Manchester City were dumped out of the Champions League by French league leaders Monaco, who progress to the quarter finals of the competition on the away goals rule after a 6-6 aggregate score in a thrilling encounter.
Over the two legs, Monaco deserved to progress – their ruthless attacking style ultimately too much for a poor City defence. From minute one, Monaco’s desire was evident – first to every loose ball, well organised at the back and decisive on the attack. It took all but eight minutes for teen sensation Kylian Mbappé to fire the hosts ahead.
This was just the start City had feared, the two-goal cushion cut to one goal, and more worryingly Monaco sniffed more danger. Jardim’s side is populated with a plethora of individual talent in a young squad, a number of whom are deservedly linked with City and other elite European clubs.
After a number of scares for the City defence, Monaco found themselves in dream land, leading Pep Guardiola’s side 2-0 on the night. Benjamin Mendy raided down the left flank before picking out Fabinho who drilled his shot past Caballero.
Question marks lay around the defending for both goals, but perhaps more worrying was City’s lack of attacking prowess. De Bruyne and Silva, so often receiving the plaudits in these reports, were poor tonight. City headed into the changing rooms at half time, having been played off the pitch and maybe even lucky the scoreline was only 2-0.
However, whatever Pep said at half time worked – but the damage was already done. City came out in the second half with intent and purpose to every spell of possession, with urgency and the desire to get in behind.
Sterling went through on goal after a devastating De Bruyne ball, but he was caught in two minds whether to shoot or tee up Agüero – the chance went begging. Minutes later, Sergio should’ve scored from a position where we have seen him score so many times over the years but he was denied by Subasic.
It felt like it was going to be one of those nights where whatever City tried, it wouldn’t come off, but in the 71st minute Leroy Sané fired City in front on aggregate with his rebounded effort. City’s patience had paid off, and they had themselves a precious lead with 20 minutes to play.
480 seconds was all that separated Sané’s goal and Bakayoko’s strike, which was ultimately the goal that ended City’s European dreams for this season. City had looked vulnerable from set-pieces all night, as the zonal marking situation was nearly exploited a few times, but the marking for this goal was what I’d expect to see on a Sunday morning on the local playing field.
Suddenly Monaco, who looked dead on their feet, found new wind and managed to start matching City man for man like they did in the first half.
Substitutions from this moment were key. Monaco introduced an experienced head in Joao Moutinho, who ensured Silva and De Bruyne weren’t allowed much space to operate in. On the other hand, Iheanacho was sent on by Guardiola, and I can barely recall him touching the ball. I said substitutions were key, but perhaps omissions also played a factor – Yaya Touré, who has been one of City’s best performers in the calendar year, was left on the bench by Pep. In truth, Monaco saw out the remaining minutes without any real problems.
Overall, City didn’t turn up until the second half, and that was what cost them. Monaco are a very efficient side, and there is no wonder City are linked with what seems the majority of their starting lineup. To crash out on away goals is cruel, and it is hard to pick positives in the defeat but with defending like that, it is hard to say the Champions League was a realistic ambition – as the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern would probably have a field day against City’s full backs.
It would be easy to scapegoat Pep’s tactics, or the defending, but whichever way you look at it there is no hiding from City’s ageing back line, which will be top priority in the summer.
It is equally easy to forget City were eleven unbeaten prior to this, so it isn’t the end of the world, with the FA Cup and top four still to fight for – starting with Liverpool on Sunday, before trips to Arsenal and Chelsea.