dissent, or perhaps laying the lightest of fingertips on the referee’s shirt. This referee is a total clown. Just about every decision he’s made tonight has irritated someone.
75 min: Before the free kick’s taken, Nasri is replaced by Jesus Navas. Xavi wangs a witless set piece into the City wall. Nobody’s perfect.
74 min: Now it’s Lescott who is lucky not to walk. Already booked, he stands in the way of a determined Alves. All the referee does is award a free kick in a dangerous position, 20 yards out, just to the right of the D.
73 min: Kompany is booked for shoving Neymar to the floor, like a playground bully, as the young Brazilian threatens to bust clear on goal. A picky referee could have sent the City captain off there, but everyone knows this is over.
72 min: ... Negredo replaces Silva. The corner is wasted.
71 min: Messi dances a while on the edge of the City D, before laying off to his right for Xavi. A low shot, towards the bottom right, is tipped round the post by Hart for a corner. Before which ...
70 min: Iniesta rolls the ball down the left for Alba, and finds Messi in the middle with a low cross. Lescott’s pressure is enough to force Messi to slide the ball out of play to the left of goal. City look broken. It’s no wonder; this is over.
GOAL!!! Barcelona 1-0 Manchester City (Messi 67)
Camp Nou’s not so tense now! A Fabregas ball rolled down the middle of the park. Lescott, on the edge of his own D, should clear, but allows the ball to clank off his shins. Messi’s suddenly clear in the area, and a simple dink over Hart puts this tie beyond City, who are now 3-0 down on aggregate.
66 min: A lot of possession for Barcelona at the moment. They’re not doing so much with it, though. There’s a fair bit of frustration in Camp Nou at the moment. Maybe it’s the sight of a Dundee United shirt, posted just after half time. The Tangerines have a 100% competitive record against them after all.
65 min: A free kick to Barca down the left. Xavi dinks it in, and for a second it looks like Pique is there to slap a header home from ten yards. But Kompany somehow steps in front of the Barca defender to clear.
63 min: Messi suddenly turns on the burners down the inside right. He’s drawn four City shirts, and a little dink forward, just to the right, will release Neymar. But Messi doesn’t fancy passing to Neymar, and wins a corner off Lescott instead. Neymar has a face on. A sheepish Messi chooses not to look in his direction. Nothing comes of the corner. Neymar’s still got a face on.
60 min: Messi advances on the City goal, and so nearly finds the bottom left corner with a daisycutter from the edge of the box. How is this still 0-0? I don’t fancy eating my hat, especially as the Guardian haven’t got back to me about the private health insurance* I’ll need for the job.
* including emergency dentist
58 min: Dzeko wins a towering header, cushioning the ball down for Nasri, who bangs witlessly over the bar from the edge of the box. All very English from the Bosnian and French stars. “Is it possible that Manuel Pellegrini thought that having City play in white would
inspire strike fear in the heart of Barcelona that they are playing Real Madrid?” wonders Bruce Cooper. “Manuel Pellegrini is crazy a genius.” They’ve been wearing it on the road in Europe all season, apparently. Mind you, your little plan worked wonders for white-shirted Liverpool in the Uefa Cup semi back in 2001. Gerard Houllier’s men, channelling Los Merengues in order to deliberately irritate their hosts, easily secured the 0-0 draw they were looking fo... ah hold on I spot a flaw.
56 min: Silva looks to break into the Barca box down the left. He goes over an Iniesta challenge, but was looking for it, and the referee’s not to be fooled. Barcelona are beginning to look a little nervous at the back, and despite the home side’s increased sharpness in attack, Camp Nou sounds a little anxious.
55 min: Dzeko causes all manner of bother on the edge of the Barca box. The ball breaks left to Kolarov, who fires a low cross into the box. It breaks off Mascherano’s ankle to Kolarov, who has time, eight yards out. He looks to guide the ball into the top left, with Valdez flat footer, chasing the initial cross. But the ball squirts wide left. A very decent chance, that, perhaps City’s best of the evening.
