Barcelona 2-1 Manchester City – “Another harsh lesson will only fuel the fire”
Getting knocked out of the Champions League for the third year running will surely be a big kick in the gut for both the players and the club. But losing important games happens to all the big teams, and those teams always come out stronger in the long run.
Despite most people saying that City were fighting a ‘lost cause’, the Blues looked far better than they did in the first leg at the Etihad. The main reason for this is because they were not afraid to attack the Catalans, and played them at their own game. In the first leg, City gave Barca far too much respect, and seemed to play in fear of their opponents. However, it was a different story last night, as the Blues were not afraid to attack and pressed much higher up the pitch – which was far more effective.
City’s defensive problems are still there for all to see, the Blues looked massively exposed down the left-hand side (where Lescott and Kolarov played), and the lack of pace and quality allowed players like Lionel Messi and Neymar to have a field day.
I’m sure that while Manuel Pellegrini was sat watching from the stands, he had plenty of time to reflect on his decision not to bring in a top-quality defender to partner with Kompany, as the Belgian was on another level to the rest of the defence last night. Kompany did not deserve to be on the losing team, and if some of his passion and belief had rubbed off on the rest of the team, and if he was partnered with another top-quality centre back, we might have witnessed a completely different game, and scoreline.
Another one of the main problems last night was that we were giving away far too many free-kicks. Sure some of them might have been a bit soft, and not worthy of yellow cards, but with City’s recent experience in the Champions League, they should be more aware of how little it takes to concede a free-kick, or a booking, compared to the Premier League. Although, on this occasion the referee was particularly bad – and I mean bad – I’d even go as far as saying the worst I have ever seen. His performance was poor for both teams, and on the night he denied 2 clear penalties (one for City, and one for Barcelona), an on-side goal by Neymar, and gave several fouls that weren’t fouls for both sides – far too many mistakes to be making at this kind of level.
The timing of Sergio Aguero’s injury could not have been much worse, as he was brought off at half-time after feeling a pain in his hamstring, meaning that he could miss a couple of crucial Premier League games as a result. I noticed that Sergio wasn’t quite himself very early in the game, as he was outpaced by his Argentinian teammate Lionel Messi and several other players in the first half, which is very unlike him, and had very few touches of the ball. Hopefully he can make his return to the team – when he’s fully fit – in time for United and Arsenal away in particular, as those are two of many tough must-win games.
Overall, I thought it was a tale of two legs, the first one saw City give Barca too much respect, the second leg we gave it a real go and came a lot closer to matching their quality. You have to remember that this is the first time that City have got past the group stages in the Champions League, and only their third time EVER in the competition – so I think we can cut them a bit of slack! We’ve already won a trophy this season, and the title race is still on – so all is not bad!
In the end it’s another lesson learnt, and another log added to the growing fire that is Manchester City Football Club, so come on you Blues!
– Daniel Cheeseman