Midfielder slams Barcelona's detractors like Jose Mourinho after his team dish out a masterclass on how to beat Man City at Etihad Stadium
Manchester: If this was the worst Barcelona team for many years, then Manchester City would have been trudged off at the final whistle well-defeated but hugely relieved not to have been facing the best.
Daniel Alves scores Barcelona's second goal at the Etihad Stadium. Pic/Getty Images
Jose Mourinho's barbed taunt was no doubt aimed at antagonising both City and the Catalans in one fell swoop, but Barcelona departed from Manchester satisfied that they had overcome Manuel Pellegrini's side in a manner that no other side has managed at the Etihad this season, not even Chelsea.
It was not so much the 2-0 scoreline, nor that Barcelona overwhelmed their opponents; in fact the excitement of this much-anticipated meeting felt rather flat by the final whistle.
It was more a state of mind that the fear of Lionel Messi and his mini warriors instil. City have blasted aside almost all-comers to the Etihad this season, but Pellegrini's ultra-defensive set-up must have been a fillip to Barca's confidence.
That approach worked well until the dancing feet of the little Argentinian maestro were swept away by Martin Demichelis — the ultimate mismatch perhaps — to tip the balance in the favour of the visitors.
Barcelona certainly began as if Mourinho's carefully aimed poisoned arrow had lodged home. This was a side looking as though their whole philosophy was on trial and the possession statistics for the opening 20 minutes were a tribute to the virtues of tiki taka football.
Except that, for all the first half, the one Englishman on the field had stood calm, Joe Hart remaining untroubled as two tightly-packed pale blue lines manned the barricades.
The message was clear — the Last 16 of the Champions League was uncharted territory for City and they were not going to sacrifice this opportunity on the altar of 'good football'.
And it worked. By the break Barcelona had been restricted to a long-range effort from Xavi plus a couple of half-openings that City — not least their much-maligned defender Demichelis — swiftly closed.
The best chances had in fact come at the other end, where Alfredo Negredo first failed from a very tight angle, and then wasted a header that should have been tasty meat and drink for this Beast.
It could not last, and it did not. Andres Iniesta's sublime pass set Messi free and, although Demichelis dived in outside the area, the contact continued into it, allowing referee Jonas Eriksson to award both a penalty and red card.
It was only when down to 10 men and behind 1-0 to Messi's penalty that City shrugged off their fetters. David Silva, as good as any other Spaniard on the night, brought a terrific save from Victor Valdes, while Gael Clichy wasted a clear opportunity late on.
It was left to Neymar, another one of the "worst Barcelona" team, to come off the bench and set up Dani Alves for the goal that should put this tie out of City's reach.
'Shut up, will you?'
Cesc Fabregas trooped off in triumph to tell the TV cameras that "some people are talking too much and now they will have to shut up for a few days".
Barcelona's reward could be Chelsea in the quarter-finals — now that really would be something.