54 min: Yep, it’s all happening! Messi tears down the right, and fires a low ball into the middle. Hart is out to smother. Fabregas leaves his foot in, on the slide, and is booked.
53 min: And now City so nearly open the scoring! A looping cross into the Barca area from the left. Dzeko, 12 yards out, thumps a header towards the top left. Valdes arcs his back and tips out spectacularly for a corner, which is wasted. The heat’s been turned up on this game all right!
51 min: MESSI HITS THE POST! He skedaddles down the right, teasing Lescott in the grand manner, then slips past him on the left, enters the box, and threads a magnificent shot onto the base of the left-hand post, Hart beaten all ends up. Kompany hacks clear. What an escape for Barca!
47 min: Early chance for City! Milner breaks into the Barca box down the left, and has space, but dawdles. The ball falls to Silva, who can’t quite get it from under his feet. Eventually it breaks to Dzeko, who fires a low shot towards the bottom right, but there’s not much pace behind it, and Valdes drops on it with ease. That will give City a little hope, though.
And we’re off again! A major change for Manchester City: Aguero, who hardly touched the ball during that first half, is hooked for Edin Dzeko. Aguero is hamstrung, it seems. Barca get the ball rolling again. “I’m currently watching the world-famous Dundee United FC play St. Johnstone,” writes the world-famous Simon McMahon. “It’s 0-0 here too but let’s just say Barcelona-City it is not. At least both teams are wearing their first-choice kit.”
¡HALF-TIME ADVERTISEMENT! Starring the Kool-Aid kids, Señor Papa and Señora Mamá, and a bullfighter who gets his in the end.
HALF TIME: Barcelona 0-0 Manchester City (agg: 2-0)
And that’s that for the half. A slightly strange one: Barca have been on top, City have benefitted from some generous refereeing, and yet the away side could easily be a goal up, had Samir Nasri lashed home a marvellous chance towards the end of the half. This isn’t over.
44 min: Messi draws two white shirts towards him, running at pace down the middle towards the City box. Then he flicks through to Neymar, who attempts to round Hart on the left. He can’t do it. Hart remains in hot pursuit, the pair running around the left-hand side of City’s box in paisley patterns. Neymar finally shakes the keeper off, cutting back upfield then turning through 180 degrees, and whips a shot goalwards. But Kompany is by the near post, and heads clear.
43 min: Kolarov forces the ball down the City left, and it eventually squirts through to Milner. He’s clear in the area, albeit coming in from a tight angle. Milner loops a cross towards Aguero, but it’s overcooked, and the chance is gone.
41 min: Magnificent play by City here. Toure dinks a ball into the Barcelona area, down the inside left. Silva, coming across from the right, meets the ball with a volleyed backheel. It drops to Nasri, clear, 12 yards out. And he whistles the ball straight at Valdes. Either side, and that was in. It’d have been a picture-book goal, as well. Such a shame for City, though it at least proves that the Barca defence can be prised apart with some fancy play.
39 min: Kolarov slips under no pressure, allowing Neymar to scamper clear down the inside right. He makes it into the area, and looks to thread a shot into the bottom right. Hart tips round the post for a corner. From which a short corner is worked inside by Messi for Xavi, who slides in to wheech a shot goalwards from six yards. Hart stands firm to parry clear. That’s a brilliant 60 seconds from City’s number one, who has just kept his side in this tie.
36 min: City tiki-taka the ball left to right, across the front of the Barcelona area, Nasri to Toure to Silva. Silva is in acres of space, and cuts inside with time to line up a shot, just inside the area. He wangs a dreadful effort miles over the bar. I’m not sure he’d even earn three points in rugby, as that was sailing wide left from close range. Hopeless. City need two goals to level this tie, and they’ve yet to work Valdes. That was Silva’s second glorious opportunity to do so.
34 min: A little bit of possession for City in the middle of the park. They go nowhere, but not for the first time this evening, Aguero was hovering on the shoulder of the last Barcelona defender, begging for a pass. Toure and Milner haven’t found their range yet; if they do get one right, City might have a chance of making a game of this.
