Sane at the double as battling Blues bounce back
Leroy Sane scored twice as City came from behind to beat Hoffenheim 2-1 at the Etihad to win Group F. The Blues had trailed to a 16th-minute penalty before Sane struck either side of the break in an entertaining Champions League clash. What happened? City started a little tentatively, with a few stray passes inviting Hoffenheim pressure. The visitors had a couple of half-chances in the opening 12 minutes and went close to breaking the deadlock on 14 minutes when Andrej Kramaric wriggled himself half a yard of space before curling a shot towards the top right-hand corner only to see Ederson make a superb fingertip save around the post. The next time the Germans attacked, however, it resulted in a penalty for the visitors as Aymeric Laporte tugged back Benjamin Hubner as a mis-hit shot looped up in the six-yard box. Kramaric tucked home the spot kick to give Hoffenheim the lead – one they probably just about deserved on the balance of play. The Blues almost responded within minutes, as Gabriel Jesus rose to head Leroy Sane’s corner against the post and moments later, John Stones saw his header from close range well saved by Oliver Baumann. Ilkay Gundogan’s excellent free-kick was headed onto the crossbar by skipper Nicolas Otamendi on 34 minutes as the Blues’ rotten luck continued. City were working hard without reward until first-half stoppage time when, finally, a brilliant free-kick levelled the scores. Gabriel Jesus was scythed down 25 yards out and Sane, always a keen volunteer for free-kick taking, placed the ball down, stepped back before unleashing a superb shot over the wall and past Baumann. City, who reverted to a 4-3-3 after playing 3-5-2, came out after the break with their tails up and went close to talking the lead several times in the opening 10 minutes – but the pick of the bunch was Raheem Sterling’s 60-yard dash forward in a three-on-one break, before squaring to Sane – who passed to Bernardo and his effort was scrambled clear. It was a case of slightly over-egging the pudding – but Sane and Sterling soon made amends as they combined to slice the Hoffenheim defence apart with Sane making no mistake from close range. Hoffenheim threaten occasionally, chasing the game as they had to, but leaving spaces at the back that the Blues continually looked to exploit. And on 76 minutes, the Blues almost spectacularly added a third as Sterling's clipped cross was met on the volley by Phil Foden only to be denied by a superb Baumann save. Foden repaid the favour by cross for Sterling to volley narrowly wide with five minutes left on the clock. All in all, a good display and a fine way to bounce back from the weekend loss to Chelsea.
Star man: Leroy Sane Not a difficult choice! Honourable mentions for the tireless work of Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling, too. What it means… Mission accomplished - City win the group and will be joined in the Round of 16 by Lyon. What’s next? The Blues return to Premier League action on Saturday, kick-off 12.30pm against Everton. Victory will put City back on top, with Liverpool hosting Manchester United 24 hours later. MATCH DETAILS: Manchester City (2): Ederson; Stones (Walker, 45’), Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko (Delph, 63’); Gündogan, Bernardo (Kompany, 84’), Foden; Sterling, Sané, Gabriel Jesus Hoffenheim (1): Baumann; Brenet, Nunu, Hübner; Grillitsch, Geiger (Amiri, 63’), Bittencourt (Bolfodil, 70’), Kaderábek, Schulz; Joelinton, Kramaric Goals: 0-1, Kramaric (15’), 1-1, Sané (45’), 2-1, Sané (61’) Referee: Andreas Ekberg. Booking Hübner (64’)