Manchester City’s quest for the quadruple has taken another step in the right direction thanks to a dramatic 3-2 win over Schalke on Wednesday.

City dominated the early stages and took the lead after 18 minutes with Sergio Aguero capitalising on poor Schalke defending.

However, two penalty goals from Nabil Benteleb then turned the game on its head before half-time before a red card for Nicolas Otamendi looked to have confirmed defeat.

But two late goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling put the tie back in City’s favour, taking a one-goal lead into the second leg with three crucial away goals.

So, who were the winners and losers on the night?

Winner: Pep Guardiola

With just over 10 minutes to go, City looked like falling to a shock defeat in Germany, as Schalke were holding on against 10 men.

Understandably, some City fans were left scratching their heads when Guardiola decided to take off striker Aguero for Leroy Sane, shifting Raheem Sterling into the false nine role.

But, once again, Guardiola showed just why he’s considered as one of the best managers in the world.

Playing against his former side, Sane was unfazed by the pressure on his still young shoulders when City were awarded a free-kick just outside the area.

With all eyes on the German wonderboy, who was left on the bench for his first return to his former side, Sane curled a beautiful free-kick into the corner of the net to put City in control of the tie once more thanks to away goals.

But that would not be all. As the game went into injury time, Sterling – now in his central position – latched onto a long ball from Ederson, seeing off Matija Nastasic and finishing coolly past Ralf Fahrmann.

From 2-1 down to 3-2 up inside six minutes, all thanks to Guardiola’s substitutions. Advantage City going into the second leg.

Loser: Fernandinho

On Tuesday night Liverpool fielded a Brazilian midfielder in defence and it worked well as the Reds kept a clean sheet against German side Bayern Munich.

A day later, City fielded a Brazilian midfielder in defence against a German side but this time things didn’t go quite according to plan.

With John Stones injured, Aymeric Laporte having to fill in at left-back and Vincent Kompany only worthy of a place on the bench, Fernandinho started at centre-back for the second time this season.

The Brazilian had done well to stifle Arsenal in his previous defensive appearance but he had no such luck in Gelsenkirchen.

Fernandinho struggled against Schalke’s physical players from set-pieces and was out of his depth when Daniel Caligiuri’s free-kick was whipped into the City area just before half-time.

Tasked with marking Salif Sane, Fernandinho allowed his man to get slightly ahead of him, leading the Brazilian to take a risk. He opted to hold Sane, leaving the referee no option but to point to the spot once Sane went down inside the area.

Bentaleb converted and City were behind. To make matters worse, the yellow card Fernandinho picked up will see him miss the second leg due to suspension.

Winner: Nabil Bentaleb

After 20 minutes things were looking bleak for Schalke. The home side were being thoroughly outplayed by their opponents and a goal down which was largely of their own doing.

For a team currently 14th in the Bundesliga, this could be spelt game over and the start of rout. But no one told Bentaleb that.

The former Spurs man was brilliant against Man City, running the midfield show and giving the likes of Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan a tough match.

His determination showed his team-mates the match was not over, and he showed calmness under pressure to turn the tie around.

Bentaleb’s first penalty was delayed by a long wait for VAR confirmation, potentially playing on his mind as he was thinking about the placement of a potential spot-kick. But his effort was well-placed and sent Ederson the other way.

His second penalty was slightly tighter with Ederson getting a hand on the ball but Bentaleb’s placement was just too good. It brought up his 14th penalty for Schalke, all of which the Algerian has converted.

In the end, Bentaleb was unfortunate to be on the losing side, but his goals have still given Schalke a slender chance of going through.

Loser: Nicolas Otamendi

If Fernandinho can slightly be forgiven for being played out of position, there is no excuse for the rash defending of Nicolas Otamendi.

Lining up against Fernandinho, the Argentinian would have been expected to be the steady head of the defence, helping Guardiola’s side keep just a second Champions League knockout clean sheet in three years.

Instead, Otamendi was directly involved in the loss of that clean sheet, being penalised for handball midway through the first half.

It was one of those decisions which split fans and pundits, with some believing his attempt to move his arm out of the way was enough to deny a penalty.

But VAR did not see it that way, deeming in deliberate enough to be worthy of a yellow card.

This should have been a flag for Otamendi to control his game in the second half to try and keep his side in with a chance for the second leg he would be suspended for due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

However, midway through the second half Otamendi made things worse for his team, getting sent off for a needless foul earning him a second yellow card.

It meant Guardiola had to waste one of his potential game-changing substitutions in bringing Vincent Kompany on to replace David Silva and restore normality at the back.

Though he was always going to miss the second leg through suspension, Otamendi made it a lot harder for City to turn things around before the first game was over.

Winner: Sergio Aguero

When Gabriel Jesus scored eight goals in six games during January, some had thought the Brazilian would be set to replace Sergio Aguero as Manchester City’s starting striker.

But Aguero had other things in mind. The Argentine has been absolutely phenomenal leading the line for City including two Premier League hat-tricks in three games.

And the Argentinian got City off to the perfect start in Gelsenkirchen, giving the visitors the lead after 18 minutes as they capitalised on a defensive error.

It brought his 10th goal in the past seven games for Aguero. During that spell only Everton have prevented the Argentinian from finding the net, though that did not harm City as they ran out 2-0 winners.

The opener also brought the seventh consecutive away Champions League match in which Aguero has scored, becoming the first player to do so for an English club in the competition.

Loser: VAR

VAR is a wonderful thing that will ensure more fairness in football, once it is embedded on a wider basis. But the system is doing itself no favours in winning over its doubters.

In Gelsenkirchen on Wednesday, Schalke appealed for a penalty after Caligiuri’s shot struck the arm of Otamendi inside the City area. A corner was initially given but VAR was consulted about a possible change in decision.

Replays showed the ball did indeed hit Otamendi on the arm, though the Argentine was trying to move it out of the way. Despite that, City could have little complaints about Carlos del Cerro Grande pointing to the spot.

The problem with the decision was how long it look. Between the ball hitting Otamendi’s arm and the penalty being awarded, 136 seconds had past – or two minutes and 16 seconds.

The timing was not made easier by the constant protests from both sides but it is still far too long for a system still under a lot of scrutiny.

To make things even worse, it was reported the referee wanted to see the incident on the pitchside screen but could not as it wasn’t working, leading him to have to stick with VAR’s decision rather than making his own.

Source link – http://www.squawka.com/en/news/key-winners-and-losers-as-10-man-man-city-complete-late-comeback-in-germany/1083091