MANCHESTER – Two Argentine superstars. Two of the best forwards in the world. Two talisman for their teams. And two great friends.
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Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi squared off at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday as Barcelona beat Manchester City in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 clash.
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Here’s a minute-by-minute breakdown of how both Aguero and Messi got on. Who do you think edged this encounter?
9 mins: Aguero tries to wriggle free 25-yards from goal but is chopped down cynically by Mascherano. Barca crowding around the Argentine already.
17 mins: Nasri whips in a cross from the right which Aguero can’t quite get on the end of.
45 mins: Aguero gets free on the edge of the box and dinks it into Nasri who sees his shot spilled by ter Stegen. Aguero then wins a corner on the rebound.
47 mins: Aguero wriggles free from three Barca defenders before Mascherano hacks the ball away for a corner. From that set piece Dzeko heads just wide.
50 mins: Silva lays the ball back and Aguero tees himself up to finish 10 yards out… but his pesky countryman Mascherano is there to block it, once again.
54 mins: This time Aguero gets away from Mascherano and sends a curling, dipping effort just wide of the post. Most of the fans inside the Etihad thought it was in.
68 mins: GOAL! Aguero runs through and collects a delicious flick from Silva before coolly dinking home to make it 2-1.
87 mins: Aguero picks up the ball on the left flank and has seven Barca players to beat on his own. He drives past three and wins a free kick after being fouled crudely by Adriano. Wonderful stuff to ease the pressure.
3 mins: Ohh and ahhs from the crowd as Messi jinxes past three players and plays the ball back. Class.
11 mins: Played in by Neymar in the box but has a shot blocked at the last moment by Demichelis. Chance.
16 mins: ASSIST – Messi clips in a pretty mundane ball into the box but as Kompany clears it, the ball rebounds off Suarez and back to the Uruguayan who slams home to put Barca 1-0 up. Not Messi’s most beautiful assist but he’ll take it.
20 mins: Messi spins and beats three men in midfield before threading a perfect ball out wide. More oohs and ahhs from the crowd.
31 mins: Surging towards the box Messi slips the ball into Alba who crosses for Suarez to tap home. 2-0 and Messi had a big hand in this goal too.
35 mins: Messi surges away from Clichy with real pace but his pass is blocked. Barca’s fans chant “Messiiii, Messiii!”
36 mins: He surges through again and is denied by Joe Hart diving in at the near post.
55 mins: Another jinxing run from Messi tees up Rakitic but his shot is deflected over by Kompany.
65 mins: Gasps of “oh my” ring out as a looping ball is brought down exquisitely before his cross is cleared from danger. Sublime.
68 mins: Messi’s first mistake of the match led to City’s goal. He is stripped of the ball by Gael Clichy and the move ends with Aguero dinking home. He is human after all.
77 mins: Alba’a cross finds Messi in the box and his deflected effort loops towards the goal but Hart tips it just over.
86 mins: Messi gives away a free kick for barging Demichelis off the ball.
90 mins: Offside, but he dinks home a terrific finish to show exactly what he’s capable of. No goal.
90+3 mins: He wins a penalty kick after being taken down by Zabaleta… but Hart saves his PK down to the left and Messi heads the rebound wide. Wow.