regular-article-logo Saturday, 23 September 2023

Ruthless Manchester City send a signal

Sharp performance made Pep Guardiola’s fancied side look like they can finally become champions of Europe

Reuters, AP/PTI Manchester Published 13.04.23, 04:45 AM
Erling Haaland scores Manchester City’s third goal against Bayern Munich on Tuesday

Erling Haaland scores Manchester City’s third goal against Bayern Munich on Tuesday Getty Images

This was only the first leg but it did feel like a statement from Manchester City, a ruthless, intelligent, sharp performance that made Pep Guardiola’s fancied side look like they can finally become champions of Europe.

Even if Guardiola claimed it was a tortuous night watching from the sidelines at Etihad Stadium as his team calmly swept aside Thomas Tuchel’s visiting Bayern side 3-0, it will take a remarkable fightback from the Germans to turn things around in next week’s quarter final second leg in Munich.


“It was not comfortable. Emotionally I’m destroyed,” the City manager said. “I have (aged) 10 more years today. It was so demanding (a) game. Now I have to relax.”

Bayern, giants of European football, had gone into the game with a 100 per cent record in this season’s competition, with eight straight wins, including victories against Inter Milan, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain — all under former coach Julian Nagelsmann.

But the visitors were blown away by City’s power, with a stunning strike from Rodri setting the stage, followed by goals from Bernardo Silva and Erling Haaland — his 45th of the season — the difference on the night. Bayern had chances, too. Leroy Sane forced three saves from Ederson early in the second half, including one when through on goal with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Romelu Lukaku of Inter Milan celebrates on Tuesday

Romelu Lukaku of Inter Milan celebrates on Tuesday Getty Images

Yet by the time Haaland slid in to convert John Stones’ headed knockdown in the 76th minute, the semi-finals looked to be within reach.

Tuchel, hired by Bayern less than three weeks ago, was adamant the score wasn’t a true reflection of the game and that Bayern had the momentum just before an error from defender Dayot Upamecano allowed City to score their second goal in the 70th minute.

“(The Bayern players) felt that this does not feel like a 3-0, but it is a 3-0 and of course it’s a huge, huge task now to turn this around. We will not give up. We are realistic but we will not give up. Football is football and a home match in Germany is a home match in Germany,” Tuchel said.

Tuchel beat Guardiola’s City before with Chelsea in the 2021 Champions League final, but he’s had little time to shape how Bayern play after his surprise appointment last month to replace Nagelsmann.

Just to take the second leg on April 19 to extra time, Bayern would need to do what no team has done since September 2020 and beat City by three goals.

“No big things need to change, but of course nobody was shy to say that you need a bit of luck, you need the momentum in the game if you want to have a result with City,” Tuchel said.

In previous years Guardiola’s team has buckled when under pressure at this stage.

Losses have come against underdogs Monaco, Tottenham and Lyon. Guardiola, who won the Champions League twice as coach of Barcelona, has so far failed to deliver the trophy to City, despite dominating English football during his seven years at the club.

Victory for Inter

In the other quarter final first leg of the night, Inter Milan got back to winning when it mattered the most. Benfica’s poor run came at the worst time.

Inter ended their six-match winless streak with a 2-0 win in Lisbon, moving into good position to reach the last four for the first time in more than a decade.

It was Inter’s first win in more than a month and Benfica’s second loss in a row after an unbeaten run that included 13 wins in 15 matches in all competitions. Benfica were coming off a loss to archrival Porto in the Portuguese league at the weekend. Nicolo Barella and Romelu Lukaku scored second-half goals for Inter at the Stadium of Light.

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