MADRID (AP) — So much for this being the worst Barcelona in years.
A thorough 2-0 win at 10-man Manchester City put the Spanish champion in clear control of its Champions League last-16 series, as Barcelona's highly regarded possession-passing game thrived in perhaps its most important match of the season.
Tuesday's victory came after Chelsea manager — and always prickly Barcelona antagonist — Jose Mourinho labelled this "the worst Barcelona in years."
While the Catalan side has endured unusual dips of form this season, it left no doubt of its pedigree in Europe after dismantling big-spending City's continental ambitions to secure a major advantage for the return leg.
"The truth is we could have inflicted even more damage, so we're happy with the result," Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas said. "One team was superior to the other, and that's it."
City coach Manuel Pellegrini harshly placed blame on Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson despite his stubborn decision to stick with Martin Demichelis, as the Argentine defender was exposed against Lionel Messi — just as he was against Chelsea in a recent league defeat. Demichelis' red card led to Messi's penalty to open the scoring, with Dani Alves adding a second valuable away goal in stoppage time.
Barcelona's style of play was clear, yet Pellegrini was unable to thwart it.
"Possession breeds opportunities for us. That was always the script and it worked to perfection," Fabregas said. "We could have also complained about (Gerard) Pique's goal being waived away for offside."
Barcelona has progressed each of the eight previous times — stretching back to the 1959-60 season — it has taken a 2-0 advantage into the return leg.