Wednesday’s Champion League match between Manchester City and Schalke 04 proved to be one of the most exciting from the round of 16. With both of Tuesday’s games ending in a 0-0 draw, it was nice to see a back and forth game between two top teams. Manchester City certainly came into this game as the favorites having come off an impressive 6-0 win against Chelsea.
A mistake in the Schalke defense helped Man City striker Sergio Aguero slot home the first goal of the match after just 18 minutes. Slightly before halftime however, a controversial video assistant referee (VAR) decision was made to give Schalke a penalty. It appeared that City defender Nicolas Otamendi hand balled an incoming shot. The Argentine received a yellow card for this and would have to play cautiously for the rest of the game.
Schalke forward Nabil Bentaleb stepped up for his side and brilliantly passed his shot past City goalkeeper Ederson to tie the match. Just a few minutes later, another penalty was given for Schalke for a foul by City midfielder Fernandinho on Salif Sane. After consulting with the VAR yet again, referee Carlos Del Cerro Grande stuck with his initial decision and awarded Schalke the penalty. Bentaleb stepped up once again for his side and converted his tenth penalty of the season. Bentaleb has scored every penalty kick he has taken this campaign.
City were put into a position that they weren’t too used to, losing in the second half. To make matters worse for the citizens, Otamendi received his second yellow card of the match for a foul on Guido Burgstaller. City would have to play the rest of the match with just 10 men.
With City heading for a surprising defeat, manager Pep Guardiola decided to put former Schalke player Leroy Sane in the game. Sane immediately impacted the match with a sublime 30-yard free kick to level the score.
Just minutes before full time, Ederson played a long, over the top through ball to City winger Raheem Sterling. Sterling beautifully created space from the defender and calmly passed his shot passed Schalke keeper Ralf Fahrmann to win the game.
“It was a great result,” said Guardiola. “We gave them two penalties, we gave them a red card, and in this competition that is not too good.”
“We are still not ready to fight for the latter stages, that is reality, but the result is good.”
It seems that Pep isn’t confident that his side can progress to the final stages of the Champions League. Should he focus solely on winning the Premier League or go all out to become Champions League winners?
The second leg takes place in Manchester on Tuesday, March 12.