Manchester City continued their rampaging run in spectacular fashion in the opening leg of their Champions League last-16 encounter with Basel. With a dominating display on the pitch, Pep Guardiola’s men dismantled their opponents 4-1 with the help of goals from Sergio Aguero, Bernando Silva and Ilkay Gundogan. The emphatic win means City will return back to Ethiad in the second leg high on confidence and bolstered in the attack. The goal difference also meant Guardiola can be resting a few big names considering the tough road ahead across competitions.
City raced to an emphatic 3-0 lead inside 24 minutes of the first whistle, Ilkay Gundogan opened the scoring for the Citizens in the 14th minute. The lead was then double by Bernando Silva in the 18th minute and Sergio Aguero added another in the 23rd minute to set the tone for a Basel rout. The Premier League leaders were ruthless in their approach and did nothing wrong which could have given Basel an opportunity to get back into the game. Guardiola made two defensive changes in the starting XI from Leicester win with Fabian Delph and Vincent Kompany replacing Oleksandr Zinchenko and Aymeric Laporte to make their maiden Champions League appearance this season.
The move paid off well as City were able to keep the majority of possession and keep the Basel attack at bay. The Citizens took pole position into the game just five minutes into it and their hunt for the opener finally came to an end when Gundogan netted a superb header on a brilliant set piece by Kevin De Bruyne. After getting off to a flyer City were unstoppable as they scored two more inside 10 minutes to send Basel cribbing. Bernando Silva beat the Basel keeper in the 18th minute with a sublime shot which went racing past the shot-stopper. For City, the party was far from over as Aguero stepped up in the 23rd minute to plunder a fabulous long-range effort to make it 3-0 for City.
Gundogan scored his second to make it 4-0 in favour of the Citizens to complete Basel rout. Immediately after the goal Guardiola called off De Bruyne and Sterling, he will be likely resting some big names in the returning fixture at the Etihad but has not taken a call yet. Terming the 2nd leg as an important game, the Catalan manager said it was a dream first leg result for him but the quarterfinal spot is not yet secured.
The Champions League is 180 minutes, but we are almost there,” said City boss Guardiola. “I’m not saying it’s done, because in football anything can happen, but it’s an amazing result, said Guardiola.
Though it has become a routine task for City to score four or five past their opponents across competitions but against Basel Guardiola believed his side were clinical and didn’t miss out on the chances. “We could have been 2-0 down but then we were 0-2 up. We were clinical and I am delighted with the performance,” he said.
“We kept our level, we fought hard and created chances to score. They were four amazing goals. Overall I’m delighted,” he added.
Ikay Gundogan who was absolutely sensational for City in the build up play was deservingly praised by his manager for the two brilliant goals he netted. “He’s a guy with special qualities,” said Guardiola. “He’s amazing with a good sense of the goal, when I see him play I realise how we missed him last season. He is a special player with a lot of personality. He doesn’t feel pressure, he’s a top player,” he added.
Though the quarterfinals passage looks relatively easier for City, Guardiola is wary of the threat posed by stern fixtures ahead in the Premier League and the Carabao Cup. City are due to face Wigan Athletic in the fifth round of the FA Cup before facing Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final. They will take Arsenal again a week later in the Premier League and then go up against Chelsea before the returning fixture against Basel at the Etihad. However, Guardiola reckoned he has a healthy squad at his disposal and wants to get everyone involved.
“That’s so important but we have to be focused and it’s after Chelsea. It’s so important to focus on them and take another step in the Premier League.
“Vinny (Kompany) is back, Fabian (Delph) is back – a lot of players have come back from long-term injuries. That’s good for everyone and (Gabriel) Jesus and (Benjamin) Mendy are coming back. We’ll have almost the whole squad for this period when we will need everyone involved,” Guardiola said.For all the latest Sports News, download NewsX App