Match Review: Manchester United vs. Barcelona (2nd Leg)
The Blaugrana and the Red Devils battled it out in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday. After Barca’s 0-1 win at Old Trafford in the 1st leg of the tie, the two heavyweights played in what was a thrilling game at the Camp Nou.
Once the first whistle blew, Manchester United started off red-hot, controlling the first 10 minutes of the game as they did not allow Barca to gain possession of the ball. The visiting team constantly utilized their young, pacey players at the start, and looked as if they were going to be first on the scoresheet. Man United’s most threatening moment came just 30 seconds into the game when Paul Pogba played a beautiful through ball to Marcus Rashford who somehow ended up one-on-one with Ter Stegen. Using the outside of his right foot, Rashford opted for placement instead of power as he shot the ball over the Barca keeper, eventually hitting the crossbar before the ball went out of play.
After a few hectic minutes, Barca naturally found their rhythm and settled down, passing the ball with precision and class. Ivan Rakitic created Barca’s first threatening play as referee Felix Byrch initially signaled for a Barca penalty after Man United midfielder Fred tripped the Croatian in the box. However, after a the German referee reviewed the call using VAR, he overturned his original decision and did not give a penalty to Barca.
Barcelona brushed off the no call and looked increasingly dangerous as the first half continued. Barcelona eventually broke the deadlock in the 16’ minute when none other than Leo Messi produced a moment of pure magic. When Barca’s pressure forced a Man United turnover, Messi was first to the ball. As soon as he retained possession he effortlessly nutmegged Fred, and after taking a couple dribbles, Messi fired in a low shot outside the box and putting Barca up 1-0, 2-0 on aggregate.
The Barca captain’s brilliance didn’t flaunder when just five minutes later, he forced a turnover a few metres outside of Man United’s box. Messi then dribbled onto his weaker right-foot and slotted a low ball to goalkeeper David De Gea. Manchester United’s problems went from bad to worse as the Spanish keeper uncharacteristically fumbled Messi’s shot, ultimately letting in the shot which should have been an easy save.
Once Messi scored a brace, Barca were in complete control of the game. The home team should have scored their third of the half when Leo Messi ran onto the backtracking Phil Jones. Messi easily nutmegged the Man United defender, making him look like a 2nd division player. After Messi made the brilliant run, he slotted a perfect through ball to Jordi Alba, who crossed the ball low to Sergi Roberto. Roberto essentially had a wide open net, but unfortunately shot the ball right to De Gea who made a great save with his face.
The demolishing of the Red Devils continued in the 2nd half when Leo Messi passed a sublime through ball in the air to Jordi Alba, who cut it back to Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian took a couple dribbles and then fired in one of his patented curling shots from way far out in the 61’ minute. It was exactly what the Barca star needed as he has been consistently struggling to find his best form throughout the season.
During the remainder of the game, both teams had genuine chances but couldn’t find the back of the net. Lionel Messi tried an audacious bicycle kick that was inches away from the post. Substitute Alexis Sanchez made his return to the Camp Nou and almost scored when he headed the ball near post off of a cross. However, Ter Stegen pulled off an incredible save, showing why he is one of the best keepers in the world.
The thrilling game ended 3-0 in favor of Barcelona, and 4-0 on aggregate. It is safe to say that Barcelona dominated this tie, showing their attacking prowess via Lionel Messi and the Barca frontline, and their defensive stability as the Gerard Pique led backline didn’t allow Manchester United to score in either legs.
The Blaugrana have punched their ticket into the Champions League semi-final and will play either Porto or Liverpool depending on the outcome of the 2nd leg of that tie. As Barcelona wait to see who their opponent is, Ernesto Valverde’s men hope to maintain their momentum and confidence heading into the semi-final, ultimately aiming for their third treble in 10 years.