Man City’s defence marked absent again as Monaco advance
French side go through to Champions League quarter-finals on away goals
Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko heads home his side’s third goal during the Champions League round of 16 match against Manchester City at the Stade Louis II. Photograph: Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images
Monaco 3 Manchester City 1 (6-6 on agg; Monaco go through on away goals)
This was everything Manchester City had feared it might become, a chastening evening when hope flared only briefly and a sorry defeat fixed the scrutiny on what real progress, if any, has been instigated under Pep Guardiola’s stewardship this season. Monaco are one of the more thrilling young teams in Europe but City, semi-finalists last year, will curse how obligingly they permitted the Ligue 1 team to progress this time round.
There was no snap, no bite, and little cohesion until desperation had set in. But to witness the visitors being bullied defensively through the opening period, as they had been at times back at the Etihad, exposed the size of Guardiola’s on-going task. This tie had 12 goals shared, but the better team prevailed courtesy of the trio scored in Manchester. Everything about the English team was wasteful.
City’s selection here had been so bold, all Guardiola’s pre-match talk stressing how imperative it would be for his side to fight fire with fire against the most prolific team in any of Europe’s five elite divisions. Yet the onus had always been on Monaco to take the initiative. That chaotic finale back at the Etihad Stadium last month, when they had shipped three times in 20 minutes, had left them chasing the tie.
They had required a repeat of that celebrated second-leg comeback against Real Madrid in 2004 when Didier Deschamps’s team, inspired by their loanee from the Spanish club, Fernando Morientes, had overturned a two-goal deficit from the Bernabéu and progressed into the semi-finals. It had seemed an unlikely task given City’s own attack-minded reputation, but where Leonardo Jardim’s side were fearless the visitors seemed choked by their own anxiety.
The manner in which the advantage from the first leg was frittered away, the safety net surrendered, was disturbing. There was no semblance of defensive organisation, with John Stones too often isolated and Aleksandar Kolarov wilting at his side, with the soft core at the heart of this team exposed without a defensive shield to offer any kind of protection.
Monaco hassled and harried, snapping at City whenever the visitors attempted to catch their breath. But when Kylian Mbappé or Thomas Lemar had been shrugged off, there was Benjamin Mendy, Valère Germain or Bernardo Silva swarming forward to close down space, pilfer possession or provoke the error. City simply could not escape, panic gripping with Fernandinho overrun and Kevin de Bruyne’s distribution awry in the frenzy.
By the interval the aggregate score was level, the hosts’ dominance achieved even without Radamel Falcao following a kick on the thigh from Bordeaux’s Nicolas Pallois at the weekend.
Mbappé had been irresistible, the 18-year-old forcing Willy Caballero into an early save after Fernandinho had been dispossessed by Germain. City did not recover their composure at the resultant corner, first allowing Mendy to waltz away from the dithering Leroy Sané and Sergio Agüero and, when Stones blocked the full back’s cross, permitting Bernando Silva to fizz over a centre anyway. Mbappé loitered unnoticed at the near post to turn in the cross through Caballero.
That was the team’s 124th goal of the season and it was never likely to prove their last of the night. The ease with which Lemar and Mendy exploited the space beyond Bacary Sagna was damning with Stones, offered no support by Sané, unable to stifle their threat alone. The centre back found himself pulled out of position yet again just before the half hour and Mendy was eventually liberated to the by-line to deliver. Fabinho, a man-mountain alongside Tiemoué Bakayoko in the middle, opened up his body to connect sweetly with a side-foot in the middle and the momentum had switched.
The urgency had to be City’s thereafter in the knowledge they simply must revive to survive in this competition. A side who had barely mustered a meaningful, or accurate, pass in the Monaco half had to shrug themselves from their stupor. De Bruyne’s slide-rule beyond Mendy for Raheem Sterling to collect offered hope, though Andrea Raggi reacted smartly in the centre to cut out the cross just as Agüero was preparing to convert. That exchange of passes was a timely reminder that the Monegasques’ own backline has its fragility.
It was as if the home side had declared, content in their lead and their opponents’ lack of rhythm, and caution crept into their game. That merely fired City’s intent.
Sané, with his first chance to burst into space beyond Raggi, demonstrated the Premier League team’s threat only for Agüero to sky his shot over the bar. Guardiola was hopping in anticipation when David Silva wriggled into space moments later and freed the Argentinian forward in front of goal, only for Danijel Subasic to conjure a smart save.
The manager’s reaction was more livid when Sané thumped into the side-netting, but opportunities were emerging, and the German was just finding his range. It was Djibril Sidibé who let the winger loiter unnoticed in space as Subasic pushed away Sterling’s attempt 19 minutes from time, with Sané belting the loose ball into the roof of the net.
Yet, where the visitors had celebrated as if the away goal had secured progress, all that remained was ignominy. The ease of Bakayoko’s header, planted into the corner of the net as Lemar’s free-kick arced over Kolarov 13 minutes from time, summed up an error-strewn evening and cast City out of Europe. It is Leicester alone who carry England’s hopes forward in this competition.