City, we never doubted you for a second…
Unpicking an unforgettable night at the Etihad Stadium; here are five things we learned from #cityvbmg…
Keys to the door…
What did you do on your 21st birthday? It’s probably fair to say that Raheem Sterling will remember his for rather longer than most.
Manuel Pellegrini wasn’t kidding when he said in his post-match press conference that he told Raheem to mark his birthday with two goals and the youngster duly obliged.
While the first goal was a routine close-range finish which showed his predatory instincts, the second was a strike worthy of winning any game, a beautiful, sweeping strike which curled deliciously around Sommer’s despairing dive.
Because of how early Raheem’s top flight career started, it’s easy to forget just how young he still is but his two goals showed the world that the 21-year old is already capable of having a determining impact on the very biggest stage.
Room for improvement…
Pellegrini stopped short of calling this City’s best night in the UEFA Champions League and that was because of a first-half display which left more questions than answers.
In a knockout context against any side through to the last 16 of the competition, City will struggle to advance further if they concede two away goals as easily as they did against Borussia, so there is still work to do and this was not a perfect night by any means.
The win away at Sevilla was undoubtedly a more complete 90 minute performance but, for now, the Chilean will be satisfied enough by those thrilling final ten minutes which saw the home side score three unanswered goals and return to the kind of form we know this team is capable of.
Bony Prince Wilfried…
Wilfried Bony was far from alone in struggling to impose himself on Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon but he served a timely reminder of his many qualities in his vital 25 minute cameo against Borussia Monchengladbach.
The game, and City’s hopes of clinching top spot in Group D, looked like they were fading away into the cold December night even for ten minutes after Wilfried and Jesus Navas were introduced from the bench.
Their impact was not immediate but it was decisive.
First, the Ivorian touched on Gael Clichy’s cross to create Raheem Sterling’s equalising goal, then he demonstrated classic centre forward’s play to hold up the ball and play in the birthday boy for his second before he got one of his own from Aleks Kolarov’s low cross.
With a game coming up against his former side Swansea on Saturday, he’ll be looking to add to his six goals for the season and build on this promising show.
Muchas Gracias, Sevilla…
Group D was widely forecast to be the tournament’s “Group of Death” and so it proved right until the bitter end.
Any group containing teams from the continent’s top four leagues will usually result in teams taking points off one another and that’s exactly what happened on the final Match Day as Sevilla did City a solid by defeating Juventus in the night’s other game.
That City managed to win a UEFA Champions League group for the first time in such a competitive, quality group speaks volumes for the progress made in the competition since our first appearance in 2011/12.
At the time of writing with just one night of the group stages to play, we are the only English side through to the Round of 16 and, let’s not forget, we qualified before anyone else with two games to spare.
Pipping Juventus to top spot on the final Match Day was just the cherry on top and we’ll discover just how important that is when the draw for the knockout stages is made on Monday morning...
Who might we face?
Joe Hart joked after the game that City will probably face PSG in the knockout stages knowing our luck when it comes to Champions League draws.
A game against the French champions certainly looks like the toughest possible prospect on paper but there are other potentially dangerous ties lying in wait on Monday.
As well as the Parisians, PSV and Benfica are the other two known group runners-up but we could also potentially face one of AS Roma, Bayer Leverkusen, BATE Borisov, Olympiacos, FC Porto, Dynamo Kiev, KAA Gent or Valencia, depending on what happens tonight.
We’ll let you know our potential opponents here on mcfc.co.uk as soon as the games are completed.