Brilliant finishes from Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, two massive saves from Ederson and an egregious refereeing decision in their favour saw Manchester City defeat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
The relief from the City side was tangible as the whistle blew and the club recorded their first-ever win in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals.
Under Pep Guardiola, the Citizens have yet to make it past this stage in the competition, having crashed out in the quarter-finals in each of the past four seasons.
Fans were undoubtedly relieved to see the team sheet ahead of kickoff, featuring most of the names that had comfortably defeated Borussia Monchengladbach in the previous round. Tinkering from Guardiola in last year’s single-leg quarter-final against Lyon was widely blamed for the team’s calamitous defeat.
However, the tie is far from over after Norwegian superstar Erling Haaland teed up Marco Reus in the 84th minute, giving Die Schwarzgelben a critical away goal. Dortmund may have suffered defeat at the hands of City, but the tie is far from over.
City Defeat Borussia Dortmund
City Squander Their Best Chances
“It’s better to win than draw,” Guardiola said after the match. “But at 1-1, we still had 90 minutes to do it. It’s 2-1 in the Champions League and we are going there to win the game.”
By all accounts, City dominated the match but were still far from their best against a team that had won just one of their previous five matches and conceded ten goals coming into the tie.
Guardiola confirmed that the current Premier League leaders had their chances to run up the score but could find the back of the net just twice with five shots on targets and 11 attempts, overall.
“In the first half, we were not clever with the ball, but in the second half, we were much better and had two or three chances at 1-0 to score the second and the third,” Guardiola said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, but then when they made it 1-1, we scored the final goal. It’s a good result.”
Manchester City dominated the possession early on and went ahead in the 19th minute after Dortmund gave the ball away in their half. A brilliant passage of play from City culminated in De Bruyne passing the ball into the back of the net inside of the six-yard box.
Terrible Refereeing Plays Part in Borussia Dortmund Defeat at City
However, Dortmund nearly equalised in the 37th minute after uncharacteristic hesitation and a poor touch just outside the 18-yard box by Ederson allowed Jude Bellingham to dispossess him.
With Bellingham through on goal with no one within ten metres, Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan blew the whistle for a foul against the City keeper. However, replays clearly showed the English teenager touched the ball and not the man. No foul.
Since the incident took place out of the box and the whistle went before Bellingham could score, VAR could not intervene and City finally found themselves on the beneficial side of a controversial call in the Champions League.
However, Dortmund would get the equaliser in the final ten minutes of the match after Haaland played Reus into the box and the German international beat Ederson at the far post.
Things were beginning to feel eerily familiar for City until the final minute before the added time when De Bruyne found İlkay Gündoğan with a brilliant 30-yeard cross from the middle of the park onto the touchline.
Gündoğan then cooly controlled the ball before passing to Foden, who slotted a diagonal effort past Marwin Hitz and into the back of the net.
“We’re annoyed,” Reus said after the game. “Conceding a second right before the end was unnecessary. Two seconds of us switching off and they showed their quality. We have to stop the cross coming in. On the whole, I think we produced a great performance.”
A Deserved Win, but City Far From Convincing
Manchester City thoroughly deserved both goals, but the team failed to exert control over the game as they have done for the vast majority of the season. The team was not clinical in the final third and failed to put away all of their chances.
The lack of a focal point for the attack was apparent, with Bernardo Silva filling in as a false nine.
With Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus combining for just 16 goals in 47 games this season, the absence of a traditional striker has become glaringly apparent. The potential for goal-hungry Norwegian, Erling Haaland, to fill the gap in an otherwise sensational City side would certainly not have been missed by fans and Guardiola alike.
History Could Repeat Itself
However, before the summer transfer saga gets fully underway, Guardiola and his men must first go to the Westfalenstadion for the second leg.
The last time City visited Dortmund was in the 2012/13 Champions League group stage, when the home side, City, suffered a 1-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund, forcing them into the Europa League. Dortmund went on to narrowly lose the final of that competition against Bayern Munich.
While Dortmund’s legendary yellow wall will be conspicuously absent, the team knows that there is plenty to play for. City have crumbled at this stage in each of the past three years.
“Our chance is still there,” veteran centre-back Mats Hummels said after the match. “It would have been even better at 1-1, which is a great result in the knockout stages.”
“We know we have to score in the second leg, but we saw tonight that we created more chances than they did, which wasn’t necessarily to be expected,” he added. “We have to do the same in the second leg. It will be a big challenge.”
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