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Rakitic celebrates after scoring in the first half. / GERMÁN PARGA-FCB

FC Barcelona rode a solitary score from the foot of midfielder Ivan Rakitic to top Manchester City 1–0 on a crisp evening at Camp Nou, capping a 3–1 aggregate result and putting the Catalans through to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Barça goalkeeper Marc-André Ter Stegen made a diving stop on a late Kun Agüero penalty kick to preserve the victory.

Barça’s next opponent will be determined in the quarter-final draw, set for Friday in Nyon, Switzerland.

Messi in top form

Leo Messi, despite being kept off the score sheet, was at or near his best. The Argentinian put on a true show of his technical prowess, wowing the crowd by dribbling around, and through, defenders all night long, while coming very close to scoring on several occasions. His front-line cohorts, Neymar and Luis Suárez, also enjoyed multiple opportunities, but Citizen goalkeeper Joe Hart was spectacular between the posts and single-handedly kept the game from turning into a rout.

Unlikely scorer

Despite Barça's attacking firepower, it was Rakitic who broke the ice at the half-hour mark. Jordi Alba started the play by carrying the ball from deep in Barça territory out to midfield, where he found Messi lurking near the sideline.

The Argentinian crossed into City territory and glided towards the penalty area before lofting a long cross to Rakitic on the far side. Rakitic corralled the ball with his chest and effortlessly lifted it over a charging Hart and into the net.

Manchester City played at the limit of aggressivity throughout the encounter, drawing four first-half yellow cards and frequently tackling from behind while attempting to keep Barça from controlling the flow of the game.

Late chances

After the break, City began to settle in and were more at ease moving into Barça’s end. Knowing they had to score, the visitors became more vulnerable to counterattacks, which Barça’s forwards exploited without mercy. One of those instances came on 65 minutes when Neymar and Messi had a two-on-one that ended with Hart thwarting Messi at point-blank range.

As time was running out for City, their persistence seemed to pay off in the 77th when Barça defender Gerard Piqué was whistled for taking down Agüero in the penalty area. With a chance to tie the game from the spot, Agüero had his shot blocked by Ter Stegen, who pounced to his right and batted the ball away to safeguard Barça's lead and essentially seal their berth in the quarter-finals.

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