Man City’s defense leads Champions League charge as Bayern fall apart
Rob DawsonCorrespondent6 Minute Read
MANCHESTER, England — Manchester City are in control of their Champions League quarterfinal against Bayern Munich after a dominant 3-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s team still have to finish the job against Thomas Tuchel’s Bayern next week but goals from Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Erling Haaland mean they already have one foot in the last four.
Rodri’s strike in the first half was a stunner while Haaland made a goal and scored one in the second half to reach 45 goals for the season, the most ever by a Premier League player in a single campaign.
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1. It had to be Rodri
Oh, the irony. It was Rodri’s exclusion from the City team for the 2021 Champions League final against Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea which dominated the build up to this tie, so of course it had to be the Spanish midfielder who smashed in the crucial first goal here.
It was a sublime strike, curled into the top corner with his left foot after Silva had toyed with a couple of Bayern defenders on the right, but also served as a reminder of that night in Portugal when he was surprisingly left out of the team and Chelsea clinched the Champions League title.
It remains a talking point two years on, so much so that Guardiola was asked to explain the decision at his news conference on Monday. He declined, and perhaps we’ll never know whether he regrets leaving Rodri on the bench against Tuchel’s Chelsea, but he’ll be happy he picked him against Tuchel’s Bayern.
If it’s a goal that ultimately helps City win the Champions League this season, the questions to Guardiola about past failures will finally stop. In a tie that pitted the two tournament favourites against each other, City are in pole position ahead of the second leg in Munich next week.
2. City’s defence leading Champions League charge
For all the talk of Haaland’s record-busting season in front of goal, it might be City’s defence which ends up being key to finally winning the Champions League.
Guardiola’s team have always scored goals but their dramatic European exits have almost always featured sloppiness at the back. Monaco scored six times across two legs as City went out in the last-16 in 2017. Three successive quarterfinal exits in a row between 2018 and 2020 featured Liverpool scoring five times, Tottenham scoring four times and Lyon getting three in a one-off game because of COVID. City scored five in their two semifinals legs against Real Madrid last season but conceded six, including three at the Etihad Stadium.
They had shaky moments against Bayern, particularly early on in the second half when they seemed to lose control of the game, but they’ve now kept six clean sheets in their last eight matches and haven’t conceded more than one goal in a game since beating Tottenham 4-2 on Jan. 19.
It helps having a lethal striker like Haaland up front but another clean sheet for Ederson at the Allianz Arena next week and City will book a third successive Champions League semifinal.
3. Dayot Upamecano errors mean tie is almost over
Bayern might have fancied their chances of going through had they returned to Germany just 1-0 down but it will take something special for the reigning Bundesliga champions to progress from here. After Rodri’s wonderful first goal, City scored twice in six second-half minutes to give Bayern a mountain to climb with both Silva and Haaland taking advantage of Upamecano errors.
The Bayern defender was robbed by Jack Grealish in the build up to Silva’s header, scored thanks to a pinpoint cross from Haaland, and when the Norwegian striker made it 3-0 with his 45th goal of the season it was only after John Stones‘ header had looped over the French centre-back. Upamecano’s night was summed up minutes later when a simple pass back to goalkeeper Yann Sommer flashed out of play for a City corner.
Bayern will need all of their fabulous attacking players on top form if they have any chance of turning this tie around but on this evidence they don’t look capable of stopping City from scoring more in the second leg.
Best and worst performers
Rodri, MF, Man City: What a goal to give City the lead and what a time to score his first Champions League goal.
Erling Haaland, ST, Man City: Made one and scored one as he passed 50 goal contributions for the season.
Bernardo Silva, MF, Man City: Brought back into the team on a big night and was outstanding on City’s right, capping his performance with City’s second of the night.
Dayot Upamecano, DF, Bayern: It was the French defender’s mistake which allowed Haaland to cross for Silva to head in City’s second.
Jamal Musiala, FW, Bayern: Allowed Rodri to skip away for City’s first goal and was substituted early in the second half.
Leroy Sane, FW, Bayern: Bayern needed a goal to make a game of it and Sane missed a golden chance in the second half.
Highlights and notable moments
After a chance for Bayern at one end, Man City take the lead with a brilliant strike by Rodri.
Who else but Haaland to seal the win for Man City?
After the match: What the players/managers said
Quotes to come…
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
– Rodri scored his first UCL goal in 44 career appearances.
– Bayern hadn’t conceded a UCL goal from outside the penalty area since Oct. 22, 2019 against Olympiakos’ William.
– Bernardo Silva has a goal and an assist today after having 0 goal contributions in his first 8 UCL games played this season.
– Erling Haaland has scored 45 goals in all competitions this season, the most ever by a Premier League player in a single campaign.
Manchester City: Pep Guardiola’s side turn their attention back to the Premier League title race when they face Leicester City on April 15, followed by the second leg of this fixture away to Bayern Munich.
Bayern Munich: The Bavarians return to Allianz Arena on Saturday for a Bundesliga match against Hoffenheim (9:30 a.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+).
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