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Rediff.com  » Sports » Champions League: City ease through despite loss; Juve stun Spurs

Champions League: City ease through despite loss; Juve stun Spurs

March 08, 2018 09:36 IST

Man City ease through despite rare home loss to Basel

Basel

IMAGE: Basel’s Michael Lang celebrates scoring their second goal against Manchester City. Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

Manchester City advanced to the Champions League quarter-finals despite suffering their first home loss in over a year, going through 5-2 on aggregate after a 2-1 defeat by Swiss champions Basel on Wednesday.

 

City won the first leg 4-0 and unsurprisingly their manager Pep Guardiola chose to leave key players on the bench with none of Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero or goalkeeper Ederson featuring in the game.

With David Silva also missing and veteran Yaya Toure in midfield, City lacked the zip and fluency that has characterised their play this season.

City's last home defeat came in December, 2016 against Chelsea in the Premier League and while this loss can be largely dismissed, due to the weakened side playing a game with little at stake, there will be concern that Guardiola's second string failed to make the most of their opportunities.

One bright spot was the performance of 17-year-old midfielder Phil Foden, who became the youngest English player to feature in the knockout stage of the Champions League and delivered a composed performance throughout.

The evening began positively for City, unbeaten in their last 12 Champions League home matches, when Brazilian Gabriel Jesus put them ahead in the eighth minute.

German winger Leroy Sane danced through the Basel defence and set up Bernardo Silva whose low cross was tapped in by the Brazilian forward for his first goal since November.

Manchester City

IMAGE:  Manchester City's Phil Foden celebrates after Gabriel Jesus scores their first goal. Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

It seemed like another comfortable City win could be on the cards but Basel, backed by an impressively vocal travelling support, were clearly determined to restore some pride.

The visitors drew level nine minutes after Jesus' goal when Mohamed Elyounoussi buried the ball in the bottom corner with a well-struck effort from just inside the area.

Runaway Premier League leaders City were content to play their trademark possession football but without any real threat in attack.

Basel's endeavours were rewarded in the 72nd minute when, after excellent work from Elyounoussi, Michael Lang blasted past Claudio Bravo at the near post.

While Guardiola was not unduly concerned about the result, given the tie was virtually decided two weeks ago, he was disappointed with the way his side approached the second half.

"The first half was quite good. In the second half we forgot to attack. Just passing to pass is nothing, you have to pass to attack. The second half was really, really, poor," he said.

For Basel coach Raphael Wicky, the display clearly restored confidence to his team after their heavy loss in the first leg.

"It was difficult to go behind after eight minutes, it can be very difficult against a team like that. I am very proud and happy with the team, in difficult circumstances they produced a really good performance," he told reporters.

"We have a certain pride and showed that against a team that wins here so often."

Higuain, Dybala stun Spurs to send wily Juve through

Juventus

IMAGE: Juventus’ Paulo Dybala celebrates scoring their second goal with Gonzalo Higuain. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

There is simply no substitute for experience in the highest tier of European football as Juventus proved by coming back from the abyss to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 and reach the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday.

The Italians, finalists in two of the last three seasons, were outplayed by Spurs in a 2-2 first-leg draw in Turin and were on the ropes at Wembley but goals by Argentine strike duo Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala in three minutes sent them through 4-3 on aggregate.

Son Heung-min's first-half goal had Spurs in control and dreaming of a famous scalp but they paid for two defensive lapses as their 17-match unbeaten run came to an end.

Higuain, who scored twice in the first leg, levelled in the 64th minute before Dybala burst clear of a static Spurs defensive line to curl the winner past Hugo Lloris.

Tottenham will rue missed chances and Harry Kane's last-minute header against the post but Massimiliano Allegri's streetwise Juve side proved they are still one of the toughest of European nuts to crack.

"In less than three minutes we conceded two goals - two big mistakes - and that is why we are out," Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino told reporters. "In both legs we deserved more.

"We played fantastic football until that first goal and we dominated. Of course we are very disappointed but it is part of growing. We will keep going."

Tottenham Hotspur

IMAGE: Tottenham's Son Heung-min in action with Juventus’ Blaise Matuidi and Giorgio Chiellini. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

Giorgio Chiellini, part of a Juve back-four packing 175 Champions League appearances, said experience had been key.

"We said keep calm and the chance will arrive," he said. "Experience is important and we used ours tonight."

Son was given the nod ahead of Erik Lamela on the left side of Tottenham's attack and fully justified Pochettino's faith as he ran Juve's defence ragged before halftime.

His stinging shot tested Juve's 40-year-old keeper Gianluigi Buffon in the third minute and another lightning burst into the box ended with Chiellini making a crucial block.

Kane should have scored his 36th goals of the season in the 14th minute when Dele Alli played him in but the England striker fired into the side-netting.

It was not one-way traffic, though, and the hosts had an enormous let-off shortly after Kane's miss when Douglas Costa drove into the area and was tripped by Jan Vertonghen.

Juve's furious players surrounded Polish referee Szymon Marciniak who opted against pointing to the spot despite replays confirming Vertonghen had taken Costa's legs and not the ball.

Son drove a left-foot shot wide when he should have scored but his persistence finally broke the deadlock in the 39th minute courtesy of a slice of fortune.

Kieran Trippier picked out Son with a low cross and despite completely missing the ball with his right foot it cannoned off his standing left leg and dinked over the confused Buffon.

It was only the third goal Juve had conceded in 12 games - all against Tottenham - and left them needing to score twice to stay in the competition.

Dybala missed the first leg with injury and was largely anonymous at Wembley - his first sight of goal not arriving until just past the hour when he drove wildly over.

It was a warning Tottenham failed to heed.

A minute later Higuain sparked the tie back into life when he stuck out a leg to touch home Sami Khedira's knockdown.

Tottenham were stunned and two minutes later their defence tried to squeeze up and Dybala was played through on goal, calmly advancing before curling past Lloris.

Christian Eriksen and Son both went close to an equaliser before Kane's last-minute header bounced against the post, the ball rolling agonisingly along the line before being cleared.

Juventus held on to record their first knockout win against an English club in the competition in five attempts.

"Winning here was not easy but we did it and I'm really proud of this team," Higuain said. "Once again we showed great character."

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