The UEFA Champions League began its knockout stages on Tuesday with two matches taking to the pitch.
Paris Saint-Germain easily handled Bayer Leverkusen, and PSG went into BayArena in Leverkusen and left with a resounding 4-0 victory.
Meanwhile, Barcelona blanked the mighty Manchester City attack and did so at Etihad. Barca will now take a 2-0 advantage into Camp Nou for the March 12 second leg of this contest.
I'll lay out my top takeaways from the action in a moment, but first, here are the results in a more tidy form for those who would not like to sift through my words:
|Home Team||Score||Away Team|
|Bayer Leverkusen||0-4||Paris Saint-Germain|
Source: ESPN FC
Both of these two-leg matches are over after the first leg
The top takeaway from the first day is that I hope the rest of the round of 16 is more compelling.
Manchester City and Barcelona were scoreless until Lionel Messi netted a penalty in the 54th minute after Martin Demichelis was sent off for a red card.
The red card was clearly deserved. Check out the GIF provided by OffThePost.info's Rob Parker:
Still, this match wasn't all that compelling. Manchester City was putting up a good fight, but they were dominated in possession, and Barcelona wore them down. Still, what is really disappointing is that this anticipated matchup is all but over.
Sure, the Citizens have the firepower to make up a two-goal deficit, but considering they were just held scoreless at home while Barcelona dominated possession, there is no reason to think the Citizens will make up a two-goal deficit at Camp Nou.
Zlatan is determined to make a UCL impression
The other affair is even more hopeless.
After getting embarrassed 4-0 at home, Bayer Leverkusen must now hit the road and simply hope to limit the embarrassment rather than pulling out a win.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic hasn't had a lot of success in his previous trips to the Champions League. With previous clubs Juventus, Milan, Internazionale and Barcelona, Ibrahimovic had never been a decisive factor.
He is making up for lost time now. Check out this tweet from OptaJean:
10 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 10 goals in his last five Champions League games. Monster.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) February 18, 2014
On Tuesday, Ibrahimovic helped bury Leverkusen.
Blaise Matuidi gave PSG a 1-0 lead after just three minutes. From there, the contest was marred by sloppy midfield play and the dominance of the 33-year-old PSG striker.
Ibrahimovic was creating chances with his aggressiveness, and that soon took its toll on the scoreboard.
He hit a perfectly placed low penalty to push the score to 2-0. Moments after the penalty, Ibrahimovic, as you'll see in the below GIF from imgur, crushed this epic blast:
This was a wonderful performance from the Swede, and the way he's going, I expect more UCL greatness from him.
Manchester City is in trouble
Obviously, Manchester City's Champions League campaign is in dire straits. That's not my focus here, however. After this performance, there is no reason to think that the Citizens will make gains in the EPL table.
Now, there is no shame in losing to Barcelona. Still, this was a bad sign for the Citizens. City are in third in the EPL table and are just three points behind table-leading Chelsea.
What is troubling is that City was blanked at Etihad.
Although, manager Manuel Pellegrini is not a fan of the ref for his match, as Football Tweets passes along, there is no hiding the fact that City is slumping:
Manuel Pellegrini on the ref: "He did not have any control of the game, he is a Swedish referee & shouldn't have been put in charge." #MCFC— Football__Tweet (@Football__Tweet) February 18, 2014
Manchester City had been commanding Premier League attention with their home dominance. The team is 11-0-1 in league play this year at home and has a positive goal differential of 33 at Etihad.
Meanwhile, the Citizens' results on the road were successful; they were just more inconsistent and not as impressive.
For most of the league year, this left many, myself included, waiting for City's road performances to catch up to their home performances.
The opposite has happened. City have become inconsistent at home. Their only league loss at Etihad this year came in their last league contest, which was against Chelsea on Feb. 3. They were blanked in that one as well.
In fact, the Citizens have now been held scoreless in three of their last four outings across all competitions.
I certainly expect the Citizens to improve upon this trend, but I have no faith this team can string together the kind of consistent success it takes to take the league title.