Leroy Sané’s screamer helps 10-man City turn tables on Schalke
VAR was at the centre of affairs in Gelsenkirchen as Otamendi saw red
Manchester City’s Leroy Sané scores his side’s equaliser in the Champions League Round of 16 meeting with Schalke. Photo: Sascha Steinbach/EPA
Schalke 2 Manchester City 3
What was heading to be a harrowing night became a memorable one for Manchester City as Leroy Sané’s late equaliser and Raheem Sterling’s added-timer winner gave them a famous win.
It meant that despite ending with 10 men following Nicolas Otamendi’s red card, and so being without him and Fernandinho, who was also booked, for the return last-16 leg on 16 March they remain favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.
All of this came despite a controversial VAR decision to award Schalke the first of two penalties that had appeared to give them victory.
Pep Guardiola’s notable selection move was deploying Fernandinho at centre-back, as he did for this month’s win over Arsenal. There were two changes from the 6-0 Premier League hiding of Chelsea, with the injured John Stones replaced by Nicolas Otamendi and David Silva chosen ahead of Oleksandr Zinchenko, who dropped to the bench.
Domenico Tedesco, Schalke’s 33-year-old coach, selected the former City centre-back Matija Nastasic, with Rabbi Matondo, who left the Etihad last month, a substitute.
At a packed and vibrant Veltins-Arena, Sergio Agüero made a hash of the first chance, mistiming a shot, then a slick free-kick routine that wrong-footed the defence ended in an Agüero header being tipped over by Ralf Fahrmann. A second corner followed and though Schalke cleared they looked shaky.
A factor here was Tedesco arranging Schalke in a 5-4-1 that invited City on and that meant ceding the initiative. andNor were the home side averse to niggly fouls, Daniel Caligiuri felling David Silva.
The invitation to play attack-versus-defence soon led to an Agüero pot-shot that led to another corner. This yielded nothing material but the City midfield of Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gündogan, Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernando Silva took control. Schalke were restricted to aerial attacks, as when Daniel Oczipka’s cross tested Fernandinho, who headed clear.
When City took the lead, they had David Silva’s persistence to thank. After Schalke played themselves into difficulties, he hunted down Salif Sané, stole the ball and squared it to Agüero, who did not miss.
Guardiola clenched his fists in celebration and City soon came close to doubling the lead. Fernandinho made an interception and strode forward before delivering a defence-shredding ball into David Silva. The Spaniard turned this to Sterling but, instead of taking aim, he dawdled and his return to David Silva allowed the hosts to escape.
The visitors looked far from watertight, though, when Schalke actually came at City. There was the concerning sight of Aymeric Laporte going to ground as Weston McKennie roved into the area and though he did not touch the American Guardiola had a curt word with the Frenchman.
Then disaster struck and it followed De Bruyne losing possession – a collector’s item – near halfway. This led to a shot from Caligiuri, at which point VAR intervened.
The effort hit Otamendi’s right arm and Schalke appealed for a penalty. There followed near-farce as while awaiting the verdict the referee, Carlos del Cerro Grande, had a long chat with the captains, Fahrmann and David Silva. Finally, after a three-minute delay, Del Cerro Grande pointed to the penalty spot and Nabil Bentaleb sent Ederson the wrong way.
Nor was this the end of the first-half drama. At a free-kick Fernandinho was booked for pulling back Salif Sané – meaning he misses the return leg – and a second penalty was awarded. Up stepped Bentaleb again to give Schalke a 2-1 lead.
What this all meant was City had to re-group for the second half. They began brightly – De Bruyne’s snap-shot winning a corner the Belgian took himself. From this Sterling took aim but sprayed wide. This was followed by a City break when Agüero found Sterling but – as he used to do too often – the wingman ran up a blind alley and was dispossessed. Agüero was culpable of the same error when wanting to beat one more man in the area a little later.
But these chances derived because City pinged the ball around in the manner their manager always demands. Lacking was end product. Composure before goal had to be rediscovered yet the quality was absent when Otamendi felled Guido Burgstaller on 68 minutes and was shown a second yellow.
Towards the end Guardiola replaced Agüero with Sané and it was the German who made the trip home for City far more enjoyable. – Guardian service