The night Pep’s men arrived
the innovator now; that his is the side which is moving on, leaving Guardiola struggling to harmonise with the same tune.
“With Luis (Suarez) maybe now we are a bit more aggressive when we attack at speed, whilst with Pep we used counter-attacks less,” Lionel Messi said earlier this week.
His goal was a metaphor for that: a counter-attack of maybe 20 seconds’ duration, which Messi began by blocking a shot in his own penalty area, before running the length of the pitch to take back from Neymar and score.
From Barcelona, the metronomic, almost cloying, passing – the “carousel” as Sir Alex Ferguson called if after Guardiola’s players had passed Manchester United to death in the 2009 Champions League Cup final – has gone. But it is not needed with trident of forwards.
“Nearly unstoppable”, Guardiola had called the two wide members of that triumvirate – Neymar and Messi. When Nicolas Otamendi surrendered cheap possession, Neymar was bearing down on Willy Caballero like a guided missile. It took a very fine save to palm his shot away.
This slip was part of a broader problem, as City’s attempts to match the Spaniards’ pace bred errors. That same pace initially made City’s forwards look almost sluggish by comparison.
Aguero had a chance wide right to supply a cross two minutes after Barcelona led and took what seemed an eternity to deliver the cross which hit the first obstacle in its path, Samuel Umtiti.
Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (3rd left) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during yesterday’s Champions League Group C match against Barcelona at the Etihad Stadium. – AFPPIX