City are through to the Round of 16 after securing a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach.
David Silva’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time proved enough for the Blues to progress as both teams ended the game with 10 men with Fernandinho and Lars Stindl both seeing red after the break. Here’s the story of the match… What happened... The Germans set the tone from the kick-off, snapping at City’s heels in the final third and closing down the Blues quickly, giving the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Silva and Raheem Sterling little or no space to create anything of note. It made for an even contest, with City seeing more of the ball without creating any clear-cut opportunities. Monchengladbach, clearly pumped up and in the mood for a ruck, were buoyed on by a capacity Borussia-Park crowd and midway through the first period, they took the lead. John Stones lost a tussle on the right-hand side near the halfway line and Monchengladbach broke at speed and with men over, Raffael thundered home the ball from 15 yards with Claudio Bravo unsighted. It was the first real threat by the hosts and a wake-up call for City who still had plenty to do to earn a top two group finish. The Blues looked more threatening after the goal and on 33 minutes, Ilkay Gundogan controlled De Bruyne’s corner before volleying a shot towards the bottom left-hand corner but it was well saved by Yann Sommer. Then a poor Bravo throw saw Oscar Wendt work his way through several challenges before Bravo made amends with a fine save as the Bundesliga side came close to doubling their advantage. It seemed as though Andre Schubert’s men would head into the break with their lead intact, but in the dying embers of the first half City finally found a way through a great move ending with De Bruyne finding space in the box to play a low cross to skipper Silva who made no mistake from close range. It was exactly what the Blues needed and there was barely time to restart the game. Second-half Sterling thought he’d put City ahead on 49 minutes as he finished from close range but the assistant referee’s flag was raised for offside. The axis swung in City’s favour six minutes into the second period when Borussia skipper Lars Stindl picked up a needless second booking when he checked Nicolas Otamendi off the ball and the referee produced a yellow card – Stindl’s second of the night – and the Germans were down to ten men. De Bruyne forced another fine save from Sommer moments later as the Blues pressed for a second, but though City were dominating proceedings the numerical advantage lasted just 12 minutes. Fernandinho’s second booking of the evening for an alleged tug on compatriot Raffael as Monchengladbach looked to break – it was harsh to say the least, but in truth, Stindl’s second yellow had also been harsh. It was just the lift the home team and supporters had been hoping for, but it was always City who looked the likelier to win the game in the closing stages. As it was, a draw was enough to progress and to that effect, it is a case of job done for this phase of the Champions League.
Moment of the match The leveller in first-half injury time proved key for this encounter - City needed a fillip with the hosts' tails up and a defeat would have left the door open for the German side to overtake the Blues in the final round of group matches. How did City adapt to 3-4-3? City have tried 3-4-3 on several occasions now - the team looks fairly comfortable with the formation but it can leave spaces down the flanks if the Blues get caught in possession further up the field - as demonstrated for Monchengladbach's opening goal. We will no doubt see more use of 3-4-3 throughout the season.
Outstanding contribution Kevin De Bruyne claimed yet another assists and was at the heart of most of City's creative thrust. He could have had a goal as well but for a fine save by Sommer as the Belgian enjoyed his return to Germany.
What it means... City can relax and enjoy the final group match with qualification secured. Whether Guardiola uses the game to use some of the players who have played less minutes this season remains to be seen with the game effectively also a dead rubber for Celtic who cannot overhaul Monchengladbach for the Europa League berth having an inferior head-to-head record with the German side. Next up in the Premier League the Blues make the short journey north to face Burnley at Turf Moor.
Borussia Mönchengladbach (1): Sommer Christensen Elvedi Wendt Traoré Hoffman 40’ Stindl Strobl Dahoud Vestergaard 59’ Johnson Raffael Hahn 83’ Jantschke
Manchester City (1): Bravo Kolarov Otamendi Stones Navas Silva Fernandinho Gündogan Sterling (Sagna 67’) Agüero De Bruyne