31 min: Neymar attempts to break clear down the inside right. Lescott comes across and cleans him out with an interception-cum-clatter that’s just about on the fair side of legal. Good tackle, though he’s taking some chance there, because a fraction off and he’d have been walking. “Lescott is making Pellegrini look not so misguided for playing Demichelis,” opines Gene Salorio. “Though very foolish for not signing a better defender when the transfer window was open.”
30 min: Zabaleta is the latest City player to be booked. He’d miss a quarter-final, too. This one’s for a highkick across Iniesta’s chest, thigh to nipple. The sort of challenge that looked worse than it actually was, but with the crowd giving it plenty, it was little wonder the referee pulled out the yellow.
28 min: Free kick to City, earned by Kolarov down the left. An outswinger’s sent by Silva towards Lescott, 12 yards out at the far post, but the big defender can’t get much power on his header, and he’s been pushing away needlessly anyway. Free kick to Barca, and mild panic for the home side over.
26 min: Messi looks to zip through the middle. He’s threatening to break into the City area but Toure comes back to slam the door shut, just in time. Hart takes the opportunity to come out and smother.
23 min: Kolarov is booked for a clumsy lunge on Neymar down the right. Whether that’s a booking or not is a moot point, but Barcelona’s players and fans put enough pressure on the ref there, forcing him to react. Not sure this referee is on top of his game tonight. Kolarov will miss the next match, should City make history here tonight. As will the aforementioned Fernandinho, by the way.
21 min: Zabaleta robs Iniesta in the centre circle with a crunching tackle, and City have men over down the right, but they fanny about and that is that. The move finally comes to an end when Kompany comes forward to illegally crunch Busquets. The crowd make noises in the ironic fashion, having finally received a decision.
19 min: The officials are doing a number on Barcelona here. First the penalty that never was. Now they’ve popped the ball in the net, Fabregas releasing Alba down the inside left, Xavi running in the low square pass. But Alba’s been flagged offside, incorrectly as it happens. City have had the rub of the green so far, and we’re not even counting the fact that Lescott should be in the book as well.
17 min: Kolarov whips a ball into the Barca box from the left. Milner, level with the left-hand post, 12 yards out, opens his foot with a view to guiding the ball into the bottom right, using the pace. But his angles are all wrong, and the shot flies well wide right. “What type of hat are we talking?” asks Hugh Collins. “Deerstalker? Hipster truckers cap? Miner’s helmet?” Marzipan bowler, I think, in the style of Lieutenant Commander Thomas Woodrooffe.
14 min: An awful lot of space for Milner down the left. He should be finding one of his team-mates in the box, but bangs the ball into Xavi’s coupon instead. That’ll be a corner, which is whipped dangerously through the Barca six-yard box. But there’s nobody in a
sky blue white shirt to convert, and the danger counts for naught.
12 min: Messi goes dancing down the inside-right channel, and into the area. Hart should deal with it, coming out to smother, but there’s holes in his fire blanket and the ball squirms through. Messi tries to prod home from an incredibly tight angle on the byline, but fortunately for City, Kompany is on the line to hack clear. A great run by Messi, who went past a very uncertain Lescott.
9 min: Though there are limits. Fernandinho is booked for a late slide on Busquets. Barca are beginning to put pressure on City, after a bright start by the visitors.
8 min: Lescott sticks a leg out as Messi looks to turn him down the inside-left channel. Messi goes over it. This is all happening in the penalty area, by the way, and should earn Barcelona a free attempt from 12 yards, but the referee appears to be in a generous mood this evening.
7 min: It’s a very open game, this. City have clearly decided not to die wondering, and are very much on the front foot, harrying their hosts in midfield and looking to pile forward at every opportunity. It’s a risky business, obviously, with Barca very dangerous on the break. If this ends 0-0, I’ll eat my hat (providing the Guardian are willing to sort out some comprehensive private health insurance).
5 min: Lescott steps in to intercept the ball in the centre circle as Busquets faffs around. He so nearly manages to guide the ball upfield to Aguero, but a Barca foot gets in the way of the sliderule pass. Barca storm upfield, Messi in a lot of space down the right. His low cross nearly finds Neymar, but Kompany gets in the way, just in time. Barca relieve the pressure by blootering the ball over the bar from long distance, Fabregas the architect of that little plan.
