City beat Barcelona in sweet win for Guardi­ola

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Pep Guardi­ola brought down the foot­balling su­per­power he helped to cre­ate, lead­ing Manch­ester City to a 3-1 win over Barcelona in a land­mark Cham­pi­ons League re­sult for the English club on Tues­day.

The vic­tory that City and its Abu Dhabi own­er­ship has craved since join­ing the Europe elite in 2011 was achieved the hard way, too, com­ing after Lionel Messi gave Barcelona a 21stminute lead with his 90th goal in the Cham­pi­ons League.

City took ad­van­tage of a de­fen­sive er­ror to equal­ize through Ilkay Gun­do­gan in the 39th minute and swarmed all over Barcelona in the se­cond half, with a free kick from Kevin De Bruyne and Gun­do­gan’s se­cond goal com­plet­ing the come­back.

City has mod­eled it­self on Barcelona in the board­room, on the field and most re­cently in the dug-out by bring­ing in Guardi­ola, who coached Barcelona to 14 tro­phies from 2008-12 and turned the Messi-in­spired team into per­haps the great­est club side ever.

For that rea­son, it will be the sweet­est of wins for City. “Now we re­al­ize we won against the best team (in the world),” Guardi­ola said. “For the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, they are go­ing to re­al­ize, ‘Wow, these guys are able to beat the best team.’”

It was also cru­cial in the short term for City, reignit­ing its Group C cam­paign that would have been on the rocks with a loss at Eti­had Sta­dium. City is now two points be­hind first-placed Barcelona after four games, with both teams big fa­vorites to progress to the last 16.

For 38 min­utes, Barcelona looked like rolling to a sixth straight win over City in the last four sea­sons in the Cham­pi­ons League, the most re­cent be­ing a 4-0 vic­tory in Camp Nou two weeks ago. Barcelona coach Luis En­rique said it was one of the best pas­sages of play his team has ever pro­duced, with City’s de­fense carved open by the po­tent front three of Messi, Ney­mar and Luis Suarez.

Messi’s goal came at the end of a length-of-the field coun­ter­at­tack, which started after a City free kick was cleared. City’s de­fend­ing was reck­less, with its deep­est de­fender 10 me­ters in­side Barcelona’s half when Messi fired a cross­field pass to­ward Ney­mar to in­sti­gate the move.

Ney­mar ran to the edge of the area and timed his pass per­fectly to the on­rush­ing Messi, who took the ball in his stride be­fore glid­ing be­tween two de­fend­ers and plac­ing a low shot in­side the near post.

The turn­ing point in the match was an er­ror from Barcelona right back Sergi Roberto, whose in­side pass to Ser­gio Bus­quets was way­ward and col­lected by Ser­gio Aguero. He slipped in Ra­heem Ster­ling, who had the vi­sion to slide a cross over to Gun­do­gan to tap in left­footed at the far post.

“When you con­cede a goal in that way, it is nor­mal that you go through a bad pe­riod,” Luis En­rique said. That bad pe­riod lasted the rest of the game.

Barcelona was with­out de­fend­ers Ger­ard Pique, Jeremy Mathieu and Jordi Alba through a mix­ture of in­jury and sus­pen­sion, as well as in­jured play­maker An­dres Ini­esta. Those losses told in the se­cond half, when the makeshift de­fense made er­rors and Bus­quets - the usu­ally un­flap­pable deep-ly­ing mid­fielder - was swamped and rat­tled.

De Bruyne, pushed into a more cen­tral and at­tack­ing role for the se­cond half, was at the heart of ev­ery­thing, on and off the ball. Fol­low­ing Bus­quets’ foul from be­hind on David Silva, De Bruyne curled a 25-me­ter free kick over the wall and be­yond flail­ing goal­keeper Marc-An­dre ter Ste­gen, whose slight side­ways move­ment as De Bruyne ap­proached the ball ap­peared to un­bal­ance him.

The Bel­gium play­maker then pro­vided a stun­ning through-ball to Je­sus Navas in the lead-up to the third goal, which was slammed in by Gun­do­gan from close range in the 74th. Navas’ cross hit the arm of Aguero, who had the goal at his mercy, but the ball fell kindly for Gun­do­gan to slam home from close range.

“We started a bit ner­vously,” Gun­do­gan said, “but after we scored, we had our con­fi­dence back and the se­cond half was in­cred­i­ble. We dom­i­nated Barcelona.”

City will ad­vance with a draw at third­placed Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach in round five, pro­vided Barcelona doesn’t lose at Celtic. Barcelona only needs a point to se­cure a place in the knock­out stage for a 13th straight sea­son. — AP

MANCH­ESTER: Barcelona’s Ney­mar, right, vies for the ball with Manch­ester City’s Ni­co­las Ota­mendi dur­ing the Cham­pi­ons League group C soccer match be­tween Manch­ester City and Barcelona at the Eti­had sta­dium in Manch­ester, Eng­land, Tues­day. — AP

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