‘A dream result but we can do better’ – Man City beat Sporting in the Champions League – SPORT NEWS PEDIA

'A dream result but we can do better' - Man City beat Sporting in the Champions League, Champions League, Premier League, Serie A, sport

Manchester City sealed their place in the Champions League quarter-finals with a stunning first-leg knockout round against Sporting Lisbon in Portugal.

As is often the case this season, City put on a majestic display to secure what is sure to be an unassailable advantage in a draw against a lively and revived Portuguese champions.

Bernardo Silva was brilliant, silencing the boos who greeted every touch from himself and City’s three other ex-Benfica players with his side’s second and fourth goals, the first being a glorious half-volley from a corner.

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The in-form Riyad Mahrez was back on the scoresheet when, after a long delay to assess whether Kevin de Bruyne had gone offside in the build-up as originally intended, he scored a close-range finish that was awarded via VAR.

Phil Foden also added to his growing collection of cool, calm finishes in an unrelenting first half that rocked Sporting.

There was no let-up after the break as Silva saw a hat-trick header ruled out for offside before setting up Raheem Sterling for a lovely fifth.

The result equals their largest advantage in an away game in the knockout stages of the Champions League and gives City their biggest European away win together, level with a 5-0 win at Steaua Bucharest in the play-off round of that competition 2016/17 .

Sporting travel to Manchester for the formalities of the second leg on Wednesday 16 March.

“I’m absolutely beyond thrilled,” said Guardiola. “We know how difficult it is, this competition. We were so clinical – get in, aim, get in, goal, get in, goal. When it’s like that, it’s difficult for the opposition.

“We defended well and got an incredible result, but we have a duty as a manager and a team to analyze our performance, not just the result.

“We have to be more careful with the ball. One of the rules I have is, if you have the ball, try to pass to someone in the same shirt. Today we lost the ball many times.

“The difference was that we were so disciplined. Then it’s difficult for the opposition and we have confidence. It’s a dream, a perfect result, so good for the second leg but we can do better.”

City shows their qualification for the Champions League
Pep Guardiola’s City remain a national giant, with a fourth Premier League title in five years they could now lose after taking 43 points from the last 45 available to move nine points clear at the top of the table.

In Europe, however, they are keen on a success that has eluded their expensively assembled, over-talented squad – their hunger only heightened by last season’s 1-0 defeat by Chelsea in the final.

That appetite was on full display in Portugal’s capital, as they showed everything that is good about Guardiola’s team – effort, awareness, patience and precision, all combined to lay the foundation for untouchable excellence in attack.

Mahrez’s early goal, scored after a very long VAR delay, burst the home side’s bubble, which was then simply dismantled, most notably and painfully by a former associate of their closest rival.

Silva is a wizard of a footballer who does the simple things relentlessly well but also makes the ridiculously tough look routine.

Few players can half-volley a rising ball like he did in the 17th minute, with a dramatic cannon from under the bar being an aesthetic bonus.

“I always tell him: ‘You are the perfect player’,” added Guardiola. “He’s more than exceptional with the ball but I always tell him you have to score goals, walk and win games, you have to have the ability to do it.

“He scored one of the best goals I’ve ever seen, because of technique, because of everything.

“This was his hometown and he likes to come back here. Of course he’s a former Benfica player so tonight was special for him.”

In any other game, Sterling would make more headlines when Sterling hits the top corner with a precision curling shot and joins Paul Scholes in second on the list of England’s top scorers in the Champions League. But not this one.

As a telling comparison of City’s growing authority, their efforts in Lisbon made them the first team to score as many as four goals in the first half of a Champions League knockout tie since Bayern Munich beat Barcelona 8-2 in the last eight en route to winning the trophy in 2020.

There was precious little Sporting could do to stem the tide, their fans left only to offer sporting applause to City’s brilliance as the goals rained in.

However, while teams have been blown away this season without ever laying a glove on City, Ruben Amorim’s side at least provided small glimpses of what they are about with short periods of neat passing and well-worked but ultimately fruitless openings down the flanks.

Sporting have made giant strides both on and off the field in the past two years to unite again after the training ground attack by hooligans in May 2018 and to once again compete for silverware.

As a sign of the progress made, their players left the field to applause, singing and twirling scarves from a loyal, appreciative support who stuck by their side until the very end.

As for City, last year’s final defeat still rankles and they may well never have a better chance to win it than this year.

‘A winnable competition for Man City’

Former England goalkeeper Rob Green, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live:

It is looking like this is a very winnable competition for Manchester City this season.

What Pep had done is incredible, the way he has transformed the whole club.

They had success before but not to this level and you will see Man City fans who will say he is amazing even if he doesn’t win the Champions League.

But, for him, it is there and he would love nothing more to go and win this competition.

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