A late goal by Phil Foden gave Manchester City a slender 2-1 advantage in their Champions League quarter final clash at the Etihad Stadium. Kevin de Bruyne had given City a first half lead, but the visitors levelled with six minutes remaining through Marco Reus, which left the tie on a knife edge until Foden struck in the 90th minute.
Much of the pre-match hype had centred around Dortmund’s Norwegian striker Erling Bruat Haaland, and whether the son of former City star Alfe would be joining the blues in the summer. Many pundits and commentators took the view that the match was an opportunity for manager Pep Guardiola to get a first-hand look at the 20-year-old who has been linked with a number of European clubs. However, Guardiola’s comments that City wouldn’t be paying over £100m for one player appeared to pour scorn on the rumours that the player was on his way or that a deal had already been agreed.
However, Guardiola’s main thoughts centred on reaching the last four of the Champions League and the manager returned defender John Stones to the partner Ruben Dias in the back line. Foden, a substitute against Leicester on Saturday, started the match alongside Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo and Ilkay Gundogan, while Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus dropped to the bench.
But while Haaland was the focus for the media, it was another youngster in the Dortmund line-up that posed a bigger threat, 17 year old Jude Bellingham, a signing from Birmingham City had the game’s first chance after just 7 minutes. Dortmund poured forward and Bellingham received the ball on the edge of the area, but saw his shot parried by Ederson.
That scare seemed to move City up a gear and they took the lead on 18 minutes. Former Liverpool star Emre Can gave way possession in midfield and City produced a lightning counter attack. De Bruyne shrugged off a weak challenge and charged forward, before playing the ball out left to Foden. The youngster’s ball across the face of goal found Riyad Mahrez, and the Algerian pulled the ball back for de Bruyne, who fired home from six yards.
City thought they had a penalty in the 28th minute when Rodri went to ground holding his face following a challenge from Can. However the decision was overturned by VAR, and replays showed that Can caught the midfielder on the knee. The ball seemed to strike Rodri on the hand, which in turn may have struck his own face, however after a long delay, the referee reversed his earlier decision.
The blues had a reprieve in the 37th minute when Bellingham appeared to have equalised, only for the referee to immediately disallow for a foul on Ederson. The City keeper, usually so composed with the ball at his feet, mis-controlled a ball forward and Bellingham poked the ball home However the referee had signalled for a foul on the keeper. It was a harsh decision on Dortmund as Bellingham had appeared to win the ball cleanly from the Brazilian, but the decision meant City went in 1-0 up at the break.
Guardiola got a glimpse of what Haaland could do in the first minutes of the second half. The big Norwegian went toe to toe with Ruben Dias, shrugging off the City defender, but Dias did just enough to put Haaland off his stride and Ederson made the save with his leg.
The warning signs were there for City and the blues needed the comfort of a second goal to calm the nerves and dent Dortmund’s hopes, and the chance arrived on 64 minutes that would have put clear daylight between the two. De Bruyne got away down the right and his ball into the box was met but Foden, only for his first time shot to hit the keeper’s leg, with Cancelo hitting the rebound high, wide and handsome of the Dortmund goal.
With 15 minutes remaining, de Bruyne took matters into his own hands, shrugged off a strong challenge in midfield but fired just wide of the goal. And a minute later, Foden had another chance after being set through by de Bruyne, but the keeper came out on top again. Foden danced into the penalty area a few minutes later but screwed his shot wide as City looked to put the game to bed.
But with having missed several chances, there was almost an inevitability that Dortmund would score, and indeed it happened with just six minutes remaining. Haaland’s pass found Reus beyond the City defence and the German fired his team level.
So often this season, City have found a way past teams and it was the same against Dortmund. In the 90th minute, de Bruyne found Gundogan at the far post, and his ball back found an unmarked Foden, and this time, the Stockport Iniesta was not going to miss.
The result means that City go to Dortmund for next week’s second leg just needing to avoid defeat in order to reach the semi-final of the competition for only the second time in their history, and also break the quarter-final curse that has dogged them for the last three seasons.
Final Score: Manchester City 2-1 Borussia Dortmund 1