By Tim Hanlon
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Lionel Messi struck to end Manchester City's dreams of a famous comeback as Barcelona beat the English club 2-1 at the Nou Camp on Wednesday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals 4-1 on aggregate.
Barca looked far from the classic team who lifted the trophy in 2009 and 2011 but a stuttering version under Gerardo Martino that had lost two of their last three games was still far too strong for the Premier League club.
Captain Vincent Kompany leveled for the visitors on the night with a tap-in in the 89th minute, but Dani Alves responded by sweeping home the winner in the first minute of stoppage time.
City had been reduced to 10 men by then after Zabaleta was shown a second yellow card for dissent in the 78th minute.
The Argentine defender was incensed with referee Stephane Lannoy's decision to ignore City's strong penalty claims when substitute Edin Dzeko went down in the area under a challenge by Gerard Pique.
"It was a clear penalty," Kompany told Sky Sports. "Dzeko was in position to shoot and his trigger foot was caught.
"We have got nothing left in the tank. We gave everything and a few times we could have scored and obviously that would have changed the game.
"You have to take your half chances against the best teams. Over the course of the two games there was not much between the sides."
Messi put his side in front by producing a neat finish with the outside of his left boot from close range in the 67th minute after defender Joleon Lescott failed to stop a routine through-ball from Cesc Fabregas.
"We knew we had to score a goal to bring some calm to the tie, as we were aware of how dangerous City are," Messi told Canal Plus.
"I don't think the tie was ever in danger for us, and we controlled the match very well.
"I think tonight we got back to being the Barcelona that we all want to see and we were able to beat a very tough opponent.
"I don't know if the criticism (in the media after the La Liga defeat to Valladolid) was over the top. We are the first to criticize ourselves and we didn't play the way we should have done there.
"We don't let the criticism affect us and we just focus on ourselves and try to turn things around and that's what we did tonight, I think."
Barca had begun the game deeper than usual, looking to entice City to come at them so they could pounce on the counter. It was a tentative game early on as City held back and Barca's passing lacked fluidity.
The first half ended in a flourish as Neymar took advantage of a slip by Aleksandar Kolarov and his shot was scrambled wide by Joe Hart, while he also had another effort cleared off the line by Fernandinho.
In between, Nasri fired straight at Victor Valdes having been set up by Silva and the Spamiard also wasted a golden chance when he fired over with his favored left foot from 15 meters out.
After the break Messi's threat grew and in the 50th minute he cut in from the right and hit the post with a low left-foot shot from inside the area.
At the other end Dzeko, who had replaced Sergio Aguero, had a header brilliantly clawed away by Valdes.
City were still in the contest until Lescott got in a tangle just inside his own area, and the English defender's worst fears were realized when he turned round to see Messi latch on to the loose ball, deceive Hart with his finish, and send Barca on their way to the last eight for the seventh successive season.
"Leo is the one who makes the difference and that's what he is there for," said Xavi.
"Obviously, this is the Champions League and you suffer at times during the game. They played well, they are a good team and they had their chances, but I think we dominated the match."
(Editing by Stephen Wood)