Manchester United defender Chris Smalling gave Barcelona mega star, Lionel Messi a bloody nose as both men clashed in an aerial challenge for a ball at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Although United lost by a Luke Shaw own goal, the Messi accident was one of the highlights of the first leg of the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
Messi was quickly back on his feet and into the heart of the action, but it was Philippe Coutinho who came closest to extending Barca’s advantage before the break with a thunderous low shot that De Gea did brilliantly to repel with his feet.
Next week, United now have another monumental task on their hands to overturn the result and qualify for the semi-final.
United had produced one of the European Cup’s finest ever comebacks from a 2-0 first-leg defeat at home to Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.
However, on the ground where manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completed another famous fightback to win the competition as a player in 1999, United must repeat the trick at the Camp Nou in six days’ time.
What turned out to be the winning goal by Barca came with a touch of drama of its own.
Lionel Messi drifted in behind the United defence and his cross hung up to the back post was headed goalwards by Luis Suarez, the ball flicking off Shaw on its way past David de Gea.
An errant offside flag briefly threatened to spoil Suarez’s delight. However, the goal was quickly given on a VAR review and the former Liverpool striker took extra glee at having the last laugh with a fist pump in front of the Stretford End.
The early goal should have settled the Spanish champions into their stride as their dominance of possession touched close to 90 percent in the opening stages.
Yet, they offered United plenty of encouragement with Sergio Busquets in particular off the pace.
Marcus Rashford shrugged off an ankle injury to start and provided by a distance United’s biggest threat.
United enjoyed the better of the opening stages in the second half, but lacked a creative spark to open Barca up with Paul Pogba too often picking the sideways pass rather than looking to thread the eye of a needle towards Rashford and the ineffective Romelu Lukaku.