Right, that’s it from me. Thanks for your company and emails. Stick around on site for all the reports and the reaction. But from me cheerio!
Here’s Roy Keane on Kompany’s komments: “He’s obviously a bit tired after the game. I’m not sure he knows what he’s talking about.”
Here’s Vincent Kompany: “Maybe we had a bit too much respect for them. They were there for the taking.”
City’s big players played well: Kompany, Fernandinho, Silva and Toure were all excellent. Their weak spots were exposed – Demichelis and, for the second goal, Lescott and Clichy.
Peep! Peep!! PEEEEEP!!! It’s all over at the Etihad. And, after that second goal, quite possibly the tie.
90+3 min: Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass, pass, pass. Passpass. Passpasspass. Passpasspasspasspasspasspass … passpasspasspasspasspasspass … passpasspasspasspasspasspass
90+1 min: That might well be that. But still Barcelona push forward – Messi shovels a shot at goal. Hart drops on it gratefully.
GOAL! Manchester City 0-2 Barcelona (Alves 90)
Barcelona nick one out of nothing! There seemed little danger, but finally they wnet through the gears on the right. Alves and Neymar one-twoed their way past Lescott and Clichy, with the latter losing the full-back, who went through and calmly tucked the ball beneath Hart from close range.
89 min: Kompany makes an important headed clearance as Alves whips in another low cross.
88 min: Still, Barcelona haven’t fully cleared since that corner. Toure chases down the loose ball and the ball is slung back in the box. Finally, the visitors do manage to clear.
87 min: Silva (who has been just brilliant, quite possibly man of the match) jinks space on the right and fizzes a cross just over Dzeko’s head. City corner … which, presumably because I’ve just anointed him MOM, Silva shanks horribly.
85 min: Sergi Roberto replaces Fabregas. “Barca are still far far too good for most mortals, but they are now more streetwise than otherworldly,” writes Paul Griffin. “It’s like watching Muhammad Ali after the first Frasier fight, Eddy Merckx after the 1974 Tour, or Eric Bristow after the 1987 Swedish Open when he got a v. bad bout of dartitis and couldn’t release the arrows.”
84 min: Silva sand-wedges a pass in to Dzeko – a simply stunning ball, a chip of which Seve Ballesteros would’ve been proud – but the big striker just nudged the defender in the back in order to break through. Foul given.
82 min: That offside Pique goal was, briefly, a glimpse of the vintage Barcelona – slick as an oiled eel and about as hard to defend against.
81 min: … GOA … no offside. A gorgeous pass from Xavi puts Fabregas clean through. He squares to Pique who taps home. But the flag is up, and the former Arsenal man is adjudged offside from the original pass. It was very, very close.
80 min: Lescott lumps a backpass from close to the halfway line in the vague direction of Hart … who can’t keep it in. Barcelona corner …
79 min: Toure pulls a pass straight into the path on Xavi in the City half, but, like a typewriter with no shift key, he can’t capitalise.
76 min: Fine save! And it’s Victor Valdes who has made it! The effervescent Silva chests down on the edge of the box and sweetly strikes an angled-volley across goal. The Barça keeper drops to his right to make a very smart stop.
75 min: Mascherano goes hammering in on Fernandinho and becomes the latest player to go into the referee’s Big Book Of Very Bad Men.
73 min: A brief lull.
72 min: Neymar replaces Alexis Sanchez. Meantime, in the rose-tinted-but-also-tempting-fate department …
71 min: Busquets brings down Silva with the sort of blatant bodycheck usually seen inside a WWE wrestling ring. Somehow he escapes a booking.
70 min: Clichy gets clear on the overlap down the City left and cuts inside. He’s spoiled for choice. Options, options, options. But in the end a bobble means he dinks a cross straight into Valdes’s breadbasket.
69 min: “Joe Hart tried to get all up in Messi’s grill before the pen suggesting he hasn’t learned from his Pirlo humiliation,” writes Niall Mullen. “He’s basically this guy isn’t he?”
