Europe does not scare Barça, on the contrary. Undisputed in Spain (20 games, 20 victories in the Iberdrola League), the Catalans needed to measure their potential. And Manchester City, Chelsea’s escort in the Premier, was a good test for Lluís Cortés’s team in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals. Barcelona did not disappoint: they increased their pace with the ball, increased their intensity without the ball and, although they still struggle, they sharpened their aim in Italy. On the day of the fifth anniversary of the death of Johan Cruyff, Barça left the stadium that bears his name to play in Monza, due to restrictions on English teams in Spain (suspended from now on). New stadium, schedule too. At the request of the Barça club (they wanted to return to Barcelona after the match), UEFA agreed that the match would be played at 12:30. In Italy and at noon, Barça was Barça. With goals from Oshoala, Mariona and Hermoso, the Barça team swept City away. The return leg will be played next Wednesday in Manchester.
In Manchester City the offensive power of Barcelona was concerned. Even after learning that the top scorer in Barça history, Jenni Hermoso, arrived at Monza touched (she started on the bench). They knew that Lluís Cortés had alternatives like Lieke Martens (best player in Europe in 2017) and a whirlwind like Oshoala. The fear of the English became a reality in Italy, as the Nigerian broke the City. Before, yes, Oshoala did Oshoala: generate many opportunities, realize few. The lack of effectiveness was, precisely, an issue that worried Barça, as well as the control of the ball.
Manchester City evolved with Gareth Taylor. The English team, which seeks to regain power in England – its last title was won in 2016 -, is committed to a control football after incorporating the best player in the world according to FIFA, Lucy Bronce, and three world champions with States United, Sam Mewis, Abby Dahlkemper and Rose Lavelle. To ensure possession of the ball, Cortés opted for Mariona as a winger, to draw a 4-4-2 when Barça lost the ball. The strategy worked for the Barça coach: 57% possession. He had more problems, however, with effectiveness. Barça, the highest-scoring team in Spain (99 in 20 games), did not finish purging the penalties of their last Champions League, when in the semifinal against Wolfsburg they did not take advantage of any of the 14 opportunities they created.
Against City, the first hard bone of the season, Barça seemed to fall into the same trap again. The clock marked half an hour and the Catalans already counted seven chances to score, some very clear, especially those wasted by Oshoala and Graham Hansen. The Norwegian, unstoppable by the band, collided again and again with the English goalkeeper; the Nigerian, with her lack of aim. In the first half, Barça counted 10 shots, five on goal. One, at least, got into him. After a carom, the ball fell to Oshoala in the crescent and, with a more precise than powerful shot, he sent the ball into the net.
Protagonist in the first goal, also in the second. Oshoala received a foul in the area that ended with Mariona’s target. Barça breathed, especially after Paños stopped Kelly’s penalty, after a foul by Mapi León against Hemp. The desperation of the City was the tranquility of the Barça. And Jenni Hermoso didn’t want to be left off the scoreboard. The Madrilenian sealed the 3-0 in Monza and Barcelona caresses a new Champions League seminal. One more, the fourth in the last five seasons.