4 min: Lescott really should be booked for a crude bodycheck on Messi as the Barcelona genius looks to do his thing down the right. The referee decides to give the City man another chance. Lucky lad.
2 min: Milner goes on a powerful and determined run, tight on the left touchline. He whips a low ball inside for Silva, who has the ball at the left-hand corner of the Barca box. He drops a shoulder and nudges the ball inside. There’s space and time to shoot, but he inexplicably hesitates, opting instead to take another touch, then laying it further inside for Toure, whereupon the move peters out. It was hardly a surefire goal, but it was certainly a chance to test Valdes. What was Silva thinking?
Singity anthems, shakity hands, swappity pennants - and we’re off! City get the ball rolling, and hoof it down the right wing. Barcelona respond with an agricultural hack back upfield. Greatest competition in the world! The only way is up!
The teams are out! Barcelona are in their sophisticated blaugrana clobber ...
... while Manchester City should be draped in the famous old sky blue ...
... but are not. A ludicrous decision to wear their white away kit. Why? FOR GOODNESS SAKE. Of course since those lovely photos were taken, both teams have very much defiled their beautiful strips with sponsorship. “Thank you for posting the nice photo of the mercurial Etihad Airways midfielder tussling with the legendary Qatar Airways playmaker,” writes Peter Oh. “Based on your preamble, it’s impossible to predict the outcome of the match. It will likely be decided by the small details. The side with the better in-flight entertainment may edge the one with the superior beverage service. In any case, there is turbulence ahead. Fasten your seatbelts and stay in your seats.”
The men making tomorrow's newspaper stories today ...
Barcelona are at full strength, with both Lionel Messi and Neymar fastening their boots as we speak. Ulp! Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Fabregas, Neymar.
Subs: Pinto, Pedro, Alexis, Bartra, Song, Adriano, Sergi Roberto.
Manchester City leave Sergio Aguero up front on his own, and bolster the midfield with James Milner, presumably with a view to frustrating Barca for a while, then seeing how things pan out: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Silva, Fernandinho, Milner, Nasri, Toure, Aguero.
Subs: Pantilimon, Negredo, Dzeko, Javi Garcia, Jesus Navas, Clichy, Boyata.
Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France)
There’s something rather refreshing about the way Manchester City flat-out refuse to stop being Manchester City. For all the sport-warping levels of money, and all the recent triumphs, City still suffer from an endearing brittleness. Success and embarrassment battle for supremacy like two cats in a bag. Take what’s happened to City recently in the FA Cup: they win it for the first time in 42 years, then have the thing immediately wrested from their grasp by neighbours United, before suffering back-to-back humiliations against Wigan Athletic. Typical City.
On the other hand, when things go right, they do so in the most gloriously absurd manner possible. Their first league title since the 1960s was sealed after a preposterous injury-time scramble. Their first League Cup since the 1970s was won after a second-half final display as spectacular as their first-half performance was abject. And now they’re 2-0 down in the last 16 of the Champions League, facing Lionel Messi and Barcelona in Camp Nou, in the middle of a poor run of form, having lost three of their last seven games, and lumbered with the knowledge that only two teams have previously recovered from a home first-leg deficit to go through. And even then, Ajax (1995/96) and Internazionale (2010/11) were only 1-0 down. They’ve got no chance, you’d have thought. But this is Manchester City, isn’t it. Narrative convention’s not really their thing. At the end of this evening, could we be saying it yet again: typical City?
Barca have lost two of their last three, so that’s a start. Then again, they’ve won 18 of their last 19 at home. Set against that, City coach Manuel Pellegrini knows his way to the quarters, having guided Villarreal there twice, in 2006 and 2009, and Malaga to the same stage a couple of years ago. On the other hand, City have never made it that far. We’re going round in circles here. But one thing is true: when Manchester City are concerned, it’s not over ‘til it’s over, no matter how difficult the task ahead. It’s on!
Kick off: 7.45pm GMT, 8.45pm in Catalunya.