MANCHESTER (AFP) – Despite defeat by Barcelona, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini said his side would take confidence from their second-half reaction into the return leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.
A first-half brace from Luis Suarez helped Barcelona to a 2-1 win in Tuesday’s first leg at the Etihad Stadium, but Sergio Aguero’s 69th-minute goal and a stoppage-time penalty blunder by Lionel Messi gave City hope.
City lost Gael Clichy to a red card — echoing the dismissals of Martin Demichelis and Pablo Zabaleta during last season’s 4-1 aggregate loss to Barcelona at the same stage of the competition — but Pellegrini expressed belief that they would turn the tie around at Camp Nou next month.
“In the way we have to play, I think we can do it,” he said. “We demonstrated in the second half that we are not a worse team than Barcelona.
“It’s very important not to continue making the same mistakes. You can’t have a player sent off in every game against Barcelona.”
Messi won Barcelona’s late penalty after he was felled by Argentina team-mate Zabaleta, but his spot-kick was parried by City goalkeeper Joe Hart and he headed the rebound wide of the left-hand post.
Given the extent of their first-half domination, when an attacking City team spent much of the time chasing shadows, a 3-1 win would not have flattered the visitors.
Pellegrini admitted that his team “could not put three passes together” as Barcelona turned on the style — Messi nonchalantly nutmegging David Silva deep inside the visitors’ half at one point — but the City manager said Hart’s save could prove a turning point.
“It was a very important save,” said Pellegrini, who hopes to become the first manager to steer City to the Champions League quarter-finals.
“It was a very unnecessary penalty. We must control our emotion inside the box. Of course that gives us more chance to try to win in Barcelona.”