Super Suarez makes Manchester City suffer
London, February 25
Luis Suarez shone on his return to English soil as Barcelona outclassed Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium to leave Manuel Pellegrini’s Champions League hopes dangling by a thread.
The former Liverpool star twice finished clinically in the first half as the Catalan giants – inspired as ever by the brilliant Lionel Messi – taught the Premier League champions a lesson on their own pitch.Sergio Aguero gave City hope of a comeback when he fired in on 69 minutes but Gael Clichy received a second yellow card for a foul on Dani Alves soon afterwards and Barcelona comfortably held on.
Messi could have given City an even bigger mountain to climb when he won a penalty into the final minute of stoppage time, but Hart saved the spot-kick and the Argentine directed a diving header wide on the rebound.
City will welcome the influential Yaya Toure back for the return game against his former club on March 18, but they have it all to do as they attempt to reach the last eight of the Champions League for the first time.
The recalled Martin Demichelis was sent off for a professional foul on Messi at the Etihad Stadium last season, but the defender denied his Argentina team-mate with a fine tackle after Neymar had outfoxed Pablo Zabaleta and delivered a fine pass.
Suarez then fired just wide of the near post as City struggled to cope with Barca’s rapid passing and movement, but the Uruguay striker was not to be denied an opening goal in the 16th minute.
Messi was at his brilliant best and, when Vincent Kompany could only head the mercurial forward’s cross against Suarez, the former Liverpool star fired home with his left foot before the Belgium captain had time to react.
Edin Dzeko headed just wide when City made a rare foray forward before Barca doubled their lead after 30 minutes and once again it was Suarez applying the finishing touch.
City were unable to stop Messi as he surged forward at pace and laid the ball off for Jordi Alba, who showed great composure to bide his time before delivering a cross for the onrushing Suarez to tuck in from close range.
Barca were in complete control and Dani Alves struck the crossbar with what appeared to be an attempted cross before Samir Nasri finally called Marc-Andre ter Stegen into action two minutes before the end of a one-sided first half.
City looked far more dangerous in the first few minutes of the second half than they had in the opening 45 and only a great Javier Mascherano block kept out Nasri’s strike before the unmarked Dzeko headed straight at Ter Stegen from six yards.
Wilfried Bony came on for his Champions League debut in place of Dzeko and City deservedly pulled a goal back when David Silva’s clever lay-off found Aguero, who fired an unstoppable shot beyond Ter Stegen.
Any hopes of City avoiding a first-leg defeat looked slim four minutes later, though, as Clichy was shown a second yellow card for a challenge on Alves.
Messi then had the opportunity to ensure Barca headed into the second leg with a 3-1 lead, but Hart dived to his left to keep out the usually clinical forward’s spot-kick and the Argentina star headed the rebound wide.