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Delighted Guardiola heaps praise on 'extraordinary' Gundogan

 

By Declan Warrington

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola hailed an "excellent result" as his side took a giant step towards the Champions League quarter-finals with a comfortable win at Basel.

City took command of the last-16 first-leg tie within half an hour in Switzerland as Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero all scored within a nine-minute period.

German Gundogan, who returned from a nine-month injury lay-off in September, added his side's fourth - and his second - 10 minutes after the break.

Guardiola said: "It was an excellent result. We are almost in the quarter-finals. The Champions League is always 180 minutes and we will take the game seriously but it's an excellent result.

"Ilkay Gundogan is an extraordinary player. Last season we missed him a lot with an injury for six months and that's why we are so satisfied, not just the quality but personality to play.

"We are still in February and in the Premier League we are in an amazing position and we are almost in the quarter-finals, we are in one final (EFL Cup) and on Monday we have the opportunity to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Game by game."

City's win was the biggest away victory by an English side in the knockout stage of the Champions League, beating Liverpool's 3-0 away victory over PSV in the quarter-finals of the 2006-07 season.

Since the turn of the year, Aguero has scored 14 goals in 11 matches - no player has netted as many across the top five European Leagues in 2018.

And David Silva's substitute appearance means he has now played more games in all competitions this season than any other player across the top five European leagues without suffering a single defeat (28 games).

City's double goalscorer Gundogan said: "The result was maybe perfect but the way we played there are still plenty of things to improve.

"It's the Champions League and it's always tough - we didn't concede which was the most important thing after these goals.

"It seemed comfortable but it was tense and Basel had chances to score."

On whether Germany boss Joachim Low, watching from the stands, will have enjoyed his performance, he said: "You need to ask him. I hope he enjoyed it."

City captain Vincent Kompany added: "We played against a back five and they're similar to Chelsea the way they get out, so as a back four you are stretched.

"For a Champions League game we did ever so well. In these kinds of situations it is about more than going through - if we have a draw at home that won't give us a good feeling."

City have now won more games this season in all competitions (34) than they did in the whole of last season (33).

The visitors enjoyed 74% possession against the reigning Swiss Super League champions and they made a mammoth 868 passes in the game, compared to Basel's 294.

They were relentless in attack and the scoreline reflected an imperious performance by Guardiola's side.

The return leg at the Etihad on March 7 should be routine for City, who lead the Premier League by 16 points and face Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final.

City next travel to League One side Wigan in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday (7.55pm).

Belfast Telegraph

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