Messi treble downs lukless City
City and Barcelona both ended with ten men but it was the hosts who emerged victorious thanks to a Lionel Messi hat-trick and a late Neymar goal. The night had started to so well, with the Blues confident and looking to upset the La Liga side, but a series of unfortunate events gradually saw Pep Guardiola's game-plan unravel as the host eventually cruised home 4-0. Here's how the match played out... What happened? City started with a high press, closing down the Barcelona defence and Marc-Andre ter Stegen in particular who looked edgy in possession. In fact, it was at worst even-Stevens in the opening 15 minutes or so with the hosts rarely threatening the Blues’ defence, but on 17 minutes the one player on the pitch who doesn’t need a gift got exactly that. Aleks Kolarov had won a challenge on the left flank but Barca won back the loose ball which found its way to Iniesta whose cut-back was about to be comfortably cleared by Fernandinho – but at the crucial moment he slipped and the lurking Lionel Messi nipped in to round Claudio Bravo and roll the ball home. It was cruel and underserved, but it was a goal and City were behind. It affected the Blues, too, at least for the next 15 minutes as Luis Suarez and Neymar went close to increasing the Catalans’ lead, but gradually, the Blues worked their way back into the game and on 38 minutes, Ilkay Gundogan jinked his way into the box and he saw a fierce shot beaten out by ter Stegen. Then, with City on top, David Silva’s whipped free-kick found the head of John Stones in the box but the England defender directed his effort a yard wide when he perhaps should have scored. There was still time for Messi and Suarez to almost double the lead in first-half stoppage side but a Bravo double save kept the deficit at the break down to just one goal. Barca had lost both Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique to injury in the first period, giving Barcelona defence an unfamiliar look – could the Blues take advantage? City again started brightly after the break, but within eight minutes the complexion of the game changed completely as Bravo, well outside his area, gave possession away to Suarez who attempted to lob the Chilean who instinctively put his arms up to stop the shot and was shown a red card and the Blues’ task became twice as hard. Sure enough, following lengthy treatment to the injured Pablo Zabaleta, Messi punished City within four minutes of the re-start with a low curling shot from 18 yards that gave sub Willy Caballero. And though De Bruyne came close to reducing arrears, the Blues were again masters of their own downfall as a wayward Stones pass let in Suarez who played a short cross to Messi who couldn’t miss from six yards. Game, set and match – well, almost. The Blues battled on with Sterling, Kolarov and Stones all going close and Mathieu was booked twice in quick succession to reduce the hosts to ten men - but Messi exploded to life in the dying moments, drawing a desperate challenge from Kolarov and the referee correctly awarded a penalty but Caballero was more than a match for Neymar’s spot-kick – though the Brazilian had final say, skipping round Stones before curling home the fourth in the final minute. Key moment With City more than a match in the opening stages, the unfortunate slip by Fernandinho that led to Messi’s opening goal was the turning point of the game. Had the Blues got to the break without conceding who knows what might have happened? Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling The City winger caused a number of problems down either flank throughout the 90 minutes, working tirelessly for the team for little reward.
FC BARCELONA (4): Ter Stegen; Mascherano, Piqué (Mathieu, min.39), Umtiti, Alba (Digne, min.10); Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta (André Gomes, min.80); Messi, Suárez y Neymar.
MANCHESTER CITY (0): Bravo; Zabaleta (Caballero, min.58), Otamendi, Stones, Kolarov; Sterling, Gundogan (Agüero, min.79), Fernandinho, Nolito (Clichy, min.58); De Bruyne y Silva.
Goals: 1-0. Min.17, Messi. 2-0. Min.61, Messi. 3-0. Min.69, Messi. 4-0. Min.89, Neymar.
Referee: Milorad Mazic (SER). Bookings Silva (min.29), Fernandinho (min.40), Sterling (min.90+2). Red: Bravo (53), Mathieu (71)