Luis Suarez finally emerged from Lionel Messi's shadow at Barcelona by scoring twice in a 2-1 win over Manchester City on Tuesday, putting the Spanish club within sight of the Champions League quarterfinals for an eighth straight year.
Suarez has found goals harder to come by since moving from Liverpool for $130 million last summer, but he rediscovered his scoring touch on his return to England with opportunist strikes in the 16th and 30th minutes. His goals capped a dominant first-half display by Barca in the last-16 first leg.
City improved considerably after the break, with Sergio Aguero reducing the deficit in the 69th minute, but the home side lost defender Gael Clichy to a red card and was thankful for Joe Hart's last-minute penalty save from Messi. With the goal at his mercy, the Argentina star headed the rebound wide to give City renewed hope heading into the second leg on March 18.
"If they lost the game 3-1, that is really difficult for (City)," Suarez said. "But 2-1 is a good result for them."
In the night's other first-leg match, Juventus beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in Turin.
Over-run and outplayed in the first half, City was lucky to go into the break only two goals behind as manager Manuel Pellegrini's decision to play a 4-4-2 formation backfired. Barcelona - with Messi to the fore - exploited the extra space in midfield to create chances at will, and Suarez was clinical.
With seven goals in 22 appearances for Barcelona, Suarez has been steady - if not spectacular - in his first season in Spain and this was the game that announced himself at the club.
Showing the instincts that helped him score 31 league goals for Liverpool last season, the reigning player of the year in England pounced on a weak headed clearance by City captain Vincent Kompany and swept a low left-foot finish past Hart.
Suarez was denied by the legs of Hart after another sweeping length-of-the-field move that had its origins with Messi nutmegging David Silva midway in the Barca half. But the striker didn't have to wait long for his second goal, as Messi drifted through two tackles and passed to Jordi Alba, whose delayed cross was glanced in by a sliding Suarez.
Heads were bowed as the City players left the field at halftime, while the "oles" from the small section of Barca supporters had begun in the 23rd minute.
"We couldn't put three passes together in the first half," Pellegrini said. "There was a bit of confusion but we managed to be calmer in the second (half)."
City took the game to Barca after the restart, passing up three great chances before Aguero ran onto a deft flick by Silva, burst between two defenders and shot high into the net from 12 meters.
Clichy had already been booked in the 59th for a foul on Ivan Rakitic when he went in late and high on Dani Alves in the 73rd. The Frenchman held his hands up but his protests didn't stop referee Felix Brych from showing a second yellow.
City lost 4-1 on aggregate to Barca at the same stage last season - and had a player sent off in both legs.
Fellow full back Pablo Zabaleta exacerbated Clichy's mistake by fouling Messi to give away the last-minute penalty, but Hart saved. Messi's fifth failed attempt from his last 10 penalties for club and country kept City in contention for the quarterfinals.