Manchester City crashed out of the Champions League last 16 to a spirited and talented Monaco on away goals
That’s that! City simply gave themselves too much to do after a terrible first-half display! And so last year’s semi-finalists have failed to make it through the Round of 16. Pep Guardiola’s 100th match in European competition ends in failure; it’s the first time he’s crashed out at this stage of the Champions League. City had chances to get themselves out of trouble in that second half, but passed too many up. For six minutes, it looked like Leroy Sane had saved them, but Tiemoue Bakayoko’s header put Monaco through. On balance, the French league leaders deserve to scrape through this high-scoring tie on away goals; they were always effervescent in attack, and tonight’s first half was the one big difference in an otherwise tight ding-dong battle over two legs. City’s long wait for their first European Cup - their journey started back in 1968 - goes on. Monaco are a step closer to their second final. And Leicester City are the Premier League’s sole representatives in the quarter finals. Hey, they are the champions of England, after all.
90 min +3: De Bruyne loops a dreadful free kick straight down Subasic’s throat!
90 min +2: A final chance here! Lemar slides in on De Bruyne as the City man makes his way down the inside-right channel. A booking, but more importantly a free kick, 35 yards from goal. David Silva and De Bruyne stand over it, with the box loaded.
90 min +1: Monaco sit deep, holding their shape. It’s not really what they’re all about. Sterling, tight on the right, hoicks a poor cross out of play on the left.
90 min: Germain is booked for a time-wasting foul in the middle of the park. It’s his last act of the evening. He wanders off, to be replaced by Dirar. There will be three added minutes.
88 min: Space for Sane down the left. He’s got men in the middle, but his cross doesn’t clear the first man. Monaco break upfield, and De Bruyne is forced to stop the move with a foul. It’s not worth a second booking, but it does run down the clock.
87 min: The clock is not City’s friend, and the hosts are keeping hold of the ball.
86 min: Bakayoko does well to escape from a tight spot on the Monaco right, romps up the wing and finds Germain, who buys a cheap free kick. Lemar launches it long, into the City box. Caballero comes off his line and punches clear with purpose and passion, under all sorts of pressure from Jemerson.
84 min: Iheanacho comes on for Clichy.
83 min: City stroke it around awhile, 30 yards from the Monaco goal. Eventually David Silva, dropping a little deeper, floats a diagonal pass towards Sane, just inside the box on the left. Sane takes the ball down well, but there’s no danger here, because he’s been caught offside.
81 min: De Bruyne overcooks the free kick, walloping it over everyone in the box and out of play on the right. Far from ideal in this situation.
80 min: The Stade Louis II is bouncing right now. Some atmosphere. Sane is bundled over as he goes nowhere down the left. Rash from Sidibe, and a chance for City to load the Monaco box. But before the free kick can be taken, Mbappe is sacrificed for Joao Moutinho. “Mike Wilner has basically come up with a kids version of the student five-a-side classic ‘score with a shot’ where you have a shot of something strong (eg turps) for a good piece of play, and two shots for anything naughty,” writes Robin Hazlehurst. “Gets a bit messy and no-one remembers the final score, but great for motivation. I think.”
78 min: This could still end 5-3 tonight, you know.
Monaco load the box. Lemar curls it high towards the penalty spot. Bakayoko rises, and plants a downward header into the bottom right. Caballero no chance! Monaco are back in front, leading on away goals!
76 min: Monaco push forward for the first time in this second half, pretty much. De Bruyne bundles Bernardo Silva over down the right. Free kick. From which...
74 min: Sane tears down the left and earns City a corner. David Silva takes. It’s easily cleared, and Monaco pile up the other end. Sterling is forced to slide in on the rampaging Bernardo Silva. He picks up a booking that’ll keep him out of the quarter-final first leg, should City hold onto their lead in this tie.
72 min: On the touchline, Pep Guardiola orders his men to keep piling forward. No change of tactic. Good old Pep!
This is nothing more than Manchester City deserve for their second-half show! De Bruyne quarterbacks a pass down the right from the centre circle. Sterling, out on the right touchline, hares into the box at a right angle. He snaps a shot towards the bottom left. Subasic gets down to parry well, but the ball breaks to his left, towards Sane, who is faced with an open goal. Sane roofs the ball into the net! City lead in this tie again!
70 min: Toure comes on. Almamy Toure, that is. He replaces Raggi for the home side, who are hanging on right now.
68 min: City are utterly dominant right now. David Silva very nearly releases Sterling down the right. Not quite. Then they come again, Aguero making tracks down the same channel. He’s got a chance to shoot as he enters the area, but tries to get closer to the target. In doing so, he allows Subasic to close him down, and Jemerson to snap at his heels. He has to settle for a corner, which is wasted.
67 min: Monaco are beginning to look nervous. David Silva slides a simple pass down the inside-left channel. Sane’s free this time! He looks to poke the ball under Subasic, rushing out to close the angle. His shot ripples the side netting, never looking like it was going in. A sense now, though, that it’s only a matter of time.
65 min: Fernandinho chips a clever ball down the middle to release Silva on goal. He doesn’t have the pace to tear clear of three Monaco shirts, so he draws them all before slipping a pass to his right. Aguero’s free on the edge of the box! He steps inside the area and shoots low, only for Subasic to smother brilliantly! The ball springs out for a corner, which is dealt with by the home side. City are getting closer and closer.
62 min: Sane skins Raggi on the left. He skitters into the box, reaches the left-hand corner of the six-yard box, draws Subasic, and slips the ball inside to Aguero. Normally that’d be in the net, but the ball clanks off Aguero’s shin and miles over the bar from close range. How did that not result in a goal? A sign that it’s not going to be City’s night? Ah, no need to panic yet. They’re beginning to carve out chances. And they just need one.
61 min: Now it’s Sterling winning a corner on the right with a determined run. De Bruyne’s delivery is eyebrowed by Stones back to Sterling, just outside the box. Sterling can’t connect properly with his shot.
60 min: Aguero dribbles into the Monaco box from the right. He’s never quite in control, but still makes enough of a nuisance of himself for Jemerson to hack out for a corner. Nothing comes from the set piece, but City are at least asking questions in this second half.
59 min: A booking apiece as De Bruyne cynically tugs the shirt of Fabinho, then, soon after play restarts, Bakayoko highkicks Fernandinho in the back, very much second to a loose ball.
57 min: Sterling should score! De Bruyne splits the Monaco defence in half with a stunning pass down the inside-right channel. He’s clear in the box, coming in from the right, with only Subasic to beat! But he hesitates, slows down to a halt, and looks for Aguero on the penalty spot instead. He should have taken that on, no least because Jemerson steps in to intercept and clear. Sterling had to shoot!
55 min: Aguero and Sterling combine down the right-hand edge of the Monaco box. Sterling’s pullback very nearly finds David Silva, to the right of the D. But Silva can’t gather and falls over. And then the first sign of the dangers inherent in chasing the goal City require. Mbappe breaks upfield, and very nearly fashions a chance to shoot down the inside-left channel, swerving this way and that. But he over-elaborates his sashay, and that chance is gone too.
53 min: Space for Mendy down the Monaco left. He’s got options in the City box, but blooters a poor cross high over the crossbar. Monaco, perhaps understandably, seem to have come out with a different mindset now they’re in charge of the tie. They’re not streaming forward in such a relentless manner.
52 min: Further encouragement for City as Clichy, tight on the left touchline, wedges a lovely little ball inside and very nearly finds David Silva free in the Monaco box. Subasic comes off his line to gather, and takes a clatter from Silva for his trouble. He stays down, possibly as an attempt to slow down City’s second-half momentum. He’s up again after a fashion.
50 min: David Silva slips a ball down the left for Sane, who has options in the middle but hesitates on the edge of the box, fails to make a pass, and the danger is gone.
49 min: Fernandinho powers down the inside-right channel, chasing a David Silva pass. He’s eased away by the shoulder of Fabinho. Fine defending. But City have started this second half in a good frame of mind.
48 min: De Bruyne creams a pass down the right to release Sterling into space. On another day, the following ricochet between Sterling and Jemerson, coming across to cover, breaks City’s way, and Sterling races clear into the box. But it flies out off Sterling for a goal kick instead. But already this is better from City. A low bar, admittedly, but progress is progress.
47 min: Aguero does well to hold onto possession in a tight spot out by the left-hand corner flag. He eventually whips a low ball into the Monaco box, but there’s nobody in blue taking a chance.
46 min: Germain goes haring down the left wing in acres. City are very relieved to hear the whistle blow for a push on Sagna. “I’ve developed some specific tactics for U8 teams,” begins Mike Wilner. “We tend not to use zonal marking, offside traps, or anything more complicated than a basic 3-1-3 formation. But the key - bribe the kids with frozen yoghurt. Score a goal, get a fro-yo. Make a save, more fro-yo. Win the match, it’s a BIG fro-yo.” Am I allowed a fro-yo too, please? I’ve been well behaved. I’ve tried my best. I’m a good boy!
And we’re off again! City get the ball rolling for the second half. No changes yet. They’ve got to go hell for leather against a team so clinical on the counter. One way or another, this isn’t going to end 2-0, is it?
Half-time coaching masterclass, with
Pep Guardiola Curtis Ruder: “I coach my daughter’s team for U9s in San Antonio. When the other team has possession, we pretty much play a straight up 3-2-1. When gaining possession, the fullbacks bomb forward for width and one of the midfielders and the remaining defender become sweepers, making it more of a 2-3-1 or even a 2-1-3. Two main keys: having an eight year old who wants to play like Kante or Wanyama and just destroy and link. And then having a couple of fullbacks who won’t get sucked into the amoeba but are happy to run up and down the sideline. If you can keep width, and spread the ball from side to side, the other team will chase and wear down.”
And that’s that for the first half. It’s been all Monaco, City have barely turned up. And as things stand, the French side are going through to the quarter finals on the away goals rule. City have it all to do. But Pep won’t be surprised. To quote his pre-match interview: “From my experience, if you do not score away, you have little chance of going through.” The man knows what he’s talking about. A mighty second half coming up!
44 min: Monaco stroke it around the middle of the park awhile. Meanwhile the injured Falcao wanders down the touchline with his hands in his expensively tailored pockets. Not a care in the world. The home side are enjoying themselves.
42 min: Something approaching a lull. City will be more than happy to run the clock down until half-time. They need a chance to regroup and cool their boots. This is far from over. “Surely it’s time for Yaya?” asks Rob Little. “Man City are playing a 5-0-5 formation at present.”
40 min: Germain comes through the back of Fernandinho in the middle of the park. He’s a little lucky to escape a booking. Then again, Clichy has been testing the ref’s patience with a couple of slides on Bernardo Silva out on the right. Laissez-faire officiating.
38 min: Bernardo Silva set Monaco on the attack with a cheeky backheel out on the left wing. Lemar breaks into the box and draws Caballero, but can’t find a head in the centre with his cross. Had he done so, it was almost certainly a third for Monaco with the net uncluttered by goalkeeper.
37 min: Manchester City have had 51 percent of the possession so far. It certainly doesn’t feel like it. They’ve certainly done next to nothing with it. Stats are almost 100 percent useless.
35 min: Clichy bundles Bernardo Silva over by the right-hand corner flag. So it’s basically a corner. Lemar whips it high to the near post. Caballero does very well to punch clear under extreme pressure from Jermerson.
33 min: Plenty of time remaining, of course. A few blue shirts snap into a few tackles in the midfield, space closed down like it hasn’t been to this point. A sign that City have been shocked out of their lethargy? Their fans will certainly hope so.
31 min: Aguero tries to fashion an instant response with some determined work down the inside-left channel. He earns a corner, but nothing much comes of it. Pretty much to a man, City look shellshocked. A collective 11,000-yard stare. They need to snap out of the funk they’ve been in pretty much since kick-off, or they’ll be heading out of Europe tonight.
Lemar, out on the left, slips a ball down the flank to Mendy, who reaches the byline and pulls a glorious ball back to Fabinho, rushing into the area. Fabinho meets the ball ten yards out, opens his body up, and sidefoots purposefully past the helpless Caballero. Too easy. All of a sudden, Monaco lead this tie on away goals!
28 min: Sterling plays a fine ball down the inside-left channel to set De Bruyne running towards the Monaco area. Raggi gets back to cover well and put a stop to his gallop. Meanwhile here’s Matt Dony: “I don’t know if it helps, but my memory of U8 football formations is largely ‘12 excited children crowded around the ball, with a bored child in each goal.’ Not wildly dissimilar to the first leg of this tie.”
26 min: David Silva sweeps a glorious ball out to the left, allowing Sterling to attack Sidibe with purpose. He’s got his man on the back foot, but turns out he’d gone after Silva’s pass far too early, and the flag goes up for offside. A little shaft of light for City, though, who have done very little in attack so far. Plenty of time to change all that, of course: look how the first leg panned out.
24 min: A common or garden long ball is contested on the edge of the City box by Sagna and ... Stones. Germain is lurking as the City players get in each other’s way, and Kolarov is forced into a panicked header out for a corner on the left. Again, the set piece comes to nothing much, but City are a collective bag of nerves right now.
22 min: A rare period of possession upfield for City breaks down with a loose Aguero pass. Monaco stream forward and earn themselves a corner down the left. Lemar’s delivery isn’t all that, and the attack breaks down. City can’t get out.
