Barcelona have their noses in front in the battle for a spot in the UEFA Champion League semi-final as they beat Manchester United 1-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final.
Having not won even once at Old Trafford till date, Barcelona set out to change that on Wednesday night and started the game strongly. The early pressure paid off just 12 minutes in, as Lionel Messi found Luis Suarez with a peach of a cross, whose header went into the net via a deflection off Luke Shaw.
Manchester United grew into the game after conceding and had a penalty appeal declined after Gerard Pique and Scott McTominay tangled in the Catalans’ box. Diogo Dalot spurned a great chance to draw his team level at the half-hour mark, soon after which Philippe Coutinho saw his well-hit effort saved by David de Gea.
Barcelona were on the back-foot for the initial phases of the second period as Manchester United kept them boxed in their own half, but the home team struggled to create any meaningful opportunities.
Ernesto Valverde’s side did find their rhythm again a little after the hour-mark and carved open the United defence, but Suarez hit the side netting from a dangerous position, before Jordi Alba had a shot saved by de Gea.
Fee-fi-fo-fum! See you at Camp Nou next Tuesday! pic.twitter.com/TzjkCfQnpY
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 10, 2019
With the clock ticking, Manchester United pressed for an equaliser and could have gotten back in the game if not for a brilliant last-ditch tackle by Pique on Anthony Martial. Barcelona held on to their slender lead and go into the second leg at Camp Nou with an advantage. And here’s how we rated the performance of Valverde’s players on the night.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
Showed good awareness and anticipation to charge out and clear a dangerous through ball from Paul Pogba in the first half, with Marcus Rashford close. Not tested by Manchester United, who had no shots on target on the night. Distribution smart as usual.
Nelson Semedo: 7/10
Kept Diogo Dalot quiet for most parts of the game and provided an outlet going forward as well. Produced a lovely through ball for Suarez in the second period, but the Uruguayan failed to make the most of it. A good all-round display from Semedo.
Gerard Pique: 8.5/10
Returning to Old Trafford, the former Manchester United man was rock-solid at the back for Barcelona. Showed good pace in one moment to keep up Rashford in the first period and produced a game-saving last-ditch tackle on Martial late on to deny the Frenchman a certain equaliser. Strong in the air as well.
Clement Lenglet: 6/10
The Frenchman got through the game without any errors, but the display was some way below the level of his recent performances. Did look a bit shaky when going up against the lively Rashford and will need to iron it out ahead of the return fixture next week.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Defended well against the crosses of Ashley Young for most parts and was a dangerous outlet with his forward bursts as well. Forced de Gea into a smart save at the near post with a well-struck effort. His play-acting fooled nobody, though.
Ivan Rakitic: 6/10
Kept things ticking over smoothly for Barcelona without really standing out on the night. Did not have much creative influence on the game, but worked hard to protect his team’s slender lead.
Sergio Busquets: 4/10
One of his poorer displays in recent memory. The Barcelona midfield mainstay struggled to cope with the energy and pressing of his Manchester United counterparts and kept conceding cheap fouls. Booked early in the first period and could have easily been sent off on the night, as he made a number of bookable offences after the break.
Arthur Melo: 6/10
Looked comfortable and in control early in the game when Barcelona bossed the possession, pinging passes into Messi and Suarez. Not the same once Manchester United started pressing more effectively and faded with time before being replaced in the 66th minute.
Lionel Messi: 6.5/10
Brilliant chipped cross to Suarez led to the only goal of the game. But, apart from that, the little magician was fairly well-marshaled by the Manchester United defence. Looked shaken by the challenge from Chris Smalling in the first period that led to a nosebleed. Tried a cheeky free-kick under the wall in the second period that was saved.
Luis Suarez: 7/10
Jeered by the Manchester United supporters owing to his history with Liverpool, the Uruguayan got Barcelona off the mark with his back post header that went in via a deflection. Looked dangerous as he floated across the front line and missed a great chance to double Barcelona’s lead, as he hit the side netting from a great position.
Philippe Coutinho: 5/10
Another former Liverpool player, Coutinho was also a target of some booing from the United supporters. Forced a save from de Gea in the first period, but that was as good as it got for the Brazilian. Did not look confident enough on the ball and kept giving away possession, before being replaced.
Arturo Vidal: 5/10
Came on for Coutinho in the 65th minute. Gave away needless fouls and was booked.
Sergi Roberto: 6.5/10
Introduced in place of Arthur in the 66th minute, the Spaniard added the forward thrust from the middle that was lacking in Barcelona’s play for much of the game. Got into promising positions and created a couple of chances with some incisive passing.
Carles Alena: N/A
Injury-time substitute for Busquets.