Barcelona have opened up a 2-0 lead over Manchester City in their Champions League last 16 tie thanks to a clinical display at the Etihad tonight, with the hosts punished to the full by a desperate late lunge from Martin Demichelis early in the second half.
A spirited City side were more than a match for their illustrious La Liga opponents for much of an entertaining first-leg showdown, playing with verve and tempo thanks to powerful central pillars Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo.
City were well in the game heading into the second half, but their chances of forcing a positive result were dealt a heavy blow on 52 minutes, when Demichelis was issued with a straight red following a desperate late lunge on Lionel Messi.
Demichelis desperately attempted to stop Messi racing onto an Andres Iniesta through ball unopposed but brought the Argentine maestro down inches inside the penalty area in the process, giving the Swedish official little choice but to award a penalty kick and dismiss the veteran defender.
Messi quickly got up and calmly tucked home the opening goal from the penalty spot, with City feeling aggrieved that the referee's decision was not to give a free kick just outside the penalty area.
Barca opted to sit deeper and retain possession following that breakthrough, allowing City to stay a firm feature of the match moving forward despite that dismissal.
David Silva registered a late volley on target to give City fans encouragement of a last-gasp response, but Manuel Pellegrini's men were left stunned in stoppage time by a second Barca goal from Dani Alves.
The Brazilian showed tremendous energy in the closing stages to drive forward following smart work from substitute Neymar, racing through before slotting through Joe Hart's legs to deliver a hammer blow in the context of the tie from a tight angle.
City will cite a contentious penalty call but were ultimately dealt a harsh lesson by La Liga's leading lights, with the return of Sergio Aguero not enough to produce optimism ahead of a huge uphill task in the second leg at the Camp Nou next month.
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