Barcelona defeated Manchester United 3–0 last night to qualify for the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League in an emphatic way. Barça had beaten United 1–0 in the first leg of their tie last week. A 4–0 aggregate win was a strong statement on part of Barcelona, who remain the favorites to win the biggest prize in European club football. They would play against the winner of the Liverpool vs. Porto tie.
Lionel Messi scored a couple of goals in 16th and 20th minute respectively to seal United’s fate in the first half itself. Philippe Coutinho increased the deficit in the second half, as United struggled to make any mark in the game. Sportskeeda looks at the 3 things we learned from last night’s match.
1. Messi’s brilliance did it again.
It is almost impossible to beat Barcelona at Camp Nou, as they have not lost any home match since 2013. It is almost impossible to stop Messi from making his mark in a crucial match. The Argentine superstar scored his 44th and 45th goals of the season last night and tortured United yet again after having done so in the Champion League finals in 2009 and 2011.
Messi’s first goal came from a typical run through the inside-right channel. He received the ball near the right flank and dodged past the likes of Fred and Phil Jones before delivering the killer blow with his left foot. David de Gea could not do anything, as the ball found the corner of the net.
Messi again struck minutes later, as his innocuous right-footed shot went through the arms of De Gea to find the net again. It was a goalkeeping blunder, but credit has to be given to Messi for having yet another shot on target. Barça would remain the favorites to win the Championship as long as Messi keeps delivering like he did last night.
2. United lacked width through the right flank.
United played three central players on the right side of the pitch but struggled to have any width through the right flank. Victor Lindelöf, a center-back, played as the right-back, as Phil Jones and Chris Smalling played as the central defenders. Moreover, defensive midfielder Scott McTominay played as the right-sided midfielder in a 4-3-3, and Jesse Lingard played as the right-winger.
As a result, United had almost no width through the right flank. All their attacks were through the left side of the pitch primarily, as the likes of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, and Ashley Young tried to create some moves.
Young played as the left-back following Luke Shaw’s absence and tried to make his presence felt with his overlapping runs at times. United actually started in an emphatic fashion and dominated the game for the first 10 minutes. Marcus Rashford hit the crossbar in the third minute of the match, and United looked to be well in course for finding the opening goal.
However, their dominance did not last long as Barcelona took the reigns of the match gradually.
3. Barcelona dominated the midfield battle.
Barcelona’s possession-based passing game was too good for United, as the latter struggled to hold their own in the midfield. United played two defensive midfielders in the shape of Fred and McTominay, and were solely dependent on Pogba for creating moves.
While Pogba tried his best, it was not enough to trouble the likes of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitić, and Arthur Melo. Coutinho notched up his 11th goal of the season and had a really good match.
Barcelona kept dictating terms in the midfield, and all United could do in reply was to play some square passes inside their own half. Jordi Alba was brilliant again and a lot of their attacks originated through him. United struggled to get the ball, as Barça had almost 65% possession in the first half.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has been doing a good job for United, but watched helplessly as a much superior Barça side knocked his team out of the competition.
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