Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus were on target as Manchester City put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals with an assured 2-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach
Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the vast majority of this last-16 first leg and the City manager might have been frustrated by the failure to turn that into a more commanding lead until Jesus prodded in after 65 minutes.
Silva and Joao Cancelo created that goal after the Portugal duo had also combined for the 29th-minute opener, with the full-back’s dipping delivery from the left for his diminutive compatriot to head home a truly sublime moment.
It brings a familiar hurdle into sight for the Premier League leaders, who have fallen at the quarter-final stage in each of the past three seasons.
3 – Bernardo Silva’s opener was his 35th goal for Manchester City in all competitions, but only his third with a headed finish. Ghosted. pic.twitter.com/JhKlYbw2iH
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 24, 2021
Gladbach soon found themselves hemmed in by City’s slick passing and astute pressing, with last-ditch challenges needed to thwart Jesus and Raheem Sterling.
Guardiola’s men were content to bide their time and the opener arrived just before the half hour, with Silva nodding in Cancelo’s sumptuous cross from deep at the back post.
Ramy Bensebaini sloppily gave the ball to Jesus in the 53rd minute but he hesitated and let Nico Elvedi get back to make a goal-saving challenge.
A rare moment of encouragement arrived for Gladbach as the hour approached, with Denis Zakaria powering past Rodri but overhitting a pass into the City box that Ederson swept up easily.
The Brazil goalkeeper was scampering in the 63rd minute when Alassane Plea’s audacious flick bounced just beyond the far post.
Those minor scares roused City and Jesus showed sharp poaching instincts when Silva again played the unlikely role of back-post target man to tee him up.
When Phil Foden thrashed over from Ilkay Gundogan’s 78th-minute knockdown, it was no surprise that Cancelo’s chipped ball into the box crafted the opening.
A careless pass in stoppage time from Rodri gave Gladbach substitute Hannes Wolf a chance to reduce the deficit but Ederson prevailed in their one-on-one.
What does it mean? Savvy City look primed to push for glory
As Gladbach failed to register a single touch inside their opponents’ box during the first half at Budapest’s Puskas Arena, it was impossible to imagine this City getting involved in the sort of Champions League firefights that have proved their downfall – ties finishing 6-6 and 4-4 on aggregate against Monaco and Tottenham, only to depart on away goals, springing instantly to mind.
315 – Manchester City have currently gone 315 minutes without conceding a goal away from home in the Champions League this season, while they’ve only faced six shots in three-and-a-half away games (none so far tonight). Bulletproof. pic.twitter.com/aIAAhex2O2
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 24, 2021
Such total control means Guardiola’s team are unlikely to quicken the pulse as they did on those occasions but it makes the one major honour to have eluded the Catalan in Manchester a far more likely prospect.
City’s iron grip on the match owed much to the brilliant Cancelo, who offered them an extra layer of midfield control. The former Juventus man was only really a full-back on the UEFA team sheet and his presence left a Gladbach team now winless in four outings entirely overwhelmed.
Both of Cancelo’s completed crosses from open play led to goals and only Rodri managed more than his 54 passes in the Gladbach half.
Jesus overcomes jitters
The Brazil forward was one of the culprits as City spurned clear chances before crashing out to Lyon last season and his hesitancy in the area at times during this game did little to inspire confidence.
But his goal was timely, especially given the returning Sergio Aguero was granted a cameo from the bench. No City player has scored more than Jesus’ 16 Champions League goals since the start of the 2017-18 season and he has now netted on all five of his appearances in the last 16.
Key Opta Facts
– City won their 12th consecutive away match in all competitions, breaking the record run for an English top-flight side they previously set themselves in November 2017.
– City have progressed from all four of the previous Champions League two-legged knockout ties when they have won the first leg away from home.
– Guardiola’s side have faced just nine shots across their four away Champions League games this season, with four of those on target and their opponents having just 13 touches in their box in the four games.
– City are the first team to keep a clean sheet in their first four away Champions League matches in a campaign since Manchester United did so in 2010-11.
– Phil Foden featured in the Champions League knockout stage for a fourth time before turning 21, only the third player to do so in the competition’s history after Cesc Fabregas (2004-05 to 2007-08) and Theo Walcott (2006-07 to 2009-10), who both did so with Arsenal.
City host in-form West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday, when Gladbach travel to title-chasing RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.