68 min: Alves and Sanchez combine beautifully down the right, with the full-back charging in behind the City defence. He opts in the end to poke a shot at goal and it zips a foot or so wide. City are wobbling here.
66 min: Alves squares to Xavi. Xavi miscues over the bar from 15 yards. That could, possibly should, have been 2-0.
65 min: Replays suggest that Demichelis tackle might have been just – just – outside the box. Looked every inch a penalty to the naked eye, mind you, and to be honest it’s so close it’s barely an issue. And it would’ve been a red card regardless.
64 min: “In this ever-changing world in which we live in,” begins Cort McMurray, “I am personally grateful to Martin Demichelis for reminding me that no amount of Abu Dhabi money and all the sparkly things it pays for can alter what it means to be a Manchester City supporter: Giddy optimism must always be followed by the faint taste of sick at the back of your mouth.”
62 min: Huge chance for Nasri! Silva works his magic to give the Frenchman a sight of goal on the edge of the box. He opts to find Negredo, who is crowded out, but the ball drops back to Nasri once more. He’s got a couple of yards of space, but a Barcelona body gets out to block the shot.
61 min: … whipped in by Xavi. Punched clear by Hart.
60 min: … taken short, worked back to Mascherano, and eventually Pique is charging down the left channel. Zabaleta Demichelises into a challenge and brings him down. Dangerous free-kick on the left edge of the box.
59 min: Passpasspasspasspassdinkcorner …
57 min: A crucial moment for Pellegrini this. He has to get these changes right. Kolarov is replaced by Lescott. Navas is replaced by Nasri.
55 min: Demichelis really should have just let Messi run there, but in the heat of the moment it must be so hard to resist the last-gasp last-ditch slide. What it means, though, is that Barcelona have the scent of blood in their nostrils and are going in for the kill.
GOAL! Manchester City 0-1 Barcelona (Messi 54pen)
Tucked home confidently by Messi, who sends Hart sprawling and punts it down the middle.
RED CARD! Demichelis goes!
53 min: Messi bursts through. Demichelis, labouring after him like a cow chasing a rabbit, slides in desperately (and idiotically really – he was never going to get there) and brings him down. Red card. Penalty …
52 min: A familiar pattern emerges: City string four across the edge of the box and send their five attack dogs hunting. Barcelona pass th ball about in front of them, but falter as soon as they look to go through the gears.
50 min: Fabregas is through on goal if – and it turns out to be a big if – he can get more than his big toe on Messi’s dinked pass. He can’t. The chance evaporates.
49 min: Negredo does brilliantly to win a header on the touchline, but Kolarov can’t take advantage. Then Sanchez gives the ball away sloppily. Then Yaya Toure follows suit. A scrappy start to this second period.
47 min: City start on the front foot. But the momentum comes to a shuddering halt as Kolarov and Alves clash heads and hit the deck. Replays show it was more shoulder-shoulder than noggin-noggin and they’re both back up pretty quickly.
46 min: “Your halftime analysis diagram was fascinating,’ writes John Willoug. “I presume the sort of blurred blob that just sulked just behind the centre circle without moving much was Demichelis?”
Peep! Right, enough of that. Off we go again.
The teams are back out for the second half. Our earlier reminiscence over the Likely Lads has brought this belting North America-based suggestion from William Marzouk: “I remember these days fondly. Flying cars and condominiums on Mars were right around the corner …”
Today, as is the style of the time, featuring colourful blobs that may or not have any significance:
Peep! Peeeep! The half-time whistle bloweth. And what a breathless half it was. Honours even, and a scoreline that neither side will mind too much.
45 min: A chance for Negredo! And quite a decent one too. Navas whips in an inviting cross and the Spanish striker, who is dominating the Barcelona centre backs in the air, again gets in front of his marker but again can only guide his header wide.
44 min: More goals in the other game, so here’s that link to Rob Smyth’s MBM. And here’s the next installment of that Likely Lads episode:
43 min: Barcelona break with a bit of speed for once. Messi finds Alves at the corner of the box, but from his cross the attackers are flagged offside.
