Goals from Lionel Messi and Dani Alves gave Barcelona the upper hand in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium last night.
City, making their first appearance in Champions League knockout stages, had to bide their time as Barcelona dominated possession in the early stages with their mesmerising passing game but, frustratingly, could not produce an end product.
The first chance of the game fell to Alvaro Negredo, who rounded Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes and fired across the face of goal from an almost impossible angle.
City unsettled the Catalan side midway through the first half and drew a number of fouls; Alves shown a yellow card for persistently hacking Aleksandr Kolarov.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men had another chance to break the deadlock soon after; Valdes just managing to hang on to David Silva’s whipped cross with Vincent Kompany closing in.
Barca finally tested Joe Hart in the City goal just after the half-hour mark; midfielder Xavi’s long-range forcing the England international into a full-stretch save.
Nine minutes into the second half Barcelona took the lead; a Xavi through ball found Messi, who was brought down rashly in the box by Martin Demichelis.
The experienced defender was given a straight red card and Argentinian magician Messi – who had found it hard against the physicality of the Citizens’ defence – sent Hart the wrong way to open the scoring.
Brazilian Alves, who was lively throughout, went close to extending his side’s lead with 20 minutes to go, latching onto Alexis Sanchez’s pass and firing a shot inches wide.
Barca had a goal contentiously ruled out for offside late on; substitute Neymar finding Cesc Fabregas who squared for Gerard Pique before the referee intervened.
In the last minute of normal time, Alves finally got a reward for his persistence down the right wing; picking the ball up on the edge of the area before stroking the ball past Joe Hart.
The Blaugrana will take a 2-0 aggregate advantage into the second-leg at the Nou Camp on 12 March and will have their sights firmly set on making their first final since 2011 at Estádio da Luz on 24 May.
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