BARCELONA 1 MANCHESTER CITY 0
(Barcelona won 3-1 on aggregate)
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini pointed an accusatory finger at Financial Fair Play (FFP) sanctions after his side crashed out of the Champions League following defeat at Barcelona’s Camp Nou last night – leaving no English teams remaining in the competition.
For all Barcelona’s scintillating attacking play and control, only Croatia playmaker Ivan Rakitic found a way past inspired keeper Joe Hart as the four-time European champions registered 23 attempts at goal.
European governing body Uefa punished City by limiting their Champions League squad to 21 players rather than the usual 25 and a host of other financial restrictions after the club breached FFP regulations last year.
“We want to be successful in Europe and we must improve but I think it was maybe not our best year to continue in Europe,” said Pellegrini, after City failed to reach the Champions League last eight for a fourth successive year.
“We had important restrictions on the amount of players and the amount of money that we can spend so it was a difficult year for us in that sense.
“We lost against a better team, without doubt. It is very difficult to beat Barcelona, especially with [Lionel] Messi. I think if we weren’t drawn against Barcelona we might have had a chance to continue.”
For the second time in three seasons there will be no English representation in the last eight of the Champions League, despite the Premier League’s financial superiority and popularity around the globe.
City’s demise came 24 hours after Arsenal exited the tournament at the hands of Monaco and a week since Chelsea succumbed to Paris Saint-Germain, while Liverpool failed to make it past the group stage.
The hosts threatened early when ponderous City skipper Vincent Kompany was robbed of possession by Dani Alves on the edge of his own box, only for Neymar’s shot to strike the base of the post and roll across the goalline.
Luis Enrique’s side took the lead after 31 minutes. Barcelona hit their rivals on the break before Lionel Messi provided the ammunition for Rakitic to clinically lift the ball over the advancing Hart. Barcelona carved the visitors open again when Luis Suarez sprung the offside trap, but the mercurial former Liverpool striker’s dinked effort over Hart bobbled against the post ahead of a retreating Martin Demichelis.
City were handed a lifeline with 12 minutes remaining when a combination of Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique felled Aguero, but the Argentine’s spot-kick was saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Paris Saint Germain
Draw to be made tomorrow