41 min: It’s all got a little fractious. Steel has replaced silk. And not the sort of steel you’d use to dice vegetables. Rusty, spiky steel that you’d think about ringing the council about if you saw it in a hedge. Tackles are flying in. Jaws are clenched. Every refereeing decision brings howls from the terraces. It’s feisty.
40 min: “Gabriel Piller is right, but it’s not just Demechelis,” begins comedy’s Matt Dony. “City have had a number of centre backs who fall short of the highest level, present Kompany excluded. Boom.”
39 min: It’s all go. Kolarov is the latest to go into the book for a nasty challenge on Busquets.
38 min: Negredo looks for a penalty, with Mascherano draping an arm over his neck in the box like a barfly telling a stranger he’s his “beshtestht, beshtest mate you are. You’re faaamly.” No dice.
37 min: A quick free-kick briefly catches Barça out, but while Negredo comfortably climbs above Mascherano, he can only guide his header wide from around the penalty spot.
36 min: “I firmly believe that much of the criticism levelled at Martin Demichelis would disappear if he would only get a haircut,” writes Cort McMurray. “Not since David Seaman’s egregious ponytail and moustache have City supporters had to cheer for such an unfortunate tonsorial display. It clouds the judgment, that mop.”
34 min: … pinged into the wall by Messi.
33 min: Messi goes down under a challenge from Kompany, who in turn drops to his knees and screams with rage. Think that moment when Andy Dufresne gets out of the sewage pipe in The Shawshank Redemption. Only with rage replacing the joy. Dangerous free-kick this …
32 min: This is something of a rarity – Xavi simply decides to “have a pop” from 30-odd yards out. It draws a decent save from Hart, high to his right, although one he’d make 999 out of 1000.
31 min: Alarm bells ring throughout the Etihad as Xavi and Messi combine on the edge of the box, but the latter’s shot is high, wide and not particularly handsome.
30 min: Barcelona back on top for the moment. Iniesta cocks his foot as he shuffles across the box, but Toure does brilliantly to track his run and nick the ball away.
29 min: You could argue that the sides have had 50% of the game each, and while City’s time on top has been far more ragged and frenetic, they’ve also looked more likely to make the breakthrough.
28 min: Negredo goes into the book after clonking into Pique rather pointlessly.
27 min: City are by far the better side now. Barça are sloppy as they try to play out. The ball finds its way to Negredo on the edge of the box, but his first-time effort is straight at the keeper.
25 min: Cripes! What a scramble this is. Silva whips in a free-kick from the left – Valdes Supermans his way out and gets no sort of connection. Then the box turns into a sort of pogoing mosh pit, bodies bouncing up, heads furiously nodding. There was a half-chance for Kompany in there, but somehow Valdes crowd-surfs his way back to redeem himself and grab the thing.
24 min: Alves hacks into Clichy and picks up the night’s first booking.
23 min: “It’s crazy to think that Demichelis is part of a “Best XI” for a Champions League game,” writes Gabriel Piller. “City would do well to sort out that situation over the summer. He’s not a terrible CB, but for a team with such lofty aspirations shouldn’t have a starting CB who looks so muddled so often.” He’s had a couple of hairy moments thus far (open goal there for you folks) but for the past eight minutes or so he hasn’t had all that much to do.
22 min: Barcelona are just beginning to look a little rattled. City are pressing a little higher and forcing the visitors to go longer than they wish. And the crowd are reacting to it.
20 min: That wasn’t even really a half chance for Negredo. If you wanted it in fractional form I’d go with two-ninths.
19 min: So close for City! Silva twinkles his toes 40 yards from goal and pops a pass through to Negredo. He holds off Pique and squeezes round Valdes, but he’s a yard from the touchline by the time he can get a shot away and the angle means it drifts tantalisingly, agonisingly, but, ultimately, uselessly across the face of goal.
17 min: Navas zips a cross into the box after a typically explosive burst from Yaya Toure. Silva meets the ball, but his shot ricochets up into the Manchester sky and as Valdes flaps over the top of Negredo, the Spanish striker is adjudged to have backed into the keeper. Not much, but comfortably City’s best spell of the game.
