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Luis Suarez shines as Barcelona beat Manchester City

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It was sadly inevitably. Just minutes had passed after ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley had uttered that Luis Suarez had yet to find his feet in this Barcelona side when the former Liverpool forward tucked home his first goal of the night.

Not that much longer had passed before he made it two and helped Barcelona put one foot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 2-1 win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium this evening.

Goals

Aside from his goals the Uruguayan offered everything you'd come to expect from him; mad-dog perseverance laced with moments of quality. In fairness to Tyldesley there were some question marks hanging over Suarez's head. However, tonight may well be the night that he finally announced himself as a major player in this Barcelona team.

After all, they were legitimate questions too. His partners in crime, Lionel Messi and Neymar, have already scored 26 and 17 league goals respectively. Suarez meanwhile, has scored just four. 

Impact

It wasn't just his goals either that meant he outshone both Messi and Neymar tonight, although both highlighted different aspects of his game. For the first it was his trademark tenacity that ultimately paid off; Vincent Kompany half-cleared at first but could do little as Suarez pounced to open the scoring after just 16 minutes. It was his football intelligence that allowed him in for the second; while Manchester City's defensive unit stood still he spirited into the box and rolled home Jordi Alba's cross.

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Things were looking ominous for Manchester City; at that point Suarez had scored with five of his previous six shots against Joe Hart. If there's one thing the 28-year-old loves it's hitting back at his detractors, especially if they're English as he did in the World Cup, and he did just that tonight.

He worked hard off the ball too as Barcelona enjoyed a key win. He didn't lose possession once for his side and kept Manchester City pinned back by playing right on the shoulder and looking to pounce, although he was caught offside more than a few times. It is those qualities that are slowly shining through at the Nou Camp; this isn't the free scoring Suarez we saw at Liverpool last season but one who gives everything for the team cause.

Praise

As Spanish newspaper Sport noted before tonight's showdown: "He sets [positionally] the opposing central defenders, reads the movements of his team-mates and doesn't worry about having to do the hard work". They also admit, having given Suarez a rough time during the first few months of his career in Spain, that he is the 'perfect number nine' for Messi.

It certainly seems as though he's struck up a rapport with Messi, and with Neymar too. The trio are allowed the freedom to switch positions to confound their rivals and they did that expertly against Manchester City.

Positioned mainly down the middle, he drifted out to the right often throughout the night to free up space for Messi to drive through the middle. There were times when his movement left him in oceans of space and he was unlucky not to get a third when he was called offside from a Messi cross.

Influence

Having helped Barcelona get off to a lightning start his influence waned as City tried to put on the pressure in the second half, but his running was always a threat as the home side pushed forward. Ultimately it was a decisive win for the Catalan club which could have been even more so if it wasn't for Messi's inexplicable penalty miss in the last few seconds. 

Manchester City will now have to go to the Nou Camp in three weeks' time and score twice, while trying to stop the home side from scoring, something that hasn't happened in this season's campaign.

That they have such an advantage is thanks to Suarez. He may be doing Barcelona's dirty work to help them shine but he showed tonight that he's still got enough magic in his boots to shine on the grandest stage.

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Topics:
Manchester City
Football
UEFA Champions League
Luis Suarez
Barcelona

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