FC Barcelona advanced into the quarter-finals of the Uefa Champions League for a record eighth successive time after edging Manchester City despite Joe Hart’s heroic at the Camp Nou.
Aside a missed Sergio Aguero penalty in the 77th minute, the English champions got nowhere near overturning a 2-1 first-leg deficit but, on the other end, it was a tale of Hart finding the hearts to avert what would have panned out a mauling.
Ivan Rakitic’s superb goal midway through the first half secured maximum points on the night, when Barcelona were synonymous to the superlatives. Every thought of a fight back in Catalunya vanished with each passing moment amid some fluid attacking display, nutmegs, brilliant link-up plays and deft flicks.
And when Dani Alves robbed an absent-minded Vincent Kompany to find Neymar who hit the inside of the left post with the ball rolling across goal to safety in the 5th minute, the warning signal was blatantly served.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side heeded not to it, and the havoc was done on 31 minutes with none other than Lionel Messi orchestrating from the half-way line. The Argentine superstar sent a sublime cross to Rakitic, who controlled with his chest before lobbing it over the onrushing Hart for his first Champions League goal.
The goal meant Man City still needed to score two goals, but the travelling fans should not have waited for it either as Barca continued employing various tactics to demobilise the Cityzens’ limp defence.
Luiz Suarez rattled the post before the break after racing clear to flick the ball beyond the visiting goalkeeper.
The English shot stopper was at his all-time best in Europe and avoided some disgraceful defeat in the second period, when Suarez, Neymar and Messi all took turns in troubling him.
City were handed leverage after Gerard Pique had impeded Aguero in the box, but the Argentine marksman was denied by Barca first-choice Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The draw for the quarter-finals and last 4 comes up in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday without an English team for the second time in three years.
Teams through to UCL to last 8