15 min: “I’m reading your updates from the west coast of Canada-and the theme tune of the Likely Lads has reduced to me to tears...” writes Dominic Flanagan. Don’t. You’ll set me off …
14 min: Barcelona aren’t so much camped in the City half as putting the charcoal onto a barbecue outside their 500 square foot yurt. In the City half. That said, City break with a long ball up to Negredo, who again due to lack of support can’t do all that much with it.
12 min: Not entirely sure what this is going to show at the moment, other than a man in a Barcelona shirt with the ball at his feet, but here’s a gallery of tonight’s match thus far. Stick with it, though – it’ll be updated live throughout the evening.
11 min: Barcelona’s “attacks” (it seems a slightly too aggressive word for how they play sometimes) are currently breaking down on the edge of the City box. City’s attacks are breaking down about 20 yards outside their own box.
10 min: … eventually Sanchez spanks a cross against Clichy’s shins. But almost instantly Barcelona have the ball back once more.
9 min: Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass, pass, pass. Passpass. Passpasspass. Passpasspasspasspasspasspass …
8 min: Fabregas gets a couple of yards of space 25 yards from goal. Dangerous, but Kompany is quickly out to nick the ball away from Messi after the pass.
6 min: There has been a goal in tonight’s other game. I won’t spoil the score for anyone who is attempting a Likely Lads-style effort tonight, but you can click here for Rob Smyth’s updates.
5 min: Fabregas sweeps a long diagonal ball in the direction of Sanchez, who controls but gets his pocket pinched by Demichelis. Who in turn whelps the thing out of play in an unnecessary panic.
4 min: … a towering header from, I think, Negredo gets City away on the break. Zabaleta’s low cross from the right, though, can’t find a blue shirt.
3 min: City have barely had a kick yet. Barça play keep-ball until Fernandino muscles himself into possession. Negredo can’t hold on to it, though and the visitors break. And Messi wins a corner …
2 min: It does look like a 4-4-1-1 for City, with Silva tucked in behind Negredo and working back into the midfield.
1 min: Mascherano to Pique. Pique to Mascherano. Mascherano into midfield where his pass his met by a snapping City challenge.
PEEP! Off we go then. City, kicking from left to right (or right to left if you’re on the other side of the ground), get things under way.
Click-clack, click-clack …
… the teams emerge from the tunnel, which means it’s time for the Champions League anthem. Here are the lyrics. Feel free to sing along:
Ce sont les meilleures équipes
Sie sind die allerbesten Mannschaften
The main event
Les Grandes Équipes
Une grande réunion
Eine grosse sportliche Veranstaltung
The main event
Ils sont les meilleurs
Sie sind die Besten
These are the champion
Les Grandes Équipes
Or the English version:
These are the best teams
They are the best teams
The main event
The biggest teams
A big gathering
A big sports event
The main event
They are the best
They are the best
These are the champions
The biggest teams
Lionel Messi has apparently been roundly applauded off the field following his warm-up. Which is nice, if a little unusual. The last opposition player I remember being applauded in a Champions League tie in Manchester was old Ronaldo, and he had to score a hat-trick first …
Finally Emmerdale is over
I’m no basher of TV soaps (though the current Tina and Peter Barlow storyline in Coronation Street is ridiculous) but the presence of Emmerdale means it’s always a tough half-hour wait for ITV’s Champions League coverage to start. Readers not in the UK may not be aware of the Yorkshire Dales-based soap. Suffice to say, it’s this sort of thing:
It's a game of opinions
On the one hand: “If i was a City fan I would be worried,” begins William Letief. “Navas and Kolarov are players who like to hug the line and city will be stretched, while history has proven that the best way to defend against Barcelona is by sitting deep and compact and open the wings for them to send crosses in.”
But on the other: “The Clichy-Kolarov axis sounds like a smart move by Pellegrini,” writes Daniel Field. “Clichy played well against Chelsea on Saturday while Kolarov is one of the best crossers of the ball in the PL and his link-up play with Silva has beeb excellent all season.”
