Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan scored excellent first-half goals as Manchester City beat Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0 to book a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Back at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, which also hosted Gladbach’s initial ‘home’ leg, City repeated the scoreline from the first encounter to seal a 4-0 aggregate triumph.
De Bruyne scored City’s 100th goal of the season with a venomous left-footed strike and Ilkay Gundogan followed that forcefulness with some finesse shortly afterwards.
Gladbach, now winless in nine matches under outgoing head coach Marco Rose, continued to be summarily outplayed by a City side showing their best form for a few weeks to stay in the hunt for four major honours
Yann Sommer was alert to keep out Phil Foden’s stabbed volley from Joao Cancelo’s chipped sixth-minute pass, while opposite number Ederson tipped a deflected drive from Gladbach forward Breel Embolo behind.
That warning seemingly persuaded City to kick up a few gears and put the tie beyond doubt.
First De Bruyne let a 12th-minute pass from Riyad Mahrez run across his body to clatter home a 25-yard shot in via the crossbar.
Then, in the 18th minute, an exquisite turn and driving run from midfield by Foden teed up Gundogan – both the pass and the finish were coolly conceived and executed.
15 – Not only is Ilkay Gündogan Manchester City’s top scorer this season with 15 goals, he is now the top scoring German player within the top five European leagues across all competitions in 2020-21. Whippy. pic.twitter.com/Bt9HdgMhNT
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 16, 2021
Sommer pushed over a dipping De Bruyne free-kick, although Embolo almost reduced the arrears before the break when he slid a shot wide having been played in by Marcus Thuram.
There was no let-up from City early in the second half, Mahrez clipping wide on the end of Gundogan’s pass having become the latest member of a rotating forward line to pop up in the number nine position.
Mahrez twice forced Sommer to beat away a left-footed strike from inside the area – the latter in the 69th-minute coming when a clever short-corner routine with Foden caught a bedraggled Gladbach napping.
It was a game of relentless endeavour but personal disappointment for Mahrez, who curled just wide with the final kick – one of five fruitless attempts on goal for the Algeria winger.
What does it mean? City ease up to problematic hurdle
City have fallen at the quarter-final stage in each of the previous three seasons. It feels impossible to imagine a team in their imperious vein of form not going further, but the same could be said before their Anfield collapse in 2018, a riotous VAR-tinged exit at the hands of Tottenham in 2019 and last year’s limp loss to Lyon on the back of dispatching Real Madrid.
However impressive City were over the course of these two legs, Guardiola will know the biggest tests are yet to come.
King Kev reclaims his crown
As City’s record-breaking winning run carried on after the turn of the year, despite De Bruyne being an injury absentee, there were some murmurs suggesting they might be a more balanced team without the PFA Players’ Player of the Year. Those grew louder after the Belgium playmaker disappointed in a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United earlier this month.
Of course, it is folly to suggest any team could truly be better off without a player of De Bruyne’s lavish gifts. His goal here was of the highest order and followed a brace against Southampton last week. De Bruyne’s 25 goals from outside the penalty area for City are more than any other Premier League player since he joined the club in August 2015.
25 – Kevin De Bruyne has scored 25 goals from outside the box in all competitions for Manchester City, the most of any Premier League since he joined the club. Thunderous. pic.twitter.com/RMVhAUqM9e
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 16, 2021
Time to go, Marco?
Rose had carved out a reputation as one of Europe’s brightest coaching talents before being confirmed as Borussia Dortmund boss from the start of next season. The victory lap he hoped for with his current employers has not transpired. Since Dortmund confirmed the news on February 15, Gladbach have played seven games and lost every one of them.
Borussia are in freefall, 10th in the Bundesliga and with hopes of returning to UEFA competitions next season fading fast. Perhaps it’s time to ease Rose towards an earlier exit than planned before any more damage is done.
Guardiola’s side continue their bid for honours on all fronts with an FA Cup quarter-final at Everton on Saturday, while Gladbach have what looks like the ideal opportunity to end their awful slump with a game against the Bundesliga’s bottom club Schalke.