NEWS

Manchester City in breakthrough night against Barcelona

November 2, 2016

Manchester City finally laid to rest their Champions League hoodoo against Barcelona at the Etihad Stadium last night (November 1st), defeating the Catalan giants 3-1.

It was the sixth time City had taken on Lionel Messi and co, but the first victory, and what may be a seminal moment for coach Pep Guardiola.

Having lost 4-0 in Spain last month, there was some trepidation that the Blues could face another torrid night against the attacking trio of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, and such fears appeared to be founded when Messi scored inside 20 minutes.

Barcelona then dominated and threatened to kill the game off, but failed to add to their lead and when Ilkay Gundogan pounced on a defensive error to equalise shortly before half-time, the pendulum swung.

Playing a high pressing game to disrupt Barcelona's rhythm, City pushed on in the second half, with a Kevin de Bruyne free kick and a second goal from Gundogan sealing the victory.

City didn't win the game by matching Barcelona pass-for pass; indeed, they only had 35 per cent of possession and used plenty of long balls. But Guardiola knew that was what he needed to do and victory over his old side will have been highly satisfactory both for him and the club's owners, who have waited patiently to recruit the man who invented tiki-taka football in their bid to take the club to the very top.

Speaking after the game, Guardiola said: "It is a good step to say that once in our lives we played against the best team in the world and we beat them.

"We competed with Barcelona, but for now we did it in a different way. We played more long balls because we are still not ready to keep the ball and play like they do.

"They have been playing that way for 25 years. For us, it is three or four months that we have been trying to play in a different style."

Fans excited by the result can still book corporate hospitality for City's future home games at the Etihad, to see how the Guardiola revolution progresses.

With Borussia Moenchengladbach only drawing their match at home to Celtic, City will go to Germany needing just a point to qualify for the knock-out stage. Even if they lose that game, victory at home to Celtic in the final match of the group phase next month will see them through.

The identity of the last 16 is starting to shape up, with Guardiola's former side Bayern Munich, last year's finalists Atletico Madrid, Arsenal and Paris St-Germain all through. Tonight (November 2nd) could see Juventus, Sevilla, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Leicester City all clinching their places in the next round.

City cannot be drawn against a fellow English side or against another team from the same qualifying group, all of which means the chances of a meeting with Bayern Munich - who City have faced three times in the Champions League in the past, including twice when Guardiola coached the German side - remains very much alive.

By Keith Prowse

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