Flawed Yet Thrilling

8 Goals, 10 Yel­low Cards, 27 Fouls: The high­est-scor­ing first-leg knock­out tie in the CL his­tory shows that foot­ball doesn’t have to be flaw­less to be en­ter­tain­ing

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Peter Staunton

Pep Guardi­ola chucked his coat to the ground. A wa­ter bot­tle quickly fol­lowed af­ter. He paced around his tech­ni­cal area, rub­bing his face and scratch­ing his head. The team against which his Manch­ester City played would not be tamed; they would not be quelled.

They wouldn’t sub­mit to the im­po­si­tion of his will. He had just seen Monaco score their first goal — scored by the ir­re­press­ible Radamel Fal­cao. He’d score a bet­ter one be­fore the night was out. Not for the first time Pep’s team had been cut through; pierced by high-pre­ci­sion ar­rows in red and white. Monaco are at once Guardi­ola’s dream team and his worst night­mare. “When two teams want to at­tack like that then some­times foot­ball is nice and beau­ti­ful,” Guardi­ola said.

This was the most en­ter­tain­ing game of this sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League. City won it not by try­ing to take the st­ing out of it but through bloody-minded bru­tal­ity. At 3-2 down they looked­dow­nand­out.Wil­lyCa­balleroandJohn Stones had been abysmal. But some­thing hap­pened.Mona­cow­ere­sapped­oftheiren­er­gyand their poise, and City grew in strength.

They fought back, chased harder, scored from set pieces. Monaco’s com­po­sure de­serted them, be­trayed their sta­tus as a work in progress. Yes they are Europe’s top scor­ers but they need to be when con­ced­ing goals like this.

It wasn’t a vic­tory that re­lied on tra­di­tional Guardi­ola qual­i­ties; there were cor­ners de­liv­ered into the Monaco area like bombs. They were sav­aged, and left vul­ner­a­ble to beau­ti­ful goals. And where Stones and Ca­ballero had been li­a­bil­i­ties they were in­stead solid late on. Stones­got­thego-ahead­goalat4-3andCa­bellero de­nied Radamel Fal­cao his hat-trick. We knew Monaco had many ways to in­flict dam­age. We knew that be­cause they’re top of the Ligue 1 ta­ble, ahead of Paris St-Ger­main who were 1/10 to win the ti­tle be­fore the sea­son that started. We knew that be­cause they have scored more goals than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues. We knew that be­cause­halftheirsquadis­be­inglinked­with­mas­sive money moves to clubs all across Europe.

Bernardo Silva — chief among the jew­els jeal­ously eyed by the con­ti­nent’s elite ran the show for his side with his foot­work, speed of thought, his con­trol of the ball and his sur­round­ings.

It is not hard to see why golden boy Kylian Mbappe is be­ing likened to Thierry Henry. He glides across the grass like Henry with those long legs of his. He tor­tures de­fend­ers with his pace and di­rect­ness. He is pos­sessed of cold blood in the area. When Monaco’s goals came there was a ruth­less sim­plic­ity about them; a sim­plic­ity that played on City’s long-stand­ing in­abil­ity to shut the gate. Ca­ballero’s need­less coughup of pos­ses­sion al lowed Fabinho to cross ex­pertly for Radamel Fal­cao. Mbappe’s run be­tween Stones and Ota­mendi is not the type of run that should be bam­boo­zling Cham­pi­ons League de­fen­sive part­ner­ships.

Stones was taken to school by Fal­cao for the third in one of the goals of the sea­son as the Colom­bian au­da­ciously chipped Ca­ballero. He would’ve had a hat-trick but for a missed penalty. All in all this game had ev­ery­thing; eight goals, 10 yel­lows, con­tro­ver­sial ref­er­ee­ing, com­i­cal de­fend­ing. City — to their credit — hung with Monaco ev­ery step of the way and then knocked them over. Ser­gio Aguero was men­ac­ing; prov­ing him­self all over again in the ab­sence of Gabriel Je­sus. He earned the “Ser­gio, Ser­gio” chant from his fans and an at­tempted high-five from his coach. Some­times it’s hard to make sense of foot­ball; some­times you don’t need to and just en­joy it.

This was the most en­ter­tain­ing game of this sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League

Manch­esterCi­ty­won­the­match­not by try­ing to take the st­ing out of it but through­bloody-mind­ed­bru­tal­ity

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