M’CHENGLADBACH 1: MANCHESTER CITY 1 : CITY THROUGH TO R16 IN GERMANY WITH POINTS SHARED
Pep Guardiola thought Group C would go down to the last round of matches. But he was wrong.
Manchester City are through to the knockout stage of the Champions League for the fourth year in a row — and with a game to spare.
The Spaniard also said it could take his new club a decade to count themselves among Europe’s elite and he may be closer to the mark on that score.
While he had every reason to be satisfied with their progress at Borussia-Park, Guardiola would be the first to acknowledge there is room for improvement.
This was the 10th away game in the Champions League where City have failed to keep a clean sheet and he knows that could be very costly against Europe’s top clubs.
He has seen his team lose heavily in Barcelona — albeit after having goalkeeper Claudio Bravo sent off — concede three goals in a crazy draw at Celtic, and now have to come from behind once again after a lacklustre performance here in Monchengladbach.
owever, it would be churlish to focus too heavily on the negatives from a night when qualification was assured. Celtic’s visit to the Etihad next month will be about nothing more than British pride, with Guardiola already thinking about fielding a weakened team.
He pointed out on the eve of this game that eight Champions League ties are quite a handicap in the domestic battle with Chelsea and Liverpool, and it will be a more even playing field at the top of the Premier League until February.
‘Of course we are going to priorities our games in the Premier League,’ he said. ‘We have qualification in the pocket until February so now we can concentrate on that.These players are so new in Europe and every time we play a game like this we improve.
‘I know how difficult it is to win away in the Champions League. You have to be so happy because big, important teams in Europe won’t be in the next round.’
t wasn’t pretty as David Silva cancelled out Raffael’s strike just before half-time. Both teams also finished level on 10 players as Fernandinho followed Monchengladbach skipper Lars Stindl down the tunnel in the second half after both picked second bookings.
Much of City’s problems lay in the confusion caused by starting with a back three that became a back four after Monchengladbach scored, and winger Jesus Navas dropped to right back.
The hosts seemed happy to let City dominate and wait for their chance to win back the ball and counter. It led to Fabian Johnson testing Bravo twice in the opening seven minutes, and City’s defence was all at sea again when a team lying 13th in the Bundesliga opened the scoring in the 23rd minute.
Stindl beat John Stones too easily down the left — TV pundit Roy Keane said later: ‘He was like a child getting knocked off the ball, he has to be tougher,’ — and squared across the penalty box where Nicolas Otamendi slipped as it evaded several players in the orange and purple of the visitors.
It reached Raffael, who should have faced more of an obstacle in Raheem Sterling. However, the England man turned his back and Raffael’s fierce strike brushed him as it swerved past Bravo.
Monchengladbach could have increased their lead when Bravo threw the ball straight to Oscar Wendt and had to save smartly. But after Yann Sommer had turned away Ilkay Gundogan’s low shot at the foot of his post and then blocked from Sergio Aguero, City pulled level in added time at the end of the first half.
Gundogan threaded a pass through to pick out Kevin De Bruyne’s run into the box and the Belgian cleverly pulled the ball back for Silva to slide in and convert from close range.
Sterling thought he had put City ahead within five minutes of the restart only to see his effort ruled out for offside, but their cause was helped significantly moments later when Stindl saw red.
The Monchengladbach skipper had been booked for needlessly clipping De Bruyne in the first half when he seemed to raise an arm towards Otamendi as the two men collided near the touchline.
Otamendi’s reaction, clutching his face as he rolled on the floor, made sure that Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir showed Stindl a second yellow card.
But Fernandinho was not far behind as both teams were reduced to 10 men in the 64th minute.
The Brazilian had already been booked for a trip on Mahmoud Dahoud just before half-time and he was judged to have tugged Raffael’s shirt.
It seemed harsh in the extreme and even Guardiola struggled to keep to his policy of not criticising the match officials.
‘The decision is done,’ he smiled. ‘From the German people I learned in three years here never to speak about the referee, so OK.’
One goal each and 10 men apiece, it finished even in every sense
culled from dailymail.co.uk