In depth: Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini claimed that he got his tactics right in the loss to Barcelona, but his players failed to follow instructions.
Two first-half goals by Luis Suarez gave Barcelona a 2-1 win at Manchester City as they moved within sight of the Champions League quarter-finals.
In a repeat of last season’s last-16 first leg at the Etihad, Barcelona were too slick for City who were sent reeling by a dizzying opening 45 minutes from the visitors. Suarez fired Barca in front in the 16th minute and doubled the lead after half an hour with the hosts powerless to stop the yellow tide surging towards their goal.
A vastly improved second half showing from City gave them hope for the second leg at the Nou Camp next month with Sergio Aguero halving the deficit 20 minutes from time. With City down to 10 men after Gael Clichy’s red card, Messi could have restored Barcelona’s two-goal lead but his penalty was saved by Hart before the Argentine headed the rebound wide.
Pellegrini was under fire for his decision to line up in a 4-4-2 formation with Sergio Aguero being partnered by Edin Dzeko, ceding the midfield to Barcelona and allowing the Catalan giants to enjoy the freedom of the park in the first half.
However, Pellegrini rejected that analysis.
“We couldn’t put three passes together in the first half. There was a bit of confusion and we committed a very soft error for the first goal. But we didn’t do until the second half what we wanted to do in the game. If we played in the first half in the way we did the second, I think we would have done better.
“We managed to be calmer in the second half, when we pressed well and did well to hang on. We almost got something from the game. I am very happy [with our tactics]. It was the way we must play against Barcelona and we demonstrated that in the second half. Barcelona will always dominate in some parts of the pitch, but we demonstrated it was the way we must play – from the first minute. If we don’t play, it is not easy for our team to win.