City boss Pellegrini upbeat despite Barca Champions League defeat

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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; 3-1 is a very difficult score to try to reverse.”

Messi played a role in both of Barcelona’s goals.

In the 16th minute, his right-wing cross bounced off Vincent Kompany, allowing Suarez to fire home, and it was his dribble and pass that allowed Jordi Alba to cross for the Uruguayan to slide in his second.

– Enrique in celebratory mood –

The Argentina superstar has now failed to convert five of the last 10 penalties he has taken for club and country, but Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said he would remain his first-choice penalty-taker.

“We know penalties can be missed in this game of ours and the next player to take one will be Lionel Messi,” he said.

While a third goal would have given Barcelona one foot in the last eight, Enrique said that he was still satisfied with the outcome of the match.

“It is a night to celebrate,” he said.

“Even if it had been 3-1, the tie would still be open. You can’t relax and think the tie is done and dusted.”

Suarez was playing in England for the first time since leaving Liverpool last year and although he celebrated his goals with characteristic glee, he felt that the tie was far from over.

Asked if City still had a chance, the Uruguay striker told ITV: “I think so. If they lost the game 3-1, that is really difficult for them, but 2-1 is a good result for them.”

Pellegrini played down suggestions that City were under pressure to prove themselves as a Champions League force by beating Barcelona due to the massive investment in the club by Emirati owner Sheikh Mansour.

“It is important for this team to continue in the Champions League as far as possible,” he said.

“I don’t think we have invested any more than Barcelona. They have also invested a lot of money.

“This tie isn’t over until the game ends in Barcelona. We can analyse it then.”

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