When Manchester City travelled to the Nou Camp two weeks ago, things didn’t exactly go to plan. Claudio Bravo earned a straight red card, and Pep Guardiola’s side were slapped with a 4-0 defeat in the middle of what would end up being a six-match winless streak. This time around, the Cityzens looked a renewed team with purpose and resilience as they recorded a famous victory over Lionel Messi’s Barcelona.
Despite a strong start from City to start the match, Barça opened the scoring after 21 minutes. A quick counter attack started by Messi and Neymar in the defensive third was capped off by a cool finish from the Argentinian at the other end. How would Pep’s squad respond?
After Messi’s goal, the Catalan club looked poised to double their advantage. City’s bend-don’t-break defensive mentality was tested as Neymar and Luis Suárez both tried their luck, but surprisingly neither one could find the back of the net.
In the 39th minute, it was a defensive mishap from Barça that would prove to be deadly. Sergio Agüero picked off an errant pass from Sergi Roberto on the edge of the penalty area and quickly found Raheem Sterling darting into the box. The former Liverpool man slotted the ball back across the face of goal to a wide open Ilkay Gundogan who hammered home the equalizer.
Gundogan’s goal capped off the action for an exciting first half. You could argue that either side could have found a second goal, but City were the ones that created more chances. Could they find a way to capitalize on those chances after the break?
Just a minute into the half, Raheem Sterling nearly capitalized on another poor pass from Roberto, but a heavy first touch made the angle too tight and he fired into the wrong side netting.
The real moment of magic in the match came in the 50th minute. City had a free kick around 25 yards out, and Kevin De Bruyne lined up to take it. The Belgian, who looked magnificent throughout the match, hit an absolute beauty over the wall and past Marc-André ter Stegen to give City the lead.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 1, 2016
Two minutes later, De Bruyne whipped in another great set piece into the penalty area and Nicolás Otamendi came within inches of tapping home what could have been the dagger. City continued to throw wave after wave of attack at Ter Stegen’s goal, and Barça’s defense looked ill-equipped to deal with it.
The visitors’ first real chance of the second half fell to André Gomes in the 65th minute. Suárez created the opportunity with a clever nutmeg of Otamendi on the right wing before sliding the ball to Gomes who was completely unmarked on top of the penalty box. The Portuguese midfielder hit a first-time shot that looked destined for the back of the net, but it smacked off the underside of the crossbar and City were let off the hook.
Moments after Gomes’ miss, De Bruyne came within inches of doubling City’s lead with a low curled shot, only for it to drift just wide of ter Stegen’s post.
The dagger finally came in the 74th minute. Again, it was De Bruyne who started the move by finding Jesus Navas down the right wing. The Spaniard quickly crossed the ball into the box and Agüero threw his whole body at the ball to try and tap it in to the empty net, but he ended up knocking it back down into the penalty area. Luckily, for City fans, Gundogan was there again to hammer home an easy goal and to put Guardiola’s side up 3-1.
Gundogan’s brace and De Bruyne’s highlight reel free kick sealed a historic victory for the Sky Blues, and it marked the first time that Guardiola had beaten his former club as a manager. Long ago seem the days when people were on the brink of panicking about City’s poor form as they now sit just two points off Barça for the group lead with a spot in the knockout rounds looking like more and more of a certainty.