Here’s Barcelona’s in-house estimate of their formation this evening:
This was an interesting pre-match quote from Manuel Pellegrini:
“I’ve never seen Messi play badly. He’s either excellent or great. We hope to face the worse Messi, the great one.”
Which indicates that the Manchester City manager sees “excellent” as a higher praise than “great”. Anyway, it just reminded me of an old PC football manager game in which players were classed as either: Useless, Bad, Low, Poor, Fair, Average, Good, Superb, Supremo, Ace or TOP (with capitals). But that’s pretty much all I can recall. Does anyone out there remember it?
The science bit …
“I’m disappointed in you John,” begins Paul Ewart. “Things have moved on a bit since your day. You’ve failed to posit the post-Lee Carsley Effect (Tom Cleverley), the hybrid Lee Carsley Effect or the lesser spotted Peformative Lee Carsley Effect. But I guess that’s just typical of The Guardian’s heteronormative ideological position. Whereas Barcelona have their own private ideologue, one who moves with the time, is aware that identity isn’t static …”
An interesting team selection from Pellegrini then
The return of Fernandinho is obviously a huge plus and adds solidity to the side, as does the Clichy-Kolarov axis on the left. But you wonder what that means for the pre-match insistence from the City camp that they would look to attack the visitors. Samir Nasri would’ve been the more aggressive choice, with Silva perhaps moving to the left, although attacking intent is, of course, down to mindset as much as personnel.
The teams are in:
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Toure, Fernandinho; Navas, Silva, Kolarov; Negredo. Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Richards, Garcia, Nasri, Jovetic, Dzeko
Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Sanchez, Messi, Fábregas. Subs: Pinto, Bartra, Adriano, Song, Sergi Roberto, Pedro, Neymar.
So Pellegrini has looked to lock down his team’s left-hand side with Gael Clichy coming in at left-back and Kolarov shunted forward to protect him. Both Neymar and Pedro are on the bench, with Sanchez and, presumably, Cesc Fabregas as the closest support to Leo Messi.
One of the least studied phenomena in modern football is what I like to term the Lee Carsley Effect™. Those of a certain vintage will remember that there was a period in the mid noughties when the Everton midfielder was so universally and overwhelmingly thought of as under-rated that he, eventually, became somewhat over-rated.
And I wonder if in the build up we haven’t seen something similar, though inverted, occurring with Barcelona. The general consensus – led, admittedly, by that Barcelona superfan Jose Mourinho – is that this Barça team are no great shakes, that they’re on the slide, that City could and should get the better of them over two legs. But has it gone too far? Is the Lee Carsley Effect™ in motion? Has the clamour to label Barcelona as over-rated now in fact led them to being under-rated? And, because we’re all aware these days of the Lee Carsley Effect™, do we now have to worry about the Lee Carsley Effect™ of the Lee Carsley Effect™: by suspecting, because of the scientific principles of the Lee Carsley Effect™, that Barcelona are being under-rated do we then in turn start to over-rate them? And what about the Lee Carsley Effect™ of the Lee Carsley Effect™ of the Lee Carsley Effect™? And the infinity beyond that? Do we just disappear into a singularity? Perhaps we’ll leave that one to the experimental Lee Carsleyologists.
What we can say is that a defeat to Valencia and a draw with Real Sociedad this month doesn’t exactly suggest a Barcelona team playing the same footballing super-predator role in the food chain as they did between 2008 and 2011. They were, though, in sparkling form against Rayo Vallecano at the weekend and they sit atop one of the most competitive Primera Divisions in years. This may be, in Mourinho’s words, “the worst Barcelona team in years” but that doesn’t mean they’re not a sensationally good side.
For City, a January that suggested they were going to steamroller everything in their path has given way to a February of uncertainty. Two contrasting ties with Chelsea – one won, one lost – have sandwiched a flat 0-0 draw at Norwich. And they have to hope that a successful group stage has finally laid to rest the ghosts of European campaigns past, although there is something familiarly typical – a modern strain of what Joe Royle used to call Cityitis – about the fact that while only three teams had better records than Manuel Pellegrini’s side in the group stages, one of them was in their group.
John will be here shortly.