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City move into CL quarters
March 09, 2018
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Manchester: Manchester City secured their place in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday, but did little to enhance their tag as favourites to win the competition as a much-changed side suffered a shock 2-1 home defeat by Basel.

Despite losing for just the fourth time all season, the runaway Premier League leaders still cruised through 5-2 on aggregate after doing the hard work in Switzerland three weeks ago.

City manager Pep Guardiola could afford the luxury of making six changes from Sunday’s dominant 1-0 win over Chelsea, but still saw his side extend their aggregate advantage early on when Gabriel Jesus tapped home after just eight minutes.

However, Mohamed Elyounoussi exposed some slack City defending to smash in an equaliser for the Swiss champions nine minutes later before Michael Lang rocketed home a spectacular winner 19 minutes from time.

City could have the Premier League mathematically wrapped up by the time they are next in Champions League action in early April.

And on this evidence they will need the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva to be well-rested and in-form if they are to deliver the dream of their Abu Dhabi owners by winning the European Cup for a first time as a number of youngsters and fringe players failed to impress.

Leroy Sane was one of few regular starters retained in Guardiola’s starting XI and continued his supreme form by creating the opener.

Jesus hadn’t started since suffering knee ligament damage on New Years’ Eve, but had the simplest of tasks to get back among the goals when Bernardo Silva latched onto Sane’s pass to produce a inch-perfect low cross for the Brazilian.

City should have gone even further in front as Silva’s shot from a dangerous Sane cut-back was blocked before Basel goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik made a fine block to deny Ilkay Gundogan his third goal of the tie.

However, a minute later Basel were level as Blas Riveros burst down the left and his deflected cross was dispatched powerfully past Claudio Bravo by Elyounoussi.

The Norwegian then had a great chance to put Basel in front on the half hour mark when he miscued horribly wide with just Bravo to beat after outmuscling Danilo.

‘Really poor’

Guardiola labelled his team’s second-half performance against Basel as “really, really poor” and said their possession play had been largely pointless.

City completed 978 passes, the most recorded by a side in a Champions League match since such statistics began being recorded in 2003, but Guardiola was not impressed.

“The first half was quite good but in the second half we forgot to attack, we forgot to play. When we pass the ball we do it to move through the opponents to attack - just to pass the ball for itself is nothing and the second half was really really poor,” Guardiola told reporters.

“It is not easy to play with a 4-0 lead. We tried, we spoke about that and I think what we showed in the first half we showed we wanted to win the game. We created a lot of chances and we were good.

“But after 1-1 in the second half, it didn’t happen. We just passed for itself and when that happens, that is not football,” he added.

Juve stun Spurs

Mauricio Pochettino admitted Tottenham paid the price for “two big mistakes” as Juventus staged a stunning fightback to reach the Champions League quarter-finals 4-3 on aggregate on Wednesday.

Juventus were on the brink of elimination after Son Heung-Min’s first-half strike put Tottenham ahead in the last 16, second leg at Wembley.

But, despite being completely outplayed in the opening period, Juventus buckled down after the break and equalised through Gonzalo Higuain. That was the decisive moment as Tottenham suddenly went to pieces, allowing the Italian champions to score again two minutes and 49 seconds later as Paulo Dybala punished poor defending with a cool finish.

Crashing out after having the tie in their hands with a 2-1 loss on the night was a bitter pill for Tottenham to swallow and once again raised questions about their ability to win major trophies.

Great escape

Son was fuming after being stamped on by Andrea Barzagli and, determined to exact retribution, he embarked on a powerful run that ended with a shot that flashed narrowