UCL: Man City through to quarterfinals despite loss to Basel

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Manchester City are Champions League quarter-finalists for only a second time, their only blight conceding two soft goals in this second-leg defeat against Baselthough, as Pep Guardiola pointed out, given the number of changes he made this was hardly a surprise. Still, this meant Basel joined Chelsea as the only side to defeat City at home under the Catalan, the London club having done so in December 2016.

The manager was unhappy at the display after half-time. “In the second half, we forgot to attack, we forgot to play,” he said. “Just to pass the ball to pass for itself is nothing and the second half was really poor.” He went as far as to say the second half may offer succour to future opponents though as this particular XI is unlikely to be fielded again this does not feel a real concern.

“Yeah, maybe people will think the way we played today, we are not able to fight to go through,” he said. “We will see. After they see the second half, people [may] say that team does not fight for everything.”

Really, though, Guardiola’s strongest side can look forward to the draw on Friday week knowing that few will wish to come up against them. He had stressed the need to be focused despite the 4-0 lead from the opening leg. For the task six of his big guns from Sunday’s victorious XI over Chelsea were stood down: Ederson, Kyle Walker, Sergio Agüero, Nicolas Otamendi, and David Silva.

Gabriel Jesus was in for Sergio Agüero and he opened the scoring eight minutes in. Leroy Sané collected in midfield, drove at the Swiss champions, and laid the ball off to Bernardo Silva on the right. He swept it across the area and Jesus did the rest.

This visibly infuriated Guardiola and the question was whether it would serve to resharpen City’s focus. Sané again tore at Basel, this time zipping along the left to near to the byline though the threat fizzled out. Yet concentration was lacking when moments later Bernardo Silva’s attempted crossfield ball to Sané was given away and City were turned. A Dimitri Oberlin free-kick that was hit wide to Claudio Bravo’s right was a further warning.


Guardiola had chosen Phil Foden for a second start in the competition and he gradually grew into the contest. “He was good,” his manager said. “In the second half maybe him with Leroy, he was the only one who tried to be aggressive, tried to do something.”

As the break arrived Guardiola surely readied some stern words. Jesus showed intent as soon as the second half started. Yet in the second period Guardiola’s side hogged the ball but lacked the usual cutting edge. Given the number of A-listers missing this was, indeed, expected but as the manager’s ethos is all about being able to interchange personnel and operate seamlessly his disappointment was understandable, too.

Better was the way the effervescent Sané finagled possession and turned on the afterburners, drawing a slew of defenders around him. The ball went to Foden then Yaya Touré and the Ivorian’s pass nearly dropped plum on Sané’s boot for a chance, his radar only marginally awry.

As the hour passed City had not been troubled again near their goal and were camped near Basel’s and a measure of their comfort was shown in Guardiola taking off Ilkay Gündogan for the youngster Brahim Díaz. Now came Basel’s winner as a Michael Lang bullet beat Bravo. The shot was hard but the Chilean will have been disappointed at how he was beaten from a narrow angle on his near side, the ball squeezing inside the near post.

Basel were showing why they claimed the domestic crown last season but the experience of only a second home defeat under Guardiola should help harden City in their mission to be European champions. They closed the match as they love to: on the front foot. It is how they are sure to approach the next round, to

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