Manchester City 1 Basel 2 (Man City win 5-2 on agg )
Manchester City are Champions League quarter-finalists for only a second time following a curious conclusion to their last-16 tie at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.
They ended as 5-2 victors on aggregate, their only blight conceding two soft goals in this second-leg defeat to Basel, though given the number of changes Pep Guardiola made this was hardly a surprise. The Catalan’s team can look forward to the draw on Friday week in the knowledge that few opponents will wish to come up against them.
Guardiola had stressed the need to be focused despite the 4-0 lead from the opening leg. For this task he made six changes from Sunday's XI that beat Chelsea as the big guns, Ederson, Kyle Walker, Sergio Agüero, Nicolás Otamendi, and David Silva were all stood down.
Gabriel Jesus was in for Agüero and he opened the scoring after only eight minutes. A feature of City's outstanding season has been the flying wing play of Leroy Sané. So it was that, again, he was creator. The German collected in midfield, drove and dribbled at the Swiss champions and laid the ball off to Bernardo Silva on the right. He swept the ball across the area and Jesus did the rest.
This was the centre forward's 11th of the season for City and suggested that, now, surely the tie was well and truly over – if it had not been before. Basel, though, had at least a little to say. After an Ilkay Gündogan effort was repelled at near point-blank range by Tomas Vaclik, Raphael Wicky's men moved upfield and Mohamed Elyounoussi, part of a front three, slotted home, having been given too much space.
This visibly infuriated Guardiola and the question was whether it would serve to resharpen City's focus. Sané again tore at Basel, this time zipping along the left to near to the byline though the threat fizzled out. Yet concentration was lacking when moments later David Silva's attempted crossfield ball to Sané was given away and City were turned. A Dimitri Oberlin free-kick that was hit wide to Claudio Bravo's right was a further warning.
Guardiola had chosen Phil Foden for a second start in the competition and he gradually saw more of the ball as the first half went on. He also executed the dreaded air-shot inside Basel's penalty area and though Yaya Touré – another making a rare start – did connect, the shot was blocked.
As half-time neared City failed to capitalise from a corner and when the whistle blew Guardiola may have readied some stern words. Jesus showed City’s intent as soon as the second half started. He and Vaclik charged for a through ball and the Brazilian got there first. Yet while he deflected it off the goalkeeper towards goal, eventually the ball bounced out to safety.
As in the opening 45 minutes Guardiola’s men were hogging the play but lacked the usual cutting edge. Given the number of A-listers missing this could be expected but will have disappointed Guardiola as his ethos is all about being able to interchange personnel and still operate seamlessly. There was an illustration of their lack of understanding when a Foden chip from outside the area found an opponent and a further one when Oleksandr Zinchenko passed to no one.
Better was the way the effervescent Sané finagled possession and turned on the afterburners, drawing a slew of Basel defenders around him. The ball went to Foden then Touré and the Ivorian’s pass nearly dropped plum on Sané’s boot for a chance, his radar only marginally awry.
As the hour passed City had not been troubled again near their goal and were camped near Basel’s and a measure of their comfort was shown in Guardiola taking off Gündogan for the youngster Brahim Díaz.
Now came Basel's winner as a Michael Lang bullet beat Bravo. The shot was hard but the Chilean may be disappointed at how he was beaten from a narrow angle on his near side, the ball squeezing just inside the left post.
Basel were showing why they claimed the domestic crown last season but the experience of only a second home loss under Guardiola this season will help harden City in their mission to be European champions.They closed the match as they love to do: on the front foot. – Guardian service