#Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 (Half-time 0-2)
After Barcelona's first-half showing at the Etihad last night in the Champions League, as they had established what looked like a tie-winning advantage already, the question was raised as to how do you stop them? Lee Dixon in commentary came up with an alternative suggestion of 'organising' a floodlight failure, but the simple truth was that Manchester City 'just' had to find a way to raise their game. That they did in the second period was laudable, reducing their arrears for the second leg at the Nou Camp to one goal, but you always got the feeling that the visitors had another level to raise themselves up to, should the need arise.
City can also be thankful for an astonishing miss by Lionel Messi right at the end of the match, which would have surely put the tie beyond them.
Barca had suffered an unexpected reversal at home at the weekend in La Liga, compared to City's thrashing of Newcastle United in the Premier League, but home fans weren't letting that statistic delude them into thinking that they were favourites for this tie. Indeed, after a bright first period, when Barcelona looked capable of scoring every time they attacked and utilised Luis Suarez to full effect, back on English turf yet again to terrorise the home side, they were maybe slightly relieved to only go into the break two down.
Suarez demonstrated yet again to English fans just what a threat he is in the box, helping himself to a brace of neat finishes. For the first he seized on a lucky bounce off Vincent Kompany to fire past Joe Hart, evoking memories of the World Cup when he scored similarly for Uruguay. The second followed a mesmerising cross field dribble by Messi that put Jordi Alba clear down the left, Suarez checking out and then diving back in to nick the ball past Hart from the cross..
Dani Alves almost made things worse before the break, running on and on before dinking a delicate chip that struck the top of the bar.
The home side clearly missed the suspended Yaya Toure at the heart of their midfield but improved after the interval, creating a couple of good chances that they should have got some reward for, as Edin Dzeko headed straight at keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. As it was their hope came in the 69th minute, when a neat back heel from David Silva was nudged past a defender by Sergio Aguero and he finished emphatically to halve the deficit.
Unfortunately for City, they had Gael Clichy sent off for his second yellow card shortly afterwards, handing the momentum straight back to the opposition. As Barca sought out a third goal to finish the match (and probably the tie) off, Messi took a tumble in the box under the attentions of Pablo Zabaleta in the dying seconds. The referee decided that there was sufficient contact for a penalty to be awarded and the home crowd feared the worst. Messi for once though could not beat Hart, but how he contrived to head the rebound wide as the goal gaped is surely one of those "what happened next" moments in sport..
The match finished shortly after City's reprieve, leaving them hoping rather than expecting to score the two goals as a minimum that they will need in the return leg. Somehow, one feels that it may be just too much to expect from the current English champions, but then again "it's a funny old game." #Football