Manchester City 3 – 2 Bayern Munich
Champions League, Etihad Stadium
Just as I was sinking into my sofa to watch this game I had one of those rare gut feelings that something a bit different or special might be about to happen. Too lazy to get up as the familiar Champions League theme music floated around the living room, I browsed my phone for mobile betting apps at bettingappstore.co.uk and just managed to get my bet in before the kick off. A tenner on City to win it, why not.
Bayern had not tasted defeat for ages, and that combined with The Citizens’ Champs League record made for a more likely Munich win – or so the bookies thought. As we found, sometimes things don’t always go to the script. But there is one constant and that is the brilliance of one man who can always be relied upon. Just as he has so many times before, Sergio Aguero’s hat-trick saved City’s skin when all had seemed lost and kept their slim UCL progression prospects alive. Just like Liverpool owed so much to Suarez last season, and Spurs to Bale before that, this Manchester City team is largely relying on ‘Kun’.
Even though City should have been cruising after Medhi Benatia received a straight red card and conceded a clear penalty for denying Aguero a clear goal scoring opportunity, it only sparked 10-man Bayern into a defiant riposte. By half time, a worm-burning free kick from Xabi Alonso (which was pretty poorly dealt with by Joe Hart) had the visitors level and it was swiftly followed up by Robert Lewandowski’s shoulder/header to make it 2-1. What was happening here? The champions of England being beaten by 10 men at home.
City should have been expected to have come back after the break and taken advantage of the numerical difference, but it was Bayern who went on to absolutely dominate possession for the majority of the second half. Their ten men just ran rings around City and at times it was just breath-taking to watch how masterfully they were doing it. At 20:45 I noticed a tweeted statistic that since they went down to 10 men, Bayern had completed more than twice as many passes as City. It was evident that the home fans had gone very quiet and at times it was like their team was being given a humiliating lesson in ‘keepy-offy’.
Cometh the Hour…
As the clock ticked down, it seemed that the best that Manchester City could have hoped for was a rather unlikely late equalizer. My ill-placed tenner was most certainly gone by then as the match had entered the last five minutes. Surely. But Sergio was not done yet. A rare mistake on the night (well, a rare mistake full stop) from Alonso gifted Aguero possession and he raced toward the Bayern goal. Keeper Neuer (quite possibly the best goalie on the planet) came off his line to narrow the angle but a sublime finish from the Argentinian gave his team the goal that they barely deserved.
Although a City win wouldn’t have made a difference to what they need to happen in the next round of matches, the goal just rallied them. All of a sudden, the swaggering Bayern Munich of minutes before were looking like a bag of nerves and the home side visibly grew in confidence. And then in the 91st minute it happened. The visitors had been so good for so long but just caved in at the end with some shocking defending. Jerome Boateng made a right mess of a clearance and you-know who was there to nick the ball from his feet, keep his nerve and score the winner and bag a hat-trick. Cheers Sergio, you made my night.
For the Germans, the game must have had a feel similar to the 1999 Champions League Final against that other Manchester outfit. Surely Bayern can’t now lose to CSKA at home. A result like that might seem a little bit contrived. I don’t think I’ll be putting any bets on that one.
This article was also published on Back Page Football.