There's something about UEFA Champions League Nights. On Wednesday evening at the Etihad, Manchester City once again overcame a second half deficit to defeat Borussia Dortmund 2-1. The victory gives city an early advantage as they sit alone on top of Group G after two rounds of matches.
City were uninspiring in the first half. There was nothing particularly poor, apart from play in the final third. The Sky Blues dominated the ball, as is their custom. The build up was slow at times, and the wide players, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez, seemed to lack that spark in the penalty area. City ended the half with just one shot, none on target.
Dortmund did not fair any better. They too were decent enough with what little possession they had. The counter attacks never really found that one pass, and the Yellow Wall only had a single off-target shot as well. Jude Bellingham was the brightest player on the field in the first half, and that would be a theme throughout the night.
After the halftime team talks, the match found new life. The two side played an even, back and forth game for much of the initial ten minutes after the break. There was more spirit on display from both squads, and more purpose on the ball in the final third. You could feel that a goal was coming, and Dortmund took it.
The most talked about young transfer target in Europe, Bellingham (56’), would get BVB on the score sheet first with a deft header from an inch-perfect cross. Form a Dortmund corner, US International Giovanni Reyna sent an out-swinger from the right corner to the center of the box. The ball glanced off the head of Salih Özcan and through to captain Marco Reus on the far side of the area. Reus’ cross finds Bellingham on a perfectly timed run between Haaland and Manuel Akanji and he nods the ball passed a defenseless Ederson. City 0-1 Dortmund.
GOOOOOAAAALLLLL!!!! Jude Bellingham!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/LQHd3smiF6— BVB Buzz (@BVBBuzz) September 14, 2022
The goal put a shock through the Etihad. City had not lost in 19 previous UCL home games, but were trailing with just over 30 minutes left on this night. But in that moment, Pep Guardiola’s side seemed to finally find that something they were lacking in the first 45, and once once again this season’s Sky Blues would mount a comeback.
Before the ensuing kickoff, Pep brought in what would be three of a total four subs on the night. Off went Ilkay Gundogan and the largely ineffective Grealish and Mahrez. On came Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, and Julian Alvarez. The change made an immediate impact. The left side of the setup in particular became much more dangerous with Foden, Silva, and Joao Cancelo combining to put real pressure on the Dortmund defenders.
Even with the increase in attacking energy, the hosts still could not get a shot through the BVB back line. The Yellow and Black would end up blocking a total of 7 City shots on the night, including Rodri’s close range header from a Foden corner kick in the 77th minute. Moving in on ten minutes remaining in regulation, City needed to find the equalizer, and soon.
They would find it from an unlikely source, City, building from the back after a Dortmund counter, pushed the ball up the left side of the pitch to Cancelo. Joao turned the ball toward the center of the pitch and switched to Kevin De Bruyne on the fright touchline. With Dortmund retreating to their penalty area, KDB finds right back John Stones (80’) outside the right front corner of the box. Stones settles the ball into his path with his left and uncorks a laser with his right. The equalizer was in the back of the net before BVB keeper Alexander Meyer could react. City 1-1 Dortmund.
With one already in the bag, City became the predator stalking their prize. Dortmund would be pinned in their own end for the next 4 minutes of play. Cancelo, Silva, and Foden probed the left side. De Bruyne, Rodri, and Alvarez poked at the right. All the while Erling Braut Haaland (84’) .stalked the center of the penalty area. After moving the ball from side to side virtually at will, Cancelo found it on the left hand side of the box with space to create. Joao lifted a cross into the 6 yard box that found Haaland’s left foot, henceforth known as Mjölnir, some 6 and a half feet in the air. The spectacular redirection sailed over the outstretched hands of Meyer and City were in the lead. City 2-1 Dortmund.
It was now Dortmund's turn to play with urgency, and they upped the physical intensity just that little but more. Nothing way out of line or otherwise unseemly, just hard, physical play. But city were up to the task, even if the may have been lucky that Thomas Meunier was unable to take a close chance with only Ederson to beat in the 85th minute.
The last 6 minutes plus stoppage time featured several small dust ups, and just enough animosity to make the return trip to Dortmund on 25 October interesting. The biggest affair was a coming together of several payers in the Dortmund end after a hard tackle by Foden. Yellow cards were issued to both Foden and Meunier in the 94th minute.
A hard fought match, and another spectacular comeback from Man City. Spectacular goals from Stones and Haaland, and a staring performance from young Bellingham highlighted another glorious UCL Night at the Etihad. With the victory, City take the top spot in Group G in the early going.
Up next for City is a weekend trip to Molineux to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers. Borussia Dortmund host Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga.