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Mar 13, 2014

Messi scoring against Manchester City

Barca booked their place in the Quarter Finals of the 2013-14 Champions League with a comfortable 2-1 victory at home against Manchester City. The 2-1 victory on the night and 4-1 on aggregate see Barca making yet another Quarter Final appearance, their seventh consecutive ones. Manchester City and Barcelona clash was the pick of many pundits for the marquee clash of this round of Champions League. The more than comfortable victory would do Barca a world of good, especially when they have suffered a number of setbacks recently on domestic front. It may be quite unfair to credit this victory all to Lionel Messi; there's a point in that. We had some seriously memorable performances from some other players too, especially Iniesta and Jordi Alba. But regardless of that it was Lionel Messi who made all the difference; not because he scored the vital goal but because he was involved in all that was good on the night. And it started with that darting run into our box to dispossess Aguero, which set the tone and simply showed a hint of his intensions.

There was pattern of symmetry in both the legs of this tie - the biggest being Barca's goals coming from the same persons and that too in the same order; and to make it more interesting Alves scored in the 90th minute at Etihad and also in Camp Nou. Lionel Messi was brilliant from the word go and was crucial in deciding the fate of the match. The goal he scored had a tinge of good fortune associated with Lescott's mistake, but the finish was really exquisite. As one online reader suggested, "Lionel Messi should trademark that chip over the keeper" as he alone looks like capable of doing it. May be like the Cryuff turn, we may have to christen it "The Messi Chip"; and it could become really messy when someone else tries that. But it was just not the goal he scored which made him decisive, it was his whole game. After the disappointment against Valladoid, there were serious doubts raised about the team and its main player. But Messi answered it in brilliant fashion. It wasn't a vintage performance from the team, but what we saw from Messi was close to his best.

Messi was unlucky not to have secured a penalty in the eight minute when Lescott brought him down, but that didn't dither him from creating a handful of chances for his team mates especially Neymar and Xavi. But to his disappointment none of them were taken. The disappointment were compounded after seeing his brilliant shot coming off the post and a couple of chances were Messi found enough space to curl the ball into the corner but saw his efforts going wide. With all these the nervousness in Barca fans both in and out of the stadium grew. But that was all put to rest in the 67th minute when Messi dinked the ball over an helpless Joe Hart to secure the tie. Whatever happened after that didn't matter much. This match showed that even though Messi may be lacking match form, he is still is Barca's most decisive player and maybe the World's most too.

It wasn't Messi alone who was decisive in the match, for me two other shone really bright - Iniesta and Jordi Alba. Iniesta for some time has been our best player and many attributed the poor performance at Valladoid to the absence of him. He showed last night why he matters most. He was brilliant in attack, possession and defense. The presence of mind to set up the second goal was simply outrageous. Jordi Alba, one of the most maligned player at Barca looked like have put his SuperMan cloak before getting on to the pitch. It is physically not possible for anyone to run and close like Alba. He was everywhere (in a nice way), especially wherever Nasri moved. He alone with Iniesta was instrumental in negating all the threats coming from the left of the pitch.

This victory should ease a bit of pressure on Martino for the moment. Now his focus should solely return back to the league. Amidst all the crisis talk one should not forget that the treble dream is still on and may be can be kept very much alive in two weeks’ time; when the Clasico comes calling. But for that we need to show the same intensity in the League.

All About FC Barcelona


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