Manchester City 5-3 Monaco: Sergio Aguero scores brace to help Sky Blues win sensational clash
Manchester City have beaten Monaco 5-3 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Etihad Stadium.
Sergio Aguero struck twice as Manchester City fought back to beat Monaco in a sensational clash.
City trailed 2-1 at half-time and 3-2 after an hour of a pulsating last 16 first leg encounter but finished with a flourish to peg back the exhilarating Ligue 1 leaders.
Radamel Falcao scored two and missed a penalty for the visitors while teenage star Kylian Mbappe also got on the scoresheet.
But City, who took an early lead through Raheem Sterling and were controversially denied a penalty themselves, roused themselves when it mattered with late goals from John Stones and Leroy Sane securing victory.
Defensively, it was a horror night for Stones and Nicolas Otamendi but that was not the headline act. Both sides boasted a strong reputation for attacking football and it was a clash that delivered all the promised excitement.
It was immediately apparent why Mbappe is so highly rated. The 18-year-old forward stretched the City defence with a couple of electrifying runs and might have struck early on had Stones not made a timely challenge.
Yet while Monaco looked ruthless on the counter-attack, City were composed in possession and Aguero should have scored from close range.
City grabbed the lead in the 26th minute after brilliant work by Sane, exchanging passes with David Silva and racing towards the six-yard box to tee up Sterling - who stayed narrowly onside to finish.
The hosts' lead did not last long as Caballero, again preferred to Claudio Bravo, gifted possession to Monaco. Within seconds the ball was in the net as Fabinho crossed brilliantly for Falcao to head home.
Controversy erupted when Aguero raced through on goal and went down as goalkeeper Danijel Subasic challenged. It was a strong penalty claim but referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz saw differently and booked Aguero for diving.
Salt was rubbed into City's wounds when Otamendi reacted slowly to a free-kick and and the razor-sharp Mbappe darted into the area and lashed a shot into the roof of the net.
Things almost got worse for City early in the second half as Otamendi was adjudged to have fouled Falcao as the Colombian shot wide, conceding a penalty. The way the decision was made certainly inflamed tensions, with the Spanish referee taking a long time to think, but City escaped.
Falcao's spot-kick was delayed as an object thrown from the crowd landed on the pitch, but the Monaco forward procrastinated further and Caballero saved.
City took advantage to level as Sterling won possession and released Aguero, with the Argentinian drilling his first goal in seven appearances through Subasic's grasp just before the hour.
But again Monaco responded, with Falcao making a fool of Stones in the area and chipping Caballero for a delightful goal.
Mbappe lashed another effort wide soon after but City were not done and levelled when Aguero met a Silva corner with a well-controlled volley.
It was from another corner City took the lead after 77 minutes, this time Stones atoning for his earlier area by reacting quickly to a Yaya Toure flick-on to strike at the back post.
City did not sit back after that, with Aguero drawing a fine save from Subasic, and they claimed their fifth of the night after Silva played Aguero through and the Argentinian set up Sane for a tap-in.Was that the best Champions League game ever? A Twitter List by BelTel
We look at some talking points ahead of the game.
When the draw for the first knockout round was made last December, there was a broad consensus that City would have been happy, having avoided the likes of Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund. Monaco's form since may have changed the picture, however, with the principality team having marked themselves out as serious contenders. They lead Ligue 1 by three points from Paris St Germain, having scored 76 goals in their 26 games.
AGUERO v FALCAO
With two such attack-minded sides, this tie could feature plenty of goals over the two legs. Attention will focus on City's top scorer Sergio Aguero, who is back leading the line following injury to impressive new signing Gabriel Jesus. Aguero, who has scored 18 goals this term, had been on the bench for three successive games before starting at Huddersfield on Saturday. With speculation over his future continuing, he may have a point to prove. Radamel Falcao, who failed to impress in loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea, seems back to his best this term having struck 19 times this season. He is once again a player to fear.
Claudio Bravo kept a clean sheet after returning in goal for City in Saturday's FA Cup tie at Huddersfield. It remains to be seen, however, whether this is a return to favour or simply manager Pep Guardiola maintaining his policy of rotating goalkeepers for domestic cup matches. Willy Caballero had played the previous four matches and conceded just one goal. The Argentinian has a good chance of starting but Guardiola says he will decide on the day.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PROSPECTS
With PSG thrashing Barcelona, the five-time European champions last week, the competition does seem wide open. City would not be regarded among the favourites yet but if they can get through this round, the event could open up. They can take encouragement from the fact they reached the semi-finals last year, beating PSG along the way, and Guardiola's undoubted Champions League know-how gives them an extra weapon.
ETIHAD STADIUM ATMOSPHERE
City fans have been slow to warm to the Champions League, and still boo the competition's anthem in protest at perceived past wrongs by UEFA, but the last year has seen love for Europe's elite club event grow. The atmosphere for last year's big ties against PSG and Real Madrid was electric, as it was for this season's group visit from Barca. City will hope the crowd can give them an edge in this tie, particularly with Monaco having a small following.
Belfast Telegraph Digital