After last week’s high scoring Champions League matches, I think that we were all prepared for a slight drop in excitement for this week’s fixtures. Apparently, the clubs didn’t get that message. In one match, Atletico Madrid won a 4-2 first leg against Bayer Leverkusen. Not to be outdone, Manchester City and AS Monaco combined for an eight-goal shootout, but who came out on top at the end of the day?
In the opening stages of the match, both sides looked lively in attack, but neither defense was ready to break. It took just over 25 minutes for someone to start the goal fest. A low driven cross from Leroy Sane on the left wing found a nearly offsides Raheem Sterling at the back post. The former Liverpool winger applied the finishing touch to the move and gave City a slim one-goal advantage.
That lead was short-lived, however, with Monaco grabbing the equalizer five minutes later. The man to deliver the leveling strike was former Manchester United striker Radamel Falcao. El Tigre turned back the clock with a beautiful diving header to nod in Fabinho’s cross and to give the Ligue 1 club an invaluable away goal.
Moments after Falcao’s equalizer, it looked like City were going to have a chance to take back the lead from the penalty spot. A seemingly reckless challenge from Monaco’s keeper Danijel Subasic left Sergio Aguero on the floor, but the official ended up awarding Monaco the free kick and giving Aguero a yellow card for embellishment.
In the 41st minute, Monaco doubled their tally on the day to take the lead going into the half. Again, it was Fabinho that set up the chance with a lofted through ball, and this time it was 18-year-old striker Kylian Mbappe who finished it off. The teenager’s strike rifled past Willy Caballero into the roof of the net, and it suddenly made people wonder which clubs would be putting in £70 million bids for his signature in the summer window.
Less than five minutes into the second half, a sliding challenge from Nicolas Otamendi brought Falcao down in the box and gifted Monaco a penalty kick. El Tigre stutter stepped his way up to the spot kick, but Caballero wasn’t fooled and easily stopped the shot. Would Monaco end up ruing this missed chance?
After Falcao’s miss, City began to amp up the pressure in search of an equalizer. It was Aguero that ended up scoring City’s second of the day in the 58th minute, but his shot is surely one that Subasic will want to have back. The Croatian keeper was perfectly placed to deal with Aguero’s relatively tame near-post effort only to have the ball slip through his hands in Rob Green fashion.
The excitement of Aguero’s equalizer was quickly wiped out. In the 68th minute, Falcao pulled out the pitching wedge to send a delightful chipped effort over Caballero to make it 3-2 in Monaco’s favor. Regardless of the final result, three away goals is something that any manager would be happy to grab in this stage of the Champions League.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 21, 2017
Sadly, for Monaco, three goals just wasn’t going to be enough to seal a win at the Etihad. In the 71st minute, Aguero finished off a David Silva corner with an excellent volley into the side netting to level the scores. Six minutes later, John Stones, who like the rest of the defenders in this match had been completely abysmal on the night, tapped in from six yards out after Yaya Toure’s initial headed effort on a corner kick. 4-3 City.
The meltdown wasn’t quite done yet for Monaco, however, as Leroy Sane found a fifth goal four minutes after Stones’. David Silva started the chance with a lovely chipped through ball to find Aguero in the box. Unselfishly, Aguero laid the ball off to Sane who only had to tap home into an empty net to seal a memorable 5-3 victory for the Cityzens.
What we learned on the night is that neither one of these sides can play defense, but as a neutral, that’s not such a bad thing. We’ll have to wait nearly a month before these two face off again, but even after the defeat, Monaco have to have some confidence that they can still advance in the tournament with their three away goals in hand.