Lisbon: Manchester City was so good in the Champions League that even the fans of its opponents couldn’t help but applaud. When Phil Foden side-footed home the third of City’s four first-half goals in a 5-0 win over Sporting in the last 16, it wasn’t just the vocal away fans showing their appreciation inside the […]
Lisbon: Manchester City was so good in the Champions League that even the fans of its opponents couldn’t help but applaud.
When Phil Foden side-footed home the third of City’s four first-half goals in a 5-0 win over Sporting in the last 16, it wasn’t just the vocal away fans showing their appreciation inside the Estádio José Alvalade on Tuesday.
Some of the home supporters were also seen clapping in recognition of one of the most dominant performances ever seen at this stage of Europe’s top club competition.
Helping inflict the humiliation were four players who once played for Sporting’s fierce Lisbon rival, Benfica. One of them was Bernardo Silva, who scored two of the goals — his first an outrageous half-volley that flew in off the underside of the crossbar. Riyad Mahrez began the demolition in the seventh minute with a close-range volley that was only given after a long video review. Silva then scored in the 17th and 44th minutes — either side of Foden’s well-worked team goal in the 32nd — as City went into half time leading 4-0. Raheem Sterling curled in a sublime fifth in the 58th and Pep Guardiola’s team can start planning for the quarterfinals, even with the second leg still to come in three weeks.
Not that City manager Pep Guardiola, as close to a perfectionist as there is in world soccer, was getting too carried away. “The players know me — they know the way we work. They can do better,” Guardiola said. “I am incredibly happy, don’t misunderstand me, but we can do better.” What did please Guardiola was City’s efficiency in front of goal, which is something he often criticizes his players for. “Today we were so clinical,” he said.
“Every time we arrived in the first 30 minutes, we scored. The difference between the teams is not 0-5, but we finished so well.” For Sporting and its fans, it was that sinking feeling again in the last 16 — where the club hasn’t been since the 2008-09 season.
On that occasion, the Portuguese team was embarrassed 12-1 on aggregate by Bayern Munich after losing 5-0 at home and 7-1 away.
The thrashing by City must have felt similar.
As for the English club, tougher tests are coming in the Champions League but these kinds of performances are why many make it the favorite to win the competition for the first time.
It was City’s ninth straight appearance in the knockout stage and the team arrived on the back of a stunning run of form that had seen it lose just one of its last 20 games in all competitions.
The mismatch was obvious from the moment Mahrez guided in a volley with his right foot after Foden had a shot tipped aside by Antonio Adán. The ball fell to Kevin De Bruyne and he teed up Mahrez for the finish, only for VAR to check if De Bruyne was offside when Foden got his shot away.
He wasn’t. The second goal was the highlight of the match, with Bernardo showing audacity to take a shot on the half-volley after Rodri got his head on a deep corner from Mahrez. Somehow, the Portugal playmaker got his foot over the ball and guided it powerfully in off the bar.
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