With all the hype surrounding the UEFA Champions League fixture between Manchester City and AS Monaco, the tie was set to be high-scoring. The early predictions were correct, but nobody could predict an affair quite like this one.
City came out on top in the end, winning the match 5-3 thanks to a second half performance which will end up as one for the ages. The first half, however, should not be undermined either.
The first goal came in favor of City. Leroy Sané dribbled past three defenders, made a one-two with David Silva, and Sané delivered the ball across the box to Raheem Sterling, and an easy finish made it 1-0.
However, Monaco responded quickly. Pressure on City’s pass-back play caused Willy Caballero to play a bad long ball up the pitch, Fabinho put it on his feet and crossed the ball into a flying Falcao, and his wonderful header evened up the score.
A controversial call from referee Mateu Lahoz prevented a penalty appeal from Sergio Agüero, who was given a yellow card for “simulation” even though Danijel Subašić made clear contact with Agüero’s leg.
Monaco scored another goal when Kylian Mbappé received a long ball and made it 2-1. At halftime, Pep Guardiola needed to motivate his side to push past the volatile French side.
The second half did not start well for City though, with Nicolas Otamendi committing a penalty on Falcao. Confusion surrounded the call, as Lahoz waited a long time to call the penalty with help from the additional assistant. However, Caballero recovered from his earlier mistake and saved Falcao’s spot kick to give City momentum.
Sergio Agüero then received a through ball and shot from the right side of the box. His effort was low and driven towards Subašić, but the ball went through the keeper’s hands into the net for the equalizer.
Monaco responded quickly again, and Falcao destroyed John Stones and then Caballero with a beautiful chip into the net. After a couple of bad seasons with Manchester United and Chelsea, the Colombian striker proved he could succeed in England with a brace at the Etihad.
But City weren’t done yet. David Silva crossed the ball to Agüero from a corner, and he smashed a volley into the bottom right corner. The score was 3-3 at the time, but there were more goals to come.
John Stones recovered from his bottled effort to defend Falcao’s second goal when he put Yaya Touré’s off-target header into the back of the net. City came back with the dagger a few minutes later, when a wonderful team move left Sane with an open goal to make the final score 5-3.
Monaco almost got back into it when Falcao tried to bag his hat-trick goal in the 84th minute, but Caballero made a world-class save with his foot to stop the shot.
Without bias, this match could go down as one of the greatest Champions League matches ever. With bias, this match was the greatest game of football I have ever seen. Here’s a look at the match from a City fan’s perspective.
Even though City conceded three goals and succumbed to plenty of Monaco's pressure, the backline was filled with redemption from failure.
The pass-back strategy of Pep Guardiola left City struggling in the first half, and the first Monaco goal came when Caballero struggled to deal with a back pass and cleared it straight to Fabinho. When a young, quick Monaco attack can pressure the defense, there is no reason to carry out a weak strategy, as Monaco easily found holes and had plenty of chances to score.
Additionally, defenders would dive into pointless tackles and would get caught out on the counter attack. This happened particularly to Nicolas Otamendi when Thomas Lemar and Mbappé would beat him on through balls and passes in the midfield. He also gave up a penalty in the 48th minute.
Finally, John Stones was left shaking his head after getting bullied by Falcao all night. He shrugged off the English defender with ease to score a goal, and Stones struggled to defend anyone all game.
But both Caballero and Stones turned the game around with plays that shifted the momentum into City’s favor. Caballero saved Falcao’s penalty to keep the score at 2-1, while John Stones scored the goal to put City ahead.
How many times do I have to say it: this midfield is world class, inside and out. Yaya Touré continues to perform in his role as a holding midfielder, while the Cityzens’ maestros, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, continue to impress week in and week out.
Silva came away with an assist from the corner spot, as Sergio Agüero smashed home his cross into the right corner. He won eight of his 10 duels and made three key passes, and ended his amazing night with an assist to El Kun.
Meanwhile, De Bruyne also had three keys passes and made three accurate long balls as well. His most underrated contribution to the match was his defensive work. If he or Agüero would give up the ball in Monaco territory, he would consistently run and make vital tackles to win the ball back for City.
However, it was the City wingers who reaped the biggest statistical rewards of the day. Leroy Sané, who has been in fantastic form as of late, came away with a goal and an assist. His assist came from a wonderful run, beating three defenders and playing a one-two with David Silva to get past the back line. Sané's goal was the dagger for City as well, and Leroy earned his spot on the scoresheet.
Sterling stepped up once again too, with a goal and an assist. His goal came from Sané’s assist, but his most influential play was the assist to Agüero to put City back in contention.
After Gabriel Jesus’ injury, Sergio Agüero had his chance to prove himself as one of the world’s best strikers and worthy to play in City’s starting lineup. After a couple of shaky performances leading up to this match, he showed critics how good he truly is.
He rightfully went down in the first half after Subašić tackled him in the box, but the referees handed City the short end of the stick once again on penalty calls. His appeal was denied, and Aguero could not put City up by two goals, yet.
Agüero’s first goal was a bit lucky, as his low effort went straight through Subašić’s hands. But it gave Agüero confidence to return to his usual form.
When Monaco took the lead with Falcao’s chip, Sergio responded with a fantastic goal, smashing home David Silva’s corner into the bottom right corner. He also assisted the fifth goal of the match, giving Sané and open-net finish and City a two-goal lead.
Agüero’s return to form comes at a vital moment in the season, because City need the best out of their star man during the Champions League knockout stages and Premier League title race. Nonetheless, Sergio is back in the starting lineup and certainly earned a Man of the Match award.