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Goal hero Raheem hails Manchester City's fighting spirit after his stunning finale

Red mist: Defender Nicolas Otamendi is sent off last night
Red mist: Defender Nicolas Otamendi is sent off last night
Man with plan: Pep Guardiola gives the orders last night

By Simon Peach

Raheem Sterling praised Manchester City's character after they staged a brilliant late comeback to beat Schalke in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Sterling scored a last-minute winner as 10-man City had the last laugh.

The Premier League champions went in front on 18 minutes through Sergio Aguero.

But the game had swung in Schalke's favour by half-time after a contentious VAR decision and two Nabil Bentaleb penalties.

The first of those spot-kicks came after the intervention of the VAR, who penalised City defender Nicolas Otamendi for handball when the ball struck his arm as he moved it behind his back.

The second was given for a foul by Fernandinho on Salif Sane - the referee sticking with his decision after briefly consulting the VAR.

After being booked for the handball, Otamendi was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Guido Burgstaller in the second half - meaning he will sit out the second leg, as will Fernandinho.

Leroy Sane came off the bench and the Germany international curled home a free-kick from 30 yards out to level matters, before Sterling struck the winner.

"It was a really tough game, I thought we made it difficult for ourselves at times but we stuck together even after going down to 10 men," said Sterling.

"We stuck with the gameplan and I was happy to get the win in the end."

Schalke old boy Sane saluted the visitors' fighting spirit.

"We never give up, we always want to keep going and keep fighting because what good quality we have in the team," he said.

City boss Pep Guardiola had no complaints over either of the penalty decisions and admits his side are "not ready" for the latter stages of the Champions League.

He said: "It was a great result, we gave the first penalty, we gave the second penalty. We gave the red card so that competition is not good. Too many things.

"Still we are not ready to fight for the latter stages, so that is a reality but the result is really good.

"We played good and we started really well but still we lose some easy balls."

On the penalty decisions, he said: "I trust VAR, I am a big fan of that so it is a penalty.

"I have arguments to complain sometimes but I think it was a penalty, the first one and the second one and the red card.

"Second half we played with an incredible personality like last season in Anfield when we lost 3-0, but we gave two goals when they didn't do absolutely anything."

The second leg is in Manchester on Tuesday, March 12.

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