Manchester City took a giant leap towards the Champions League semi-finals with a commanding 3-0 victory over Bayern Munich. It's a result that will surely see them into the final four ahead of the second leg in Germany, and a performance that Pep Guardiola could only have dreamed of ahead of the tie.
Guardiola seems to have stumbled upon something with City’s newly-formed back four. John Stones can play narrow in midfield and has the ability on the ball to play that role, while the physicality of Manuel Akanji and Nathan Ake in the wide areas allows City to smother opposition's wingers. Even the likes of Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane couldn’t make any serious impact.
Then we have Ruben Dias. The Portuguese centre-back was a colossus for City, leading that back line impeccably. He made a goal-saving block in the first half when Sane raced past Akanji and Jamal Musiala looked certain to score. Then he stopped the former Man City man in his tracks when he was on one of his mazy dribbles.
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He provides exactly what City need at the back, and they are far better when he is included in the team. Guardiola loves to tinker, but he has to include Dias at the heart of his defence whenever possible. He is that critical to their success and was the main reason they kept out such a vibrant Bayern attack.
But City were as potent going forward as they were solid at the back. And the first goal came from the most unlikely source. Rodri - who had never scored a Champions League goal before - cut inside from 30 yards, and bent one into the top corner with his weaker left foot.
It was a goal that gave City the initiative in the first half, and Bayern struggled to make amends in the second. Yann Sommer made two big saves, one from Ake and one from Dias before he was finally beaten again.
Dayot Upamecano was robbed by a pressing Jack Grealish and when it looked like Erling Haaland was going to shoot he instead crossed it over to Bernardo Silva, who headed home from close range. It was a massive moment in the tie and Haaland deserves huge credit for his composure when in that position.
Then, Haaland got his own name on the scoresheet, as he always does. John Stones won a big header in the box and knocked it down for Haaland who placed it into the corner with ease. 11 goals in 7 Champions League games for the man who has now scored more goals in a season in all competitions (45) than any other Premier League player has managed.
This was one of Man City’s finest displays in Europe and they have made a big statement when they needed to. Guardiola has been tormented by this competition for over a decade and will surely feel now he has another semi-final to prepare for. Meanwhile, could be staring at a third consecutive quarter-final exit, having lost to PSG and Villarreal at this stage in recent years.
City march on. And they are getting better and better.
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