Hart heroics give Man City hope

Keeper saves Lionel Messi penalty, but City will have to step up a gear to overhaul Barcelona

Joe Hart of Manchester City and Lionel Messi of Barcelona
(Image credit: 2015 Getty Images)

Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2. Luis Suarez savaged Manchester City as Barcelona took firm control of their Champions League clash with a 2-1 victory at the Etihad.

The Sky Blues have it all to do in the return leg at the Camp Nou next month, but their task could have been even greater had it not been for Joe Hart saving a Lionel Messi penalty with virtually the last kick of a captivating cup tie.

"It gives us more chance to win in Barcelona," said City manager Manuel Pellegrini of Hart's heroics. "It was a very important save, firstly because it was not a necessary penalty as we must control our emotions in the box, but also it would have been very difficult at 3-1."

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As it is City will need a vast improvement on last night's performance when they travel to Barcelona on March 18 with the Catalan club having conceded two goals at home in a single game just once this season – against Villarreal on 1 February.

For Suarez it was a triumphant return to England following his £75m summer move from Liverpool to Barcelona and the Uruguayan striker showed why he is one of the sharpest finishers in the world with two goals in the first half hour.

Having served his time for his infamous World Cup bite on Italy's Giorgio Chiellini, Suarez was nonetheless booed by the home crowd when his name was read out before kick-off. How he took his revenge.

On 13 minutes the South American pounced for his first goal, firing the ball past Hart after Messi's cross had bounced into his path off Vincent Kompany. He nearly doubled the Barcelona advantage minutes later and only a sharp save from Hart denied him.

But Suarez was greedy for goals and soon had his second, stabbing home Jordi Alba's cross at the near post on 30 minutes to give the visitors a deserved 2-0 lead.

City in contrast were unambitious and lethargic in the first 45 minutes, and only began to show glimpses of their recent Premier League form after the break.

Edin Dzeko should have pulled one back for City but could only head straight at keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen with the goal at his mercy, and Sergio Aguero also came close before finally finding the net on 69 minutes. Reading David Silva's clever backheel to perfection, Aguero collected the ball and slammed it past ter Stegen to make it 2-1.

But any hopes City harboured of equalising disappeared when Gael Clichy clattered into Dani Alevs four minutes later and was shown a red card for a second bookable offence. Barcelona exploited their numerical advantage in the closing stages and when Messi was brought down in the area by Pablo Zabaleta, the Argentine took on the responsibility of the spot kick.

He's scored 44 of the 57 penalties he has taken for Barcelona but on this occasion Messi was denied by Hart to leave City a glimmer of hope for the second leg.

"We played a very complete game and we should be very satisfied with that," said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. "This was a very good display from our team, we were much better than our opponents."

Luis Suarez was similarly satisfied with his night's work but warned Barcelona that the job was only half done. "It's a good result which makes us a bit more calm for the return leg," said the Uruguayan. "With the quality Manchester City have, you never know what can happen."

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