20 min: Lemar bombs down the middle of the park, dropping a shoulder and shaking a hip to evade a couple of challenges. He slips the ball out wide to the irrepressible Mbappe, who very nearly breaks into the City box from the left. Stones holds him up well, and the move is over. The home side are well on top right now. City can take solace in the overall scoreline, but little else.
18 min: City’s nerves are betraying them. Once again they concede possession easily, allowing Monaco to come onto them. Germain has a whack from distance, and his riser only just clears the crossbar. Caballero had that one covered.
16 min: Mbappe puts the ball in the City net again! He’s sprung clear into the box down the inside-right channel by a lovely sliderule pass from Fabinho, sitting deep. He batters it through Caballero and into the left-hand corner. But he’s half a yard offside. City played a good trap there, and the young man was a wee bit over-excited. Still, so close to putting Monaco in the box seat.
15 min: City play it around the back, and very nearly let the lurking Mbappe snatch the ball on the edge of the area. There’s confidence.
13 min: A slight lull in proceedings, which allows City to steady the ship a little. It’s been a high-tempo start, and the home side have rattled their guests. “Tony Hughes looks like he’s assembled quite the high-powered squad out there in Ohio,” observes Jerry Parks. “I don’t see a goalkeeper though; perhaps a cheeky bid for Joe Hart is in order? Assuming he could handle the step up in quality, of course.”
11 min: Caballero easily claims a high ball hoicked into the City box. He shuttles it out wide right to Sagna, who miscontrols, then slides in hard on Bernardo Silva. That’s a booking. Nothing comes from the resulting free kick, but City need to simmer down. They’ve been shaken by that early goal, and need to clear their heads.
10 min: Pep Guardiola is already prowling the touchline with a worried look playing across his brow. Bakayoko breaks down the right and is stopped illegally by the hanging leg of Fernandinho. A chance for Monaco to load the box.
City half clear the corner. But Mendy is soon romping into the box on the left. He shoots from a tight angle. Stones slides to block. But the ball springs out to Bernardo Silva to the left of the six-yard box. He fires low into the centre. Mbappe nips in at the near post to turn home from close range! Just seven more goals, and we’ve another 5-3 on our hands, then.
7 min: A huge save by Caballero! Mbappe latches onto a loose ball in the middle of the City half, and he’s suddenly bursting clear down the inside-right channel! He strides into the area, but his sidefoot towards the bottom left is turned out for a corner. From which...
5 min: Now Monaco push City back for a few seconds. Crosses are flung into the area from either side. But the visitors suddenly spring forward on the break, and if De Bruyne had played a quicker ball forward, he’d have sent Agureo scampering clear from the halfway line. Monaco’s defence, not exactly watertight by any means, looked a wee bit ropy there.
4 min: If anyone’s been hogging the ball early doors, it’s Sterling. He bustles down the inside-right channel and slips the ball wide to De Bruyne, whose cross is uncharacteristically poor. Subasic snaffles with ease, under no pressure whatsoever.
2 min: After that blistering start, both sides take a little time to have a touch of the ball. “Ask Tony Hughes what formation his U8 girls play,” writes Kostia Franklin. “I’m coaching U9 boys this year in Boston and have no clue what a 7v7 game is supposed to look like. Help please!” Tony? Wilson? Cox?
And we’re off! Monaco get the party started. And it’s a false start, so they have to do it again, because there’s a problem with the pressure of the match ball. Sterling robs the new one within 13 seconds of the restart, and is very nearly sent clear down the right after a nifty one-two with De Bruyne. Monaco launch it back down the other end, Mbappe not far from latching onto the hoof. Caballero comes out to claim. All in the first 40 seconds. What a start!
The teams are out! Monaco wear their famous red-and-white diagonal, while City sport their storied blue. “I’m assuming City won’t be facing a hostile welcome-to-hell Galatasaray-type atmosphere,” quips Stuart Race, one eyebrow arched in the direction of the singular Stade Louis II. In fairness, the ambience is not half bad for the top floor of a car park. The most glamorous car park in Europe? I should say so. Certainly ever since Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council broke up the brutalist masterpiece that once sprawled for miles across their town centre. Anyway, I digress. The Champions League anthem is blaring out across the stadium, and as ever it’s getting the glorious bird from the City support. We’ll be off in a minute!
Pep Guardiola speaks ahead of his 100th match as a manager in European competition! “We want to win, so we will attack. From my experience, if you do not score away, you have little chance of going through. But we will also have to defend. They are strong on the counter attack, and they have to score goals. I am happy to be with my colleagues and managers on 100 games; I hope I will be celebrating tonight!”
