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Suárez was the hero of a terrific win in Manchester / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

FC Barcelona have set things up perfectly for the second leg at the Camp Nou on March 18 by repeating last year’s feat of winning at the Etihad. The game ended 2-1, with Joe Hart giving Man City a glimmer of hope by saving a Leo Messi penalty in the final minute of injury time.

Suárez brace

Any doubts regarding FC Barcelona’s capabilities following a disappointing result at the weekend were soon dispelled by an absolutely staggering first half display from the Catalans. After a cautious first ten minutes, the Catalans started piling on the pressure and the sky-blues were powerless to find a response. Luis Suárez had already created a series of problems for the City defence before he latched onto the end of a Messi assist to thump a fine left-footer past Hart. 1-0 after 16 minutes!

From then on, the half was nothing more than a constant assault on the Man City goal. Hart had only just denied Suárez another chance on 25 minutes when a terrific team move on the half-hour saw Messi play a delightful ball out to Jordi Alba who put the ball exactly where strikers want it: Suárez was there to score his and Barça’s second of the night.

Zabaleta desperately cleared off the line to deny Neymar, Hart threw himself at the ball when Messi was through one-on-one, Alves sent a deft strike onto the crossbar… Barça had plenty more chances to further their impressive lead before an exhilarating first 45 minutes came to a close.

Man City react, Clichy off

To this point, it had been a miserable display from Man City, but after the break they were an altogether different team. Dzeko, Demichelis, Nasri and Agüero on a number of occasions came close as the home side battled hard to get back into contention. They were finally rewarded after 68 minutes when Agüero collected a backheel from Silva in the Barça area and converted past Ter Stegen.

An earlier booking already meant Clichy will be suspended for the second leg, and the night got worse for the Frenchman when he received his second caution of this game and was sent off after 73 minutes.

The red card knocked the wind of out of what had until then been an impressive second half reaction from the Premiership side. Barça regained control of the game and Messi could have scored in the 77th minute, but Hart turned a great chance behind for a corner. Just before the 90 minutes were up, the Argentinian did find the target, but was offside by a whisker.

Penalty woe

Deep into injury time, when it all looked to be over, a rather foolish tackle by Zabaleta on his international team-mate Messi led the referee to point straight at the spot. Messi himself stepped up to take it. 3-1 would have as good as sentenced the tie, but Joe Hart went the right way and Messi headed the rebound wide.

The penalty miss meant Barça left the field almost in frustration. But a 2-1 win at the Etihad, and playing such spectacular football, is nothing less than magnificent and the result leaves Barça with every right to feel confident about their chances of making it into the quarter finals.


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