Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Tuesday's UEFA Champions League Last 16 Match-Reviews:

The long-awaited Champions League is back in action, with the knockout rounds underway
Hello again everyone and welcome to my latest blog post, where I have analysis and a review of the two matches being played in the first leg of their respective UEFA Champions League ties on Tuesday night. Two English sides (Manchester City and Arsenal) are in action on the first week back in the UCL since the group stages ended in late November and the draw was made for the Last 16. 

Here is a picture of all the ties to remind yourself;

Interesting: These are the 8 different Champions League ties taking place over the next few weeks.
Tuesday's matches:

Manchester City 0 Barcelona 2
This match was played at The Ethiad Stadium, as City hosted "the Barca boys" in the first leg of their Last 16 Champions League tie in England. Both were coming into this match on a high, with City beating Chelsea 2-0 on the weekend while their opponents thrashed Vallodolid 6-0 in torrential rain to go top of Liga BBVA - both teams were eager to get off to a good start in an interesting Champions League tie.

FACT: 228 goals have been scored between the two teams this season already, before this match.

FACT: Manchester City started the match with three Spaniards on the pitch, compared to Barca's seven. 

The big team news going into the match was that City's Argentine talisman and striker Sergio Aguero was ruled out and not match-fit to play against Barca, while Brazillian defensive-midfielder Fernandinho returned to boss the midfield alongside team-mate Yaya Toure while Demichelis and Kolarov both started in a slightly weaker looking City side. 

The first mistake made by the hosts was inviting Barca pressure: the Spanish giants dominated possession of the ball from kick-off and had over 100 more passes than City in the first 10 minutes of play, to try and tire out their counterparts so that there would be space to shoot and eventually score. 

City had a half-chance in the 17th minute after a great through ball by Spanish playmaker David Silva who fed Negredo through in behind Pique and Mascherano towards goal and ran past the outstretched Valdes towards the touchline - having a chipped effort at an acute angle cleared near the goal-line which made Barcelona aware of how quickly their hosts could counter and create chances out of nothing, especially with Silva (a well-regarded figure in the Spanish International side) in the midfield. 

Close: Negredo narrowly missed a chipped effort, cleared away near goal by Mascherano.
Negredo then had a first-time snapshot from 20 yards out which was saved comfortably by Valdes in the 26th minute - testing the goalkeeper from distance was the only feasible option for the hosts as they struggled to really break down Barca's defence for large periods of the match apart from counter attacks. 

Barca's Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez was denied a penalty after his attempted cross hit Clichy's hand on the way towards a team-mate, with City arguably lucky to go into half-time with the scoreline still goal-less. Negredo, Kolarov and Alves were given yellow cards before the half-time whistle, as tempers flared from both sets of supporters in anger at mis-judged decisions from the referee. 

Xavi had a stinging long-range effort from 20 yards out which was parried away by Joe Hart towards the end of the first-half in which Barca had flashes of creative genius but were so far unable to take their chances or test Joe Hart to the full capacity of his capabilities, while City looked dangerous on the counter making their visitors slightly worried when they had possession of the balll, which was not often. 

Both teams were desperate not to concede, and you could tell in the way they were playing: tentatively. Not wanting to make long passes in fear that the team would intercept and you'd be on the backfoot, not pushing forward very often in fear that you would be exposed at the back on a counter attack and so on, arguably two of the most attacking sides in the world tried to keep a clean sheet which meant defending more than they had to in the first 45 minutes. All of this changed in the second-half, the entire dynamic of the match.

The second-half begun with no substitutions from either side, both managers reluctant to show "their hand" as it were. Messi did well to skip past Kompany on the turn, feeding team-mate Fabregas inside the box but some good recovery from right-back Zabaleta made sure that Barca did not deliver a ball into the box with a well-timed challenge near the touchline. 

Messi went through on goal in the 54th minute with Kompany and Demichelis both scrambling to get back and help with only the goalkeeper to beat, with Demichelis fouling Messi inside the box with a late sliding tackle on the counter attack.

Late and rash: Demichelis was the last man, sliding in on Messi to give away a penalty

Down to ten: City were exploited after Demichelis' sending off in the 55th minute.
Demichelis walks off the pitch after he was sent off for tackling Messi inside the box.

As he was the last man apart from the goalkeeper, he was consequently sent off for his tackle and City were down to ten men while Barca had the chance to break the deadlock from the penalty spot. 

Messi stood up to take it, and calmy slotted the ball into the middle of the net past Joe Hart to open the scoring and give Barcelona a crucial away goal. 

Calm, cool and collected: Messi breaks the deadlock from the spot to make City pay.

Lovely Leo: Messi celebrates his first goal in England, with a penalty against City
Pellegrini had to make a few changes after his side went down to ten men, with Nasri and Lescott replacing Kolarov and Navas after 57 minutes to try and equalise but also strengthen the defence after Demichelis' dismissal. 

