City surrendered their two-goal advantage over Monaco in insipid fashion on Wednesday as their hopes of Champions League glory ran aground yet again.
Wednesday night turned out to be another agonising reminder for Pep Guardiola of the amount of work that still needs to be done at Manchester City, especially in their long-standing quest for success in the Champions League. A decidedly mute showing by the English side in the first half wiped out their lead from the first leg. And a lack of sharpness in front of goal and lapses of concentration in clutch moments ultimately became their undoing.
Monaco’s aggressive, direct approach often had City scrambling during the contest. And despite Guardiola’s pronouncement ahead of the encounter that City needed to score against the French league leaders to emerge safely from the tie, it wasn’t until an hour had gone by in the match that the visitors even managed a shot. And that from a side overwhelmingly oriented towards attack, with Sterling, Sane, Silva, De Bruyne and Aguero leading the lines. Instead, Mbappe and Fabinho made it all-square on aggregate by the half-hour mark in front of a thrilled home crowd.
Kylian Mbappé's game by numbers vs. Man City:
86% pass accuracy
2 shots on target
Star. ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/ent6eJB86p
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 15, 2017
Sane’s 71st minute strike put City back in pole position in a second half revival for the visitors. And from there Guardiola’s men needed only to hold out a little longer to keep their Champions League hopes alive. And yet, just six minutes later they switched-off during a set-piece to allow Bakayoko to head-in Monaco’s third. The French side, now leading on away goals, held out, leaving City stewing over another disappointing exit, and Guardiola with his first ever exit from the Champions League at this stage of the competition.
Lively Monaco punch through a snoozing City to overturn the aggregate score
Despite the absence of Radamel Falcao through injury, Monaco had little trouble dominating the visitors. And with Guardiola gambling with just the single defensive midfielder in Fernandinho, City struggled to get a foothold for most of the game. Monaco’s pressing and speed of movement often caught the English side flat-footed, particularly in the first half. It was only once the out-of-sorts De Bruyne dropped deeper to provide more cover that they started growing into the game.
But it wasn’t just City’s lack of organization and ability to assert themselves that cost them. Guardiola is notorious for favouring strength in attack than in defensive solidity. The manager will be more peeved by the number of chances his side squandered in the second half. Sergio Aguero in particular was guilty of wasting at least a couple of excellent chances, lacking his usual pace and finishing. There will undoubtedly be an inquisition at the Etihad. And given that a good number of the players are either approaching the end of their contract with the club or are already deemed surplus, a summer clearance is almost certain.
Monaco have scored in 37 consecutive home games across all competitions.
Scoring 3+ goals on 19 separate occasions. pic.twitter.com/pp9sz9gllx
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 16, 2017
Monaco on the other hand have more than proven that they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the quarters, whoever they face. The likes of Mbappe, Bernardo Silva and Fabinho in attack have ability enough to test the other defences left in the Champions League. And while they have a tendency to ship in a few goals as the first leg showed, they don’t really have a soft centre. Jardim may well fancy his chances of further progression.
Guardiola blames a passive first half performance for the loss
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on his side’s disappointing performance on the night:
“[We] played exceptional second half but we forgot to do that in the first. We wanted to defend aggressively. We were better in the second but it wasn’t enough.
“Normally we play to a good level but here we didn’t. We will learn. The team does not have a lot of experience.”
On the importance of luck and set-pieces:
“The second half we had the chances and we didn’t take them and that is why we are out. And set-pieces are so important at this level. Barcelona and Real Madrid scored from them last week. We were not there and we were not there in the first 45 minutes.
“We will improve but this competition is so demanding. Sometimes we have to be special and be lucky. We were not.”
Pep Guardiola has failed to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in his managerial career. pic.twitter.com/exOJLxPJnq
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 15, 2017
”It’s a deserved qualification.”
Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim:
“We didn’t let them touch the ball in that first half. It was harder in that second half, and we didn’t have the players on the bench to help.
But look, City won that first game with a dose of luck, and today we deserved to win. It’s a deserved qualification.”
On his side’s impressive first half performance:
“Everyone is happy. We’ve achieved our objective, qualifying with a big performance. In that first half, we didn’t let City play at all anywhere on the pitch, high pressing, and we scored goals. It was tighter in the second half but, if you analyse the two matches, home and away, Monaco deserved to qualify.”
On his pre-match prediction that Monaco would need at least three goals to qualify:
“Yes because I couldn’t see them not scoring at all. I know their team. They’ve got some of the best attacking players in the world, so keeping them out was always going to be tough. But we’ve got some good attacking players, too. They believed me when I said that, if we scored three, we’d go through.”
On Monaco’s record against English sides:
“We do well against English teams. We’ve beaten Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham, a big team as well, in the last few years. I hope it’s not the last big performance we put in.”