What a night for football in Manchester as Manchester City overcame Monaco in an 8 goal wonder match that had more twists than a game of cards.
It was one of those games that in 30 years time people will say ‘I was there the night City beat Monaco’.
Manchester City 5 Monaco 3
5-3 was the score but it might as well have been 8-7. It was a cracker of a game from beginning to end, as both teams’ defenses were frail beyond repair and the strike forces dominant throughout.
Penalty misses, penalty saves, goalkeeping errors, fabulous goals, indifferent refereeing all added up and with an incredible second half fight back by City that has kept them on course for the quarter finals.
That looked highly unlikely when Radamel Falcao put the French league leaders 3-2 up in the 61st minute. It was his second goal of the game and he’d already missed a second half penalty.
But strikes from Sergio Aguero, John Stones and Leroy Sane means City take a two-goal advantage to the south of France next month but with both defences offering more presents than a tanked up Santa the game is still more than open.
Raheem Sterling had put City ahead after 26 minutes, but Falcao and Kylian Mbappe gave Monaco a half time lead.
Falcao’s tame spot kick was saved with the score at 2-1 shortly after the break, with Aguero getting City back on level terms on 58 minutes.
But Monaco were ahead again when Falcao scored with a delicate and exquisite chip that was worth the admission price alone.
What followed was sensational, as City cut Monaco open at will to send the Etihad into raptures.
Defender John Stones who had a lively night at fault for one Monaco goal before saving his own bacon with a goal at the other had this to say:
“It was a crazy game of football. A lot of goals. I thought the three we conceded from a personal point of view is one of the things we need to work on. We showed great team spirit and desire and great goals from us too. I was Thrilled to bits to score thought I needed to make amends and added to the win.”
Raheem Sterling gave Manchester City a 26th-minute advantage after fine work by Leroy Sane but Monaco proved their threat to lead before half time through Radamel Falcao’s header and Kylian Mbappe’s powerful rising drive. City looked all over the place and the only Sane thing on the pitch was Leroy Sane who had a fantastic game. Actually anyone in midfield or up front had a fantastic game so poor was the defending.
Falcao saw his tame penalty saved by Willy Caballero just after the break, still Caballero had to do some work to keep it out. His opposite number, Monaco keeper Danijel Subasic’s blunder gave Sergio Aguero his first goal.
Colombian Falcao, back to his best after failed loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea, then lifted a brilliant chip over Caballero to put Monaco back in front – but this was the signal for City to launch an enthralling attacking demolition of the French sides quivering defence.
Aguero was denied a first-half penalty after he tumbled under a challenge from Subasic and then to rub salt into the wounds was booked for alleged diving but Aguero was an incessant nuisance and volleyed in another equaliser before John Stones made amends for poor defending in the build-up to Falcao’s second by putting City ahead on the night with a sliding finish at the far post after 77 minutes.
Man of the match Sane handed City that two-goal cushion with a simple tap-in from Aguero’s pass eight minutes from time – but Monaco’s vibrant attacking ambition means this tie is far from over. So get the Nacho’s in, get your mates round for a pizza and get out the beer in and enjoy the return match in France in March.
Well after the Man City – Monaco thriller what a let down this match was. There were only six goals as the tricky Spaniards of Atletico Madrid overcame the faltering German’s of Bayer Leverkusen. Actually this was another belter of a game with own goals, penalties and non stop action throughout.
Atletico are now in the driving seat in this tie with four away goals to their credit that saw even Fernando Torres get on the score sheet.
Saul Niguez gave the Madrid team the lead with a stunning strike, picking the ball up on the right before cutting inside and curling a left-footed shot into the top corner.
Antoine Griezmann doubled their advantage from Kevin Gameiro’s pass after woeful defending by Leverkusen skipper Omer Toprak.
Wendell struck his own crossbar in clearing Felipe Luis’ cross and home goalkeeper Bernd Leno twice saved well from Griezmann as Leverkusen were fortunate to go in at the break just two goals behind.
Karim Bellarabi pulled one back for Leverkusen early in the second half by finishing off a slick team move, but Gameiro’s penalty restored Atletico’s two-goal advantage before Stefan Savic’s own goal reduced arrears once again.
Substitute Fernando Torres further strengthened Atletico’s grip on the tie when he headed home a late fourth to wrap it up.
So Manchester City and Atletico Madrid are the two favourites to progress through to the last 8 of the Champions League but with four poor and at times woeful defences you’d be a brave man to bet on those two going through without at least some more drama in the forthcoming second legs.
Here’s hoping these four teams can conjure up more of the same, sloppy defending, attacking midfields, ruthless strikers, own goals and penalties in the return legs that take place on Wednesday, 15 March.
This was a fantastic night for the Champions League, a fantastic night for Manchester City and a fantastic night in general for football.
And there wasn’t a pie in sight.