BARCELONA: Two European nights . . . two English clubs out. After Arsenal’s exit against Bayern in Munich on Tuesday so Manchester City followed them out of the Champions League second round in Barcelona.
Neither Bayern on Tuesday or the Spanish champions had needed to be at their best but were both clearly superior to two of the finest teams in the English Premier League.
The oddity was that the English pair – from a league which prides itself on its busy, high tempo demands – were shown up to be lacking not only strength in depth but short in wider organisational assessments.
Just as Arsenal were one player short on the subs’ bench through misreading the player qualification rules (for Ryo Miyaichi) so City were exposed for their blatant failure last summer to strengthen central defence.
Manchester United had the excuse, for missing the transfer boat, of having just taken on a new manager and new chief executive. City had no such caveat. Manuel Pellegrini was a new team manager but the rest of the coaching and directorial team must have known of a weakness obvious under Roberto Mancini.
Many managers have a ‘blind spot’ for a player and Pellegrini’s blind spot was clearly Martin DeMichelis who has proved a running disaster in both Champions League and FA Cup. DeMichelis missed the Barcelona return through suspension and his luckless replacement, Joleon Lescott, duly fell over his own feet to concede the opening goal to Leo Messi.
Barcelona might already have been ahead. In the first half Leo Messi was refused a penalty and Neymar was wrongly denied a ‘goal’ by an errant offside flag.
City were quick to level through skipper Vincent Kompany and were denied a penalty of their own when Gerard Pique tripped Edin Dzeko. Pedro Zabaleta’s over-the-top protest earned a red card and City, trailing and weakened, duly conceded Barcelona’s last-minute winner to Dani Alves.
Pellegrini, sitting up in the stand through suspension after his criticism of referee Jonas Eriksson after the first leg, had thus overseen two cup exits in four days, after last Sunday’s shock FA Cup home exit to second division Wigan.
Barcelona won 2-1 and thus 4-1 on aggregate and proceded into the quarter-finals along with Paris Saint-Germain who completed their demolition of Bayer Leverkusen. PSG won 2-1 on the night, 6-1 on aggregate.