It all changed with a penalty. Barcelona‘s Lionel Messi was sent in on goal. As he charged towards the penalty area, Martin Demichelis was soundly beaten by the center forward. He slides for the ball, but catches Messi’s feet instead. His slide earns himself a red card and Messi a penalty. As one Argentinian leaves the field, another steps up to the spot, hears the official’s whistle, and coolly slots the ball into the center of the net as Joe Hart dives to his left.
The game began as many expected it to as Barcelona controlled possession, probing a Manchester City back line that held surprisingly stout. Barcelona played their tiki-taka as passing triangles opened, leaving their opponents mesmerized at first. The Manchester side finally settled down around the 15-minute mark, and an ebb and flow of possession carried into the half.
It was not entirely cagey, but neither was it open. Most people with the option were probably switching their TVs to the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-fest.
The second half began with a renewed Barca vigor as they pressed City with much more success. In the 52nd, minute Messi was brought down at the edge of the penalty area by Demichelis. Moments later, it was 1-0 Barcelona. City could have taken the hint and sat back to hold the deficit at one going into the second leg in Spain, but they showed grit and pressed well.
They were nearly rewarded for it when David Silva received a lobbed pass from Pablo Zabaleta, took it on his chest and hit a low volley that was incredibly corralled by Victor Valdes.
After that, it was a the Dani Alves show. The Barcelona right-back tore up and down the wing, helping out in defense and attack with equal verve. Unsurprisingly, It was he who doubled Barca’s lead in the 90th minute after a one-two with Neymar sent him in on goal with only Hart to beat. Not one to miss the chance for Joga Bonita, Alves made Hart look foolish as he earned his side two away goals going into the second leg.
Manchester City still have a chance, albeit a slight one, at overcoming this 2-0 obstacle. Unfortunately for the Manchester club, they will have to do it on the road against a team that made them look completely average. The possibility of a fit Sergio Aguero could make all the difference. Can Manchester City turn it around? Is Barcelona too insurmountable of an obstacle? Will it go to penalties?