Barcelona defeated Manchester City 3-0 in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the match played out at the neutral site of Stadio Brianteo in Monza, Italy.
Despite Manchester City’s current league form, their Champions League clash against Barcelona was always bound to be a huge ask. With the hosts currently nine points clear in Primera División, Gareth Taylor’s side had a battle from the first whistle.
Barcelona: Paños; María León, Marta, Mariona, Alexia (c), Patri, Aitana, Leila, Graham, A. Pereira, Oshoala.
Manchester City: Roebuck; Bronze, Dahlkemper, Greenwood, Morgan, Walsh, Mewis, Weir, Kelly, Hemp, White (c)
How it unfolded
From the off, Manchester City seemed unsure of how to approach Barcelona. The Spanish side’s high press left the City backline looking penned in while their forwards appeared isolated.
The hosts dominated the match for the vast majority of the first half. Gareth Taylor’s side took a few minutes to settle in, but the Blues were lacking their usual flair. Skipper Steph Houghton’s absence was evident with her team clearly missing her long driving balls and stonewall defensive presence.
Manchester City were punished for their unsteady performance 35 minutes in when Asisat Oshoala fired a free kick into Ellie Roebuck’s goal. It was an effort that a team of City’s calibre would usually be expected to deal with.
Following the opening goal, the Blues finally began to tick. Less than 10 minutes later, Sam Mewis found the back of the net; however, the goal was instantly ruled offside.Embed from Getty Images
The second half brought more challenges for the English side. At times, the visitors seemed almost awestruck by Barca’s flamboyant style of play – particularly that of Barca forward Oshoala.
Within seven minutes of the teams emerging, a reckless kick by defender Demi Stokes gifted the home side a penalty. Mariona Caldentey calmly slotted the ball home to double her side’s lead.
Lauren Hemp won a penalty for the visitors just a few minutes later. However, Chloe Kelly’s effort was tipped over the bar by the keeper. This denied City of a much needed away goal.
Finally, in the 85th minute, Jenni Hermoso capped off the scoring for the hosts. The goal came from a run of play that Hermoso herself had started.Embed from Getty Images
Stand out performances
Asisat Oshoala was a different class for the home side. With the forward opening the scoring and winning the penalty for her side, the No.20 was pivotal for her team. Her excellent decision making ensured that however Manchester City pressed her, she always maintained the upper hand against their defense.
Despite conceding three goals, Ellie Roebuck ensured the scoreline was not as dramatic as it could have been. The England keeper, whilst evidently missing her captain’s defensive presence, kept her side in the fixture for an impressively long time considering the Blues’ shaky performance. With several fantastic stops, Roebuck was the visitor’s key player.
Barcelona have only conceded three goals in their current league campaign. This means the WSL side will have a huge task in the return fixture next Wednesday.