Barcelona secured safe passage through to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals after completing a 4-0 aggregate win over Manchester United on Tuesday.
It was Manchester United who had started the game on the front foot, with Marcus Rashford smashing the crossbar in the very first minute. Moments later, the visitors nearly took aim at goal again, only for Scott McTominay’s first touch desert him.
The match continued to remain high on action and a little while later, the referee had awarded Barcelona a penalty. But, upon consultation with VAR, it was deemed that Fred had won the ball before he tripped Ivan Rakitic, meaning there was no penalty.
Barcelona though, went on to grab the foothold in the match in the 16th minute, when Lionel Messi pounced on a mistake by Ashley Young before slotting the ball into the bottom left corner. Four minutes later, Messi doubled his and the Blaugrana’s tally, but had David de Gea to thank after the Spaniard made a mess of a routine save.
With a huge lead secured, Barcelona went into cruise control mode, although they could have bolstered their advantage if not for de Gea. The win though, was rounded off just after the hour mark, as Philippe Coutinho unleashed his trademark curler into the top right corner.
Manchester United came the closest to scoring thereafter, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen preserved his clean sheet, denying former Barcelona superstar Alexis Sanchez on his return to Camp Nou. The Catalans have thus, eased into the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
Barcelona now wait to see who they will face next, as Porto take on Liverpool on Wednesday, and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 7/10
Like much of the first leg, ter Stegen had barely anything to do on Tuesday, with Barcelona dominating the proceedings. The German made just a couple of routine stops to make until the fag end of the game, when he was sharp enough to deny Alexis Sanchez. Other than that, he was as assured as ever while distributing the ball.
Sergi Roberto: 7/10
The only change from last week’s side saw Roberto start ahead of Nelson Semedo. And, the Spaniard picked up from Semedo had left off, defending diligently and barely giving Anthony Martial an inch. Not as threatening an outlet in the final third as he can be, he should have done better with his effort in the first half.
Gerard Pique: 8/10
Pique was caught off guard to begin with, as Marcus Rashford made good use of his pace. But, after the initial onslaught by the visitors, the former Manchester United brought back memories from the first leg, containing the young Englishman expertly for the final 75 minutes of the game. Just continues to enjoy a remarkably season.
Clement Lenglet: 7/10
Not as assured as his senior partner. But after the initial stutters, when he also allowed Scott McTominay to drift into the box, Lenglet ended up finding his feet to produce a largely composed performance. Another showing that compounds the problems for Samuel Umtiti.
Jordi Alba: 8/10
It was just a case of absorbing the initial pressure, and Alba used all his experience to do so. Once the hosts started asserting their dominance, the Spaniard became a constant outlet in the final third, although Victor Lindelof dealt well with his threat. Teed up Coutinho for his goal.
Over the course of this season, Arthur has only done his cause a world of good and the display against Manchester United was another step in the right direction. The Brazilian bossed the midfield in what was a step up from his recent stutters, pulling the strings effortlessly and linking up marvelously with Messi.
Sergio Busquets: 8/10
The recent months have been quite forgetful for Busquets. But, the veteran midfielder stepped up just when he was needed, screening the backline well after the initial bursts by Manchester United and dropping back to allow the full-backs to bombard forward. Barcelona need him to build from here if they are to harbour hopes of a Champions League triumph.
Ivan Rakitic: 7/10
Rakitic was quite understated in his presence on the night, apart from when he thought he had won an early penalty before the decision was pulled back by VAR. Kept things ticking to ensure Barcelona controlled the game. His pressing put the pressure on Ashley Young to make the mistake before Messi scored his first goal.
Lionel Messi: 9/10
Lionel Messi’s game by numbers vs. Man Utd:
86% pass accuracy
4 fouls won
3 shots on target
Messi masterclass. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/T1EBp8VcAk
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 16, 2019
As is usually the case, Barcelona drew inspiration from Messi to sail through to the semi-finals. But, with his performance, the Barcelona captain also ended a frustrating run in the quarter-finals, having previously gone 12 Last Eight matches without scoring a goal.
Coming to the two finishes, he still had a lot to do when he won the ball from Young, but he made it all look so simple. Fortunate for the second goal, though. Phil Jones will have nightmares of defending against Messi for quite some time.
Luis Suarez: 6/10
While Messi was dominant, Suarez played the role of the support cast, taking the back seat and creating the spaces for his partner in attack. But, frustratingly for him, he remains without a goal in this season’s UEFA Champions League.
Philippe Coutinho: 8/10
One could have said that this was the final make-or-break situation for Coutinho to salvage his season. And, it looks like such a situation ended up bringing out close to his best levels. In particular, his link-up with Alba was pleasing and he is starting to improve the understanding he shares with Messi and Suarez.
His goal was right out the top drawer and was another sign that things might just be starting to fall in place once again, considering even his trademark shots were nowhere to be seen lately. Will now hope to end the season on a high.
Nelson Semedo: 6/10
On for Sergi Roberto for the final 20 minutes, Semedo continued from where the Spaniard had left off, driving Barcelona forward at every given opportunity.
Arturo Vidal: N/A
Given 15 minutes, Vidal helped bring the game home.
Ousmane Dembele: N/A
With the result sealed, Valverde gave Dembele around 10 minutes to get a run out and the Frenchman would have benefitted from the cameo.