Belfast Telegraph

It's advantage Man City on a night of high drama

Man City 5 - AS Monaco 3

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City knocked themselves out of Europe last night, realised what they were doing, roared back and won a match for the ages 5-3.

They gifted three away goals to Monaco, were 3-2 down in the second half, and looked like their only response to Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappe was blind panic.

But they married their defensive disaster with their own ferocious attacking, inspired by Sergio Aguero, desperately proving a point to the world.

With better finishing there would have been more goals but fans had to settle for eight, and one missed penalty.

The question was whether Manchester City's recent improvements could survive the more testing challenge of Champions League football.

Something had clicked at City recently and Pep Guardiola's only two changes from the side that dismantled Bournemouth last week were enforced, with Nicolas Otamendi and of course Aguero coming in for injured team-mates.

Despite the loss of Gabriel Jesus, City were still lively going forward. David Silva found space and when he does that the opposition are in trouble. He had a goal disallowed for offside before Kevin de Bruyne whipped a cross in which Aguero could not quite turn in.

Both teams were throwing everything forward, taking big risks, but it was City who took the lead. Leroy Sane span away from Djibril Sidibe, swerved past Fabinho, got the ball back from David Silva and drove in a cross. Raheem Sterling darted in and prodded City ahead.

This was the time for game management but City continued to push. Monaco's high press had been causing them problems all evening but they did not learn, and six minutes after scoring they gifted an equaliser.

Willy Caballero skewed a kick to Fabinho, who exchanged passes with Bernardo Silva and crossed to the far post. Falcao, still electric in the box, darted away from John Stones and Bacary Sagna, heading into the net.

City tried to hit straight back against a Monaco defence that was just as open as their own. De Bruyne played in Aguero, who shaped to skip past Danijel Subasic but fell over his leg. Aguero sought contact and found it, and referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz gave a marginal decision against him, booking him for diving.

City were furious but chose the worst possible time to lose their cool. Their defence was a mess and when Mbappe nearly scored, running onto a goal-kick, they should have been warned. But when Fabinho chipped an early free-kick over Stones' head, they did not learn, and Mbappe buried it into the net. Monaco had their second away goal already.

Just minutes into the second half, Monaco nearly had a third. Benjamin Mendy crossed from the left and Falcao darted in behind Otamendi who could do nothing other than lunge and trip him. Lahoz initially gave a goal-kick before the assistant behind the goal told him it was a penalty instead. Falcao stepped up with a chance to kill City. He stuttered and shot weakly into Caballero's arms.

The came when Sterling stole a ball, broke forward and passed through to Aguero. He ran in behind Monaco's slow centre-backs, Andrea Raggi and Kamil Glik, and got his shot away early and into the net.

City gifted a ludicrous third away goal straight after. Tiemoue Bakayoko played a hopeful channel ball to Falcao, running alongside Stones. The defender was expected to win it but Falcao held him off then humiliatingly skipped inside him to finish.

Two corner kicks turned the game from 2-3 to 4-3 in six gleeful minutes. First Aguero volleyed in at the far post.

With their next attack City had an implausible lead. Toure leaped highest to flick the corner on and Stones redemptively bundled the ball in.

Then came the move of the match. City moved the ball to Silva and he chipped a beautiful pass over the top to Aguero. He squared to Sane who finished.

MAN CITY: Caballero, Fernandinho (Zabaleta, 62 mins), Stones, Otamendi, Sagna, De Bruyne, Toure, Silva, Sterling (Jesus Navas, 89 mins), Aguero (Fernando, 87 mins), Sane. Unused subs: Bravo, Nolito, Delph, Iheanacho.

MONACO: Subasic, Mendy, Raggi, Glik, Sidibe, Bakayoko (Dirar, 88 mins), Fabinho, Mbappe-Lottin (Germain, 79 mins), Lemar, Bernardo Silva (Joao Moutinho, 84 mins), Falcao. Unused subs: De Sanctis, Carrillo, Diallo, Toure.

Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (Spain)

Man of the match: Sergio Aguero

Match rating: 10/10

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