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Messi-inspired Barca outclass lacklustre Man City
By Reuters - Mar 19,2015 - Last updated at Mar 19,2015
BARCELONA — Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona overwhelmed Manchester City as Ivan Rakitic’s strike secured a 1-0 win on Wednesday that sent the Spanish giants into the Champions League quarter-finals 3-1 on aggregate.
Only a magnificent performance by goalkeeper Joe Hart saved City from a heavy defeat and Sergio Aguero’s feeble late penalty miss proved insignificant for the outclassed English champions.
“I expected City as they played. It was a game with a lot of chances where we could have finished it off a lot earlier,” Barca coach Luis Enrique told reporters.
“We got what we wanted which was to go through to the next round and I am happy with the display. We played well and this is a big boost for us at this stage of the season.”
Messi has been in blistering form and he delighted the home fans in a packed Camp Nou by relentlessly teasing the City players with his party tricks.
Holding the advantage from the first leg, Barca could afford to sit back and hit the Premier League side on the break.
City struggled badly in defence against Barca’s pace and movement and the breakthrough came after 31 minutes when Messi found Rakitic who coolly lobbed the ball over Hart.
Barca hit the woodwork through Neymar and Luis Suarez, and keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved Sergio Aguero’s weak penalty in a victory that enabled the Spanish side to reach the quarter-finals for a record eighth successive year.
It was the second straight season that City have been knocked out by Barcelona at this stage and meant there will be no English representative in the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite competition.
City’s hopes depended on having a tight defence, but under-fire centre back Vincent Kompany gifted the hosts a golden chance after five minutes, when Dani Alves stole the ball and set up Neymar whose shot came back off the post.
Messi had a shot from a tight angle saved by Hart and the Barcelona forward line were on the receiving end of some wild challenges as City tried to keep them at bay.
Barca increased their stranglehold on the tie when Messi found Rakitic in space to score and Suarez ran through on goal but was denied by a post.
The hosts continued to create clearcut chances in the second half with Neymar missing an excellent opportunity with just the keeper to beat after 75 minutes.
Barca were guilty of sitting on their lead and could have been punished had City been more clinical.
Gerard Pique was adjudged to have fouled Aguero with 12 minutes to play but Ter Stegen saved the Argentine’s tame spot-kick and snuffed out City’s last hope of launching a comeback.
Pellegrini sees City progress
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini said his side are making progress despite being handed a masterclass by Barcelona for the second season in a row.
The City boss tried to remain upbeat after his expensively-assembled squad were left facing up to another European disappointment.
City’s owners have spent more than £300 million ($448.35 million) since the start of the 2011-12 season in an effort to compete with the continent’s elite, but they were torn apart in the Camp Nou.
While they could have snatched a draw had Sergio Aguero scored a late penalty after Ivan Rakitic’s first-half opener, it would have given a misleading impression of a game in which they were clearly second best.
“I wouldn’t say it was a failure but a disappointment,” Pellegrini told a news conference.
“We are improving. We have reached the last 16 for the last two years and we have been unfortunate to have faced Barcelona both times.
“If we had scored the penalty then it would have given a different story to the game but Barca were a better team than us.
“We now have nine games to play in the Premier League and we will try to be champions.”
The pressure is growing on Pellegrini with the team also stumbling in the Premier League, where they trail leaders Chelsea by six points, having lost two of their last three matches.
“About my position it is not the time to talk about it and we will discuss the situation of the team at the end of the season,” Pellegrini added.
“The thing is that if we had played against another team then maybe we would have gone through.”
Pellegrini admitted that they were overrun in defence but said that City had had to attack to overturn the first-leg defeat.
“We had to score two goals in order to go through and so we had to take risks,” said Pellegrini.
“Still we looked to keep players back in defence because we knew about the threat that Barca also have in attack.”
Barcelona dismissed any notion they are a declining force when they won 2-0 at Manchester City on Tuesday to virtually guarantee their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the seventh successive season.
Joe Hart is probably sick of the sight of Barcelona striker Luis Suarez and the Manchester City goalkeeper will need to improve his record against the Uruguayan if the English champions are to have any hope of reaching the Champions League quarter-finals.
The good news for Schalke 04’s defenders as they prepare to face Chelsea in their opening Champions League Group G match on Wednesday is that striker Diego Costa is nursing a slight hamstring injury.
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