Another year, another disappointing, self-inflicted elimination from the UEFA Champions League for Manchester City — only, this time, it was largely accepted beforehand they weren’t real contenders for Europe’s crown-jewel trophy in Pep Guardiola‘s first season, yet the manner in which they went out still ranks right up there with spectacular failures of seasons past.
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With a 5-3 aggregate lead heading into Wednesday’s second leg, away to Monaco, Man City were slight favorites to reach the quarterfinal round, provided they could defend in a competent manner rather than competing in an up-and-down track meet resembling the first leg. Then, the lineup. Fernandinho at the base of midfield (no problems so far), with all-out attackers David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne playing ahead of him (problem).
City would spend the next 90 minutes — the opening 45 in particular — chasing the ball around the field with reckless abandon (Fernandinho) and ball-watching in and around their 18-yard box, as Bernardo Silva and Kylian Mbappe connected for the first goal on eight minutes, and Benjamin Mendy set up Fabinho to make it 5-5 on aggregate (with Monaco’s three away goals the difference) just before the half-hour mark.
The second half wasn’t without a number of golden scoring chances for City. Sergio Aguero had a handful of breakaway opportunities snuffed out in last-gasp fashion. Then, the lifeline. Danijel Subasic couldn’t hold onto Raheem Sterling‘s low, bouncing effort from distance, and the rebound fell right to Leroy Sane with the goal wide open. 6-5 on aggregate, in City’s favor.
Then, the deja vu. It came in the form of shambolic set-piece defending, as Tiemoue Bakayoko went unmarked with Thomas Lemar’s free kick floating high above the French Riviera, only the goalkeeper to beat. Bakayoko’s header was pinpoint and powerful, leaving Willy Caballero stranded and helpless. 6-6 on aggregate, Monaco advance on away goals.
Monaco join Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Leicester City and Real Madrid in Friday’s quarterfinal draw.