The scoreline was the least that Barca deserved. They controlled the game from the first whistle to the last, at times Manchester City were left chasing shadows. Messi and Xavi in particular were pulling the strings, ably assisted by Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas.
The nil nil half time score flattered Pelligrini’s side. They tried to attack on the break, but without Aguero they offered little. The breakthrough came on 54 minutes. Lionel Messi was bursting through towards the box when the hapless Dimichelis brought him down. I had warned Pellegrini not to play Dimichelis in midfield, as he had been, but he was equally poor in defence.
The referee had no choice but to send Dimichelis off, and Messi himself netted from the subsequent penalty.The game became even more one sided as the match wore on. Barca played short pass after short pass. It was like a lion toying with an antelope. The crucial second goal came in the final minute of normal time. Dani Alves, having a great game rampaging down the right flank, cut inside and slipped the ball through the wide open legs of Joe Hart.
The game was over and justice was done. But not according to Manuel Pellegrini. In a bizarre and disjointed rant after the match, he accused referee Jonas Eriksson of being partial. It’s the most heinous of football accusations in football, and he can expect to receive a justified ban for it.
In truth, the referee had a good match, it was Pellegrini and his charges who didn’t. Pelligrini said that the penalty incident was outside the area, and that Navas was fouled in the build up.
Jesus Navas dived horribly in the build up. The only mistake from Eriksson was not booking him after play had stopped. The tackle on Messi started outside of the area, but continued into the area. A penalty was a fair decision, and the sending off was incontestable to all but the City manager.
With a leg to go, the match is over. Some City fans were still clutching at straws, but the truth is staring them in the face. They can expect a torrid ninety minutes at Camp Nou.