Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says his side „have to be more clinical“ despite seeing another dominant display sweep aside Borussia Monchengladbach for a 19th successive win.
Guardiola’s team – favourites to win their first Champions League title this season – were far too good for their meek last-16 opposition in Budapest, and perhaps should have added to the first-leg lead given to them by Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus.
„In general, we controlled the game. Unfortunately we were not clinical enough up front,“ Guardiola told BT Sport.
„That is something we have to improve in this competition. Up front we have to be more clinical. In this competition you have to be perfect to make sure you go through.“
Silva headed in a wonderful cross from Joao Cancelo to open the scoring, before the same two players combined to lay on the second for Jesus.
Gladbach, appearing at this stage of the competition for the first time in 43 years, had no answer and would need something close to a sporting miracle to turn the tie around when the sides meet in Manchester on 16 March.
Is this City’s year?
Holders Bayern Munich may well have something to say about City being favourites for this year’s competition – but their fellow German side were rendered voiceless in Hungary.
Gladbach, no doubt handicapped by not being allowed to play at home because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, barely laid a glove on Guardiola’s side. They struggled to get out of their own penalty area at times, never mind into City’s, as the visitors pressed mercilessly.
Only Bayern (18) scored more goals in this season’s Champions League group stage than Gladbach (16) but such was City’s monopoly of possession that goalkeeper Ederson made his sole save in stoppage time.
It is a pattern that is becoming the norm. Never mind conceding, City have only faced nine shots on their goal in four away games in Europe this season. Keep that up and even Bayern will struggle to knock them out.
The runaway Premier League leaders are playing football with such composure, quality and control that they are frequently serving up mismatches and that continued on the continental stage as they wrapped up a 12th away win in a row – a record for an English top-flight club.
Their first-half dominance was rewarded when Cancelo, playing more in central midfield than in his nominal role of left-back, clipped a fine cross from deep which Silva headed down and in.
Jesus should have made it two after the break but took too long to shoot when free in the area, but did then prod home when Silva headed back another fine Cancelo ball.
Kevin de Bruyne was left on the bench throughout and record goalscorer Sergio Aguero was introduced as a late substitute after missing 14 games – and 14 wins – to give City another boost.
They are yet to reach a Champions League final. Is this their year?
„When I see Bayern Munich I don’t think we are favourites,“ Guardiola said. „My target is West Ham in three days.
„If people say we are favourites we have to accept it, but a team who in their whole history has been a semi-final once? OK, they say it, we have to accept it.“
‘They have a great opportunity’ – analysis
Former Crystal Palace striker Clinton Morrison on BBC Radio 5 Live:
„How strong was that Man City bench? Kevin de Bruyne, John Stones, Riyad Mahrez, Sergio Aguero – it’s super strong.
„It can be Man City’s year, this year, I think they could do the quadruple with the squad they’ve got at the moment – I think they have a great opportunity.“
Jesus’ formidable record – the stats
- Man City have progressed from all four of the previous Champions League two-legged knockout ties when they’ve won the first leg away from home.
- Gabriel Jesus has scored in all five of his Champions League appearances in the last 16 for Manchester City, netting at this stage in each of his last four seasons.
- Manchester City are the first team to keep a clean sheet in their first four away Champions League matches in a campaign since Manchester United did so in 2010-11.
- Manchester City’s Phil Foden featured in the Champions League knockout stage for a fourth time before turning 21, only the third player to do so in the competition’s history after Cesc Fabregas (2004-05 – 2007-08) and Theo Walcott (2006-07 – 2009-10), who both did so with Arsenal.