Barcelona beat City 1-0 to advance to CL quarters

Lionel Messi helped Barcelona to a convincing 1-0 win over Manchester City on Wednesday that only goalkeeper Joe Hart prevented from becoming a rout, as the Spanish hosts reached the Champions League quarter-finals for a record eighth consecutive season.


Faced with the daunting task of overturning a 2-1 first-leg loss, Manuel Pellegrini’s City needed an inspired showing from Hart just to avoid a thrashing as Messi and Neymar ran amok at Camp Nou.

A superb pass by Messi for Ivan Rakitic allowed the midfielder to score in the 31st-minute of a lopsided first half that saw Neymar and Luis Suarez hit the woodwork for the home side, while a rattled City racked up four bookings to one shot on goal.

City’s only chance of a lifeline came with a penalty in the 78th minute, but Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved Sergio Aguero’s spot-kick.

“It was a great game,” Messi said. “We are confident, important things are head for us. I’m enjoying this moment just like the rest of the team.”

City have now lost to Barcelona at this stage of the competition for two years in a row, and are still waiting to make their first appearance in the final eight of Europe’s top-tier tournament.

“I don’t feel it as a failure, I feel it as a disappointment,” Pellegrini said. “It’s frustrating, but Barcelona is the better team.”

The contest also highlighted the gulf that has opened up between Spanish and English club soccer at the highest level.

With Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid also through, Spain now has three teams in the quarter-finals for a third season in a row.

By contrast, after having a quarter-finalist each year from 1997 to 2012, England has none for the second time in three seasons.

City’s sloppy start almost cost them dearly.

Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola took his seat just in time to see his former team nearly open the scoring when Dani Alves recovered the ball from Vincent Kompany inside City’s area. His pass found Neymar, but the Brazilian’s shot hit one post and squirmed along the goalline before turning past the other upright.

While City showed early jitters, Barcelona displayed their usual flair and Messi drew the first of 10 saves made by Hart.

“We should have won by a greater margin,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “We had countless chances, something which is not normal in a game with this level of tension. We didn’t finish them off because we had a spectacular Hart in front of us.”

City quickly found themselves in the predicament that the only way they could slow down Messi — who dribbled through at least three City player’s legs before halftime — and Neymar was by bringing them down. That meant Fernandinho, Aleksandar Kolarov and David Silva were all booked for fouling the duo by the half-hour mark, and Samir Nasri would further hamstring his side by kicking Neymar after Rakitic put Barcelona in front.

“When Messi had the ball, there was complete chaos on the pitch,” Pellegrini said.

Barcelona’s goal was, fittingly, a choral affair.

Jordi Alba started a counterattack, Neymar used a smart move to lure in right back Bacary Sagna, and Messi drew the deserved attention of three defenders before lobbing a pass over the top to the unmarked Rakitic.

Rakitic used his chest to control Messi’s cross before lobbing the ball over Hart and into the far side of the net.