Manchester City's players put on a brave face as they assessed the damage inflicted by Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League tie. The English team's hopes of reaching the quarter-finals appear in ruins after the Spanish champions claimed a 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium that was aided by Martin Demichelis's sending-off.
Few could deny that Barcelona, who had 68 per cent of possession, deserved their success overall. They were the more clinical side when it mattered and had City on the back foot for large spells.
City, however, can take comfort from the fact that they did limit the Catalans' chances and created a few openings themselves. They may face a daunting task to turn the tie around at Camp Nou next month, but the feeling in the dressing room is that the cause is not lost.
"Nothing is impossible in football," said defender Pablo Zabaleta. "We still have 90 minutes to try to do something. We should go there and try as hard as we can.
"I think we must be happy with what we did in the second half with ten men. Maybe Barcelona had more possession, but they didn't create too many chances because we were very solid defending.
"Also we had chances to score and [Victor] Valdes made a few saves. At the end of the day we must be a little bit disappointed, but now we need to have belief and try to do well in Camp Nou."
Playmaker Samir Nasri hopes City can produce a response similar to the one they mustered after being humbled by Bayern Munich in October. City were outplayed as they lost their home group match to the reigning champions 3-1, but they won the return match 3-2 in Germany in December.
Nasri said: "It is a different game but why not? We went to Munich and we won. We could do the same.
"I think it is not over. It was a close game. We still have a chance and we are going to play the game there without fear and try to score as soon as possible."
City spent most of the first half soaking up Barcelona pressure, but had good chances when Alvaro Negredo shot across goal and glanced a header wide. Barcelona upped the tempo after the break and broke through when Lionel Messi raced on to an Andres Iniesta through-ball and was brought down by Demichelis for a penalty. Messi tucked away the spot-kick and although David Silva went close to an equaliser, Dani Alves grabbed Barcelona's second in the last minute.
City midfielder Fernandinho said: "Of course you have to go there with confidence. I am sure our players and the staff will prepare very good for this game. We will go there and try to beat them to go to the next stage."
Mascherano wary of potential Aguero return
Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano also feels City cannot be written off.
The former Liverpool player said: "It is a good result, but nothing is made. We have to play another game and it will be difficult.
"We know how strong Man City are, we know they can score any time and probably [Sergio] Aguero will come back. To go through to the quarter-finals we have to play with the same mentality we did here."