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Champions League: Barca ease past Man City, PSG cruise through - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal against Manchester City during their Champions League last 16 second leg soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona March 12, 2014. (Reuters/Albert Gea)

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal against Manchester City during their Champions League last 16 second leg soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona March 12, 2014. (Reuters/Albert Gea)

Barcelona and Paris, Reuters—Barcelona eased into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 4-1 aggregate victory over Manchester City on Wednesday and Paris St Germain joined them after overwhelming Bayer Leverkusen 6-1 over the two legs of their last-16 tie.

Barcelona into last eight

Lionel Messi struck to end Manchester City’s dreams of a famous comeback as Barcelona beat the English club 2-1 at the Nou Camp on Wednesday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals 4-1 on aggregate.

Barca looked far from the classic team who lifted the trophy in 2009 and 2011 but a stuttering version under Gerardo Martino that had lost two of their last three games was still far too strong for the Premier League club.

City, who lost the first leg of the last-16 tie 2-0 at home, were a constant threat to the Spanish champions, but they were left to rue missed chances by David Silva, Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta.

Captain Vincent Kompany levelled for the visitors on the night with a tap-in in the 89th minute, but Dani Alves responded by sweeping home the winner in the first minute of stoppage time.

City had been reduced to 10 men by then after Zabaleta was shown a second yellow card for dissent in the 78th minute.

The Argentine defender was incensed with referee Stephane Lannoy’s decision to ignore City’s strong penalty claims when substitute Edin Dzeko went down in the area under a challenge by Gerard Pique.

“It was a clear penalty,” Kompany told Sky Sports. “Dzeko was in position to shoot and his trigger foot was caught.

“We have got nothing left in the tank. We gave everything and a few times we could have scored and obviously that would have changed the game.

“You have to take your half chances against the best teams. Over the course of the two games there was not much between the sides.”

Messi put his side in front by producing a neat finish with the outside of his left boot from close range in the 67th minute after defender Joleon Lescott failed to stop a routine through-ball from Cesc Fabregas.

“We knew we had to score a goal to bring some calm to the tie, as we were aware of how dangerous City are,” Messi told Canal Plus.

“I don’t think the tie was ever in danger for us, and we controlled the match very well.

“I think tonight we got back to being the Barcelona that we all want to see and we were able to beat a very tough opponent.

“I don’t know if the criticism (in the media after the La Liga defeat to Valladolid) was over the top. We are the first to criticize ourselves and we didn’t play the way we should have done there.

“We don’t let the criticism affect us and we just focus on ourselves and try to turn things around and that’s what we did tonight, I think.”

Barca had begun the game deeper than usual, looking to entice City to come at them so they could pounce on the counter. It was a tentative game early on as City held back and Barca’s passing lacked fluidity.

The first half ended in a flourish as Neymar took advantage of a slip by Aleksandar Kolarov and his shot was scrambled wide by Joe Hart, while he also had another effort cleared off the line by Fernandinho.

In between, Nasri fired straight at Victor Valdes having been set up by Silva and the Spamiard also wasted a golden chance when he fired over with his favoured left foot from 15 meters out.

After the break Messi’s threat grew and in the 50th minute he cut in from the right and hit the post with a low left-foot shot from inside the area.

At the other end Dzeko, who had replaced Sergio Aguero, had a header brilliantly clawed away by Valdes.

City were still in the contest until Lescott got in a tangle just inside his own area, and the English defender’s worst fears were realised when he turned round to see Messi latch on to the loose ball, deceive Hart with his finish, and send Barca on their way to the last eight for the seventh successive season.

“Leo is the one whe makes the difference and that’s what he is there for,” said Xavi.

“Obviously, this is the Champions League and you suffer at times during the game. They played well, they are a good team and they had their chances, but I think we dominated the match.”

Paris St Germain qualify

Paris St Germain (PSG) made light of resting key players and an under-par display from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to sail into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 6-1 aggregate win over Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.

The French champions won 2-1 at the Parc des Princes having thrashed the German side 4-0 in the last-16 first leg, with Marquinhos and Ezequiel Lavezzi wiping out the visitors’ early strike by Sidney Sam.

Sami Hyypia’s Leverkusen, who finished with 10 men after Emre Can picked up a second yellow card in the 68th minute, were also hampered by Simon Rolfes’s missed penalty in the first half.

PSG, who have now won their last six games in all competitions, could have gone through even more easily had Ibrahimovic not missed a couple of clear chances either side of the interval.

“We played one of our worst first halves since the beginning of the season,” fullback Christophe Jallet told French TV channel Canal Plus.

“There was a lot of waste but we found the mental strength to equalise and then in the second half we were in control.”

Hyypia told a news conference: “I am proud of that team because we showed character and we played well in the first half.

“Before the game I insisted on the fact we needed to be more stable defensively, and we have been.”

PSG coach Laurent Blanc rested his usual midfield of Marco Verratti, Thiago Motta and Blaise Matuidi, while Marquinhos was handed a start in central defence in place of Alex.

Bayer, looking to become the third team to progress from a knockout tie in the Champions League after losing the first leg at home, made a strong start.

In the sixth minute, Sam powered home a downward header from Giulio Donati’s cross to make it 1-0 to the visitors.

The hopes of Bayer, who were without injured midfielder Jens Hegeler, causing a major upset were shortlived, though.

PSG restored order in the 13th minute when Marquinhos headed in a corner and six minutes later Ibrahimovic’s delicate chip hit the crossbar as PSG tightened their grip on the game.

However, Christophe Jallet pulled back Eren Derdiyok in the area, only for Salvatore Sirigu to parry away Rolfes’s penalty kick.

The hosts went ahead eight minutes into the second half when Lavezzi slotted home from Lucas Digne’s fine pass for his fifth goal in his last six matches.

With a potentially tricky Ligue 1 home game against St Etienne on Sunday looming, Blanc substituted Ibrahimovic with Jeremy Menez in the 72nd minute, giving the former AS Roma forward his first appearance in almost a month.

Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno then made two saves to deny Javier Pastore and Adrien Rabiot in the closing stages.

“It’s not easy playing a match like this when you know that you are out, but for us it was about honour and prestige,” Rolfes said.

Before kickoff, police were called to central Paris to break up a fight between Parisian and German hooligans.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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