Iniesta had an effort at the near post stopped by Hart as Barca began to build pressure on City especially in the final third where they took advantage of having an extra man. 

Xavi had a free-kick from 25 yards out punched away well by Hart in the 60th minute, before Silva, Negredo and Nasri linked-up well with the latter having a strike deflected off two defenders as City looked to get back into the game and give their home supporters something to cheer.

A good 1-2 interchange between Sanchez and Alves on the flank towards goal, with the latter driving forward and narrowwly missing the post with a stinging hit as Lescott is unable to contain him on the far side. 

Barcelona manager Gerard Martino made a substitution of his own, with Sanchez being replaced by the returning Neymar as Pellegrini replaced Negredo with Dzeko for fresh legs and a new tactic.

City were unlucky not to score in the 76th minute, after a good 30-yard lofted ball from Yaya Toure found the chest of David Silva, who controlled the ball well before hitting the strike on the half-volley, only for Valdes to somehow save and hold well. 

Barca scored again in the 80th minute, but the linesman and the referee ruled the goal out for offside after Fabregas had strayed offside past the City defensive line. Cesc was replaced by young midfield startlet Sergi Roberto with 5 minutes to play, as Barcelona looked to hold onto a vital win ahead of the second leg at the Nou Camp in 3 weeks time. 

Alves made it 2-0 in the 90th minute after a good 1-2 layoff with Neymar on the flank, before running past Lescott to slot through the legs of Hart into the bottom corner of the net. 

Alves made it 2-0 just before full-time, getting past Lescott on the flank before slotting past Hart.

There we go: Alves celebrates his goal in-front of distraught City fans who felt their team could have won

The Barca supporters went wild, while City fans left the stadium frustrated as they felt they were robbed of a potential good result at home against one of the best footballing teams in recent years.  

The fourth official signalled for 3 minutes of stoppage time to be played, and the City players looked distraught after conceding the second as Barca were comfortable in possession, passing the ball around well to see out the match. 

The final score was 2-0 to Barcelona, a vital 2-goal cushion to take to Spain for the return leg with City having a mountain to climb if they want to get into the quarter-finals of the Champions League - for the first time. 

Bayer Leverkusen 0 PSG 4
The French moneybags virtually sealed their place in the quarter-finals after a comfortable display and 4-0 thrashing against Leverkusen in Germany. 

French defensive-midfielder Blaise Matuidi broke the deadlock in the 3rd minute thanks to some sloppy defending from Leverkusen, slotting past goalkeeper Bernd Leno into the bottom corner of the net before Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a double on the stroke of half-time (a penalty and wonder strike)

Quick start: Matuidi celebrates his finish to put PSG ahead after just 3 minutes of play.

Ibrahimovic scored from the penalty spot in the 38th minute with a power hit which Leno guessed the right way but dived too late and was unable to stop the Swedish star from doubling PSG's lead. 

Power and placement: Ibrahimovic strikes the ball past Leno into the bottom corner.

Goal machine: Ibrahimovic is mobbed by his PSG team-mates after making it 2-0.
Good work from Matuidi to hold off a challenge inside the box before laying off Ibrahimovic just outside the 18-yard box who ferociously hit a wonder strike first time which flew into the top corner of the net out of reach for Leno.

Super strike: Ibrahimovic makes it 3-0 before half-time with this rocket into the top corner.
Zlatan-style: Ibrahimovic celebrates his second strike of the night, with a first-time hit
 3-0 before half-time, and PSG were very comfortable.

Former Newcastle central midfielder Yohan Cabaye came off the substitutes bench to make it 4-0 to PSG just before full-time, after being laid off with a pass inside the area to strike past Leno into the corner of the net. 

Curling effort: Cabaye made it 4-0 before the end with this curling strike in the box
1 for me: Cabaye celebrates his first Champions League goal with Verratti.
FACT: That was Cabaye's first Champions League goal, on his debut - making a substitute appearance. 

Thank you for reading my blog post today, I hope you enjoyed it! I will be back tomorrow with more UEFA Champions League match-reviews as there are two more Last 16 matches to enjoy later on tonight:

Arsenal vs Bayern Munich - LIVE at 7.45pm

 Arsenal host Bayern in a repeat from last year's Last 16 tie. Will Arsenal get revenge after losing the tie on away goal rule or will Bayern take a lead back to Germany?
AC Milan vs Atletico Madrid - LIVE at 7.45pm

Sharp strikers: Mario Balotelli and Diego Costa will be important for their respective teams as Milan and Atletico go head-to-head in the other CL match tonight. Who will win? 
Interesting ties indeed... who will win? I will be back soon with all the reaction, reviews, news and match reports!

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