Four-time winners FC Barcelona and French champions Paris Saint-Germain took huge strides towards the Champions League last eight as they both won away from home in their last-16, first-leg ties.
FC Barcelona prevailed 2-0 over English side Manchester City yesterday but scoring both their goals, a penalty by Lionel Messi and a late goal by Dani Alves, only after Argentinian defender Martin Demichelis was sent off eight minutes into the second half.
PSG, who were eliminated by FC Barcelona in the quarter-finals last season, thumped German outfit Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 in Germany but, unlike FC Barcelona, took the match by the scruff of the neck early on and led 3-0 at half-time with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring two of them.
The City and FC Barcelona clash turned in the 53rd minute when Demichelis brought down Messi, with replays suggesting the foul happened just outside the penalty area.
However, Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson thought otherwise and not only awarded the penalty but also sent off Demichelis.
City did not wilt and had their chances to pull level but instead were hit by a sucker punch at the end as the always dangerous Alves nipped in to slot home a sweetly-taken goal.
FC Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas said it had been an important statement by his side in light of some remarks, especially by former Real Madrid and now Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who had said they were the worst FC Barcelona team of "many years".
"Well we are in the Spanish Cup final, top of the league and we won with a great performance tonight, so we must be doing something right," said the 26-year-old.
"Some people have been doing a lot of talking, nothing new there with one of them, and hopefully this will make them shut up for a few days."
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini blamed Eriksson for tilting the game in FC Barcelona's favour.
"I think that the referee decided the game," he said. "Before the penalty there was the foul on (Jesus) Navas, when he (Eriksson) was three metres from the player, so he saw it without any problem.
"From the beginning I