Other pre-match observations: “I can’t help noticing a number of similarities between the first leg of Man City v Monaco the other week and the Ohio SAY Soccer final, U8 Girls Passers game last November,” writes Tony Hughes. “As you may have been aware, the team I coached ended up winning 5-3 although we also were behind twice during the game. Differences: we scored four times in the last 20 minutes to Man City’s three and we did not miss a penalty as you don’t get penalty kicks at that level.”
Some pre-match reading. In case you missed it, here’s Peerless Paul Doyle’s take on Monaco’s plans to put a little glide back in French football’s stride.
Leonardo Jardim makes two changes to the Monaco XI named ahead of their 2-1 win over Bordeaux last Saturday. Out go Kamil Glik and Joao Moutinho; in come Andrea Raggi and Tiemoue Bakayoko. No Radamel Falcao, injured at the weekend.
Pep Guardiola makes four changes to the City side sent out to see off Middlesbrough in the cup at the weekend. Out go Claudio Bravo, Pablo Zabaleta, Nicolas Otamendi and Yaya Toure; in come Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna, Alexsandar Kolarov and Fernandinho.
Monaco: Subasic, Sidibe, Raggi, Jemerson, Mendy, Fabinho, Bakayoko, Lemar, Bernardo Silva, Germain, Mbappe.
Subs: De Sanctis, Jorge, Dirar, Joao Moutinho, Cardona, Diallo, Toure.
Manchester City: Caballero, Sagna, Stones, Clichy, Kolarov, Sane, Fernandinho, David Silva, De Bruyne, Aguero, Sterling.
Subs: Bravo, Zabaleta, Jesus Navas, Delph, Otamendi, Toure, Iheanacho.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy).
Don’t get us wrong: Barcelona’s already legendary comeback against Paris Saint Germain was something else. But for true Nonsense Purists - those aficionados of games which spiral hectically out of control - the 5-3 between Manchester City and Monaco has been the one real deal of this season’s Round of 16 to date.
Two teams competing instead of one capitulating, you see. Monaco led twice at the Etihad three weeks ago, before City scored three times in the final 20 minutes. Sergio Agüero and Radamel Falcao both found the net twice; Falcao missed a penalty too. It could feasibly have ended 5-3 to Monaco, or 5-5, or 7-5 to City. It was breathless, breathtaking, beyond brilliant. All that, and we still haven’t got the foggiest who’s going to prevail.
City, with their two-goal advantage going into this return rubber, are favourites, of course. They’ve won five of the six European ties in which they’ve won the home first leg, the exception being a Uefa Cup tussle with the mighty Juventus in the 1976/77 season, losing 2-0 away after a one-goal Maine Road victory. They’re also one for one against French opposition in Champions League competition, having seen off PSG in last year’s quarters.
Monaco, though, have three away goals in their back pocket. A two-goal deficit is far from insurmountable, especially for a free-scoring team that’s won all four games since the first leg, finding the net on 12 occasions. After all, Monaco managed it against Real Madrid en route to the 2004 final. And Monaco’s record against English teams in knockout European competition is superlative. Since losing to Leeds United in the Uefa Cup in 1995, they’ve knocked Newcastle United out of the 1997 Uefa Cup, Manchester United out of the 1998 Champions League, Chelsea out of the 2004 Champions League, Arsenal out of the 2015 Champions League, and edged Tottenham Hotspur out of this year’s groups. That’s an awful lot of English Champions League campaigns laid waste.
So City will have to be on their game tonight if they want to complete the job. And they will look to finish off Monaco by attacking relentlessly and with religious fervour. Here’s Pep Guardiola’s gloriously heroic plan: “The best way to defend is to score goals. When one team scores many goals and you think about just defending, you kill yourself. The idea is to try and attack. We scored five goals when it’s not easy to score against them. What you have to do is go to score goals.” Preach on, brother Pep!
Whether City’s defence can hold up is another question, though it’s worth noting their much-maligned back line has only conceded one goal in the four games since the first leg. Huddersfield Town, Sunderland, Stoke City and Middlesbrough are not Monaco, mind you. If it ends 5-3 to the French league leaders tonight, we go to extra time and possibly penalties. Which sounds unlikely, implausible, impossible, and yet ... well, you wouldn’t rule anything out for sure, would you? This could be another ludicrous evening in this year’s hugely entertaining Champions League Round of 16. Can you contain your excitement? No, us neither! It’s on! It. Is. ON!
Kick off: 8.45pm at the Stade Louis II in the Principality of Monaco, 7.45pm back in the Kingdom of Manchester.