FC Barcelona duly took their place in the last eight of the UEFA Champions League for the seventh year running with victory against Manchester City FC thanks to goals in the final quarter from Lionel Messi and Daniel Alves.
Trailing 2-0 after the first leg in Manchester, the visitors played with pluck and ambition and their 89th-minute goal, from captain Vincent Kompany, came when they had been reduced to ten men by Pablo Zabaleta's late red card. By then, however, Messi's eighth goal of this season's competition had effectively ended their challenge, and City were denied even the last word in the tie as Alves repeated his first-leg effort and fired in a late second.
Even though the strike that ended the contest was partially due to a defensive error, this should be a night remembered for the swathes of quality. Joe Hart and Andrés Iniesta impressed throughout and the central defenders from each team were required to make blocks and tackles of thrilling timing.
However, the best chances took until just before the break to arrive. First Messi measured a super pass for Xavi Hernández to slide in and volley on goal but Hart, on form all evening, saved superbly. Within seconds a Yaya Touré drive forward left him lofting a ball towards David Silva who managed to set up Samir Nasri while leaping through the air; Víctor Valdés equalled Hart's excellence to repel the attempt.
Although he would eventually seal the tie with his second goal across the two matches, thus far Messi was more productive as a provider. A minute before half-time his pass sent Neymar scurrying into the penalty area and the Brazilian patiently drew Hart but his chip was headed off the line by the covering Fernandinho.
After the interval everything accelerated. First a typically high-speed counterattack from Messi ended with a delicate side-footed shot punched back off the far post. City reacted strongly, substitute Edin Džeko climbing above Gerard Piqué to direct a header towards the top corner only for Valdés to make one of the saves of his season and turn over.
Zabaleta, later to collect a second yellow card for dissent, then missed the opportunity of the night from yet another good Aleksandar Kolarov cross. Finally the goals flowed. Messi's 67th-minute breakthrough came when a Cesc Fàbregas pass was deflected into his path by Joleon Lescott and the Argentinian showed no pity.
Kompany touched in City's late retort after Džeko had risen to head a corner, but the last laugh, just as in Manchester, was for Alves after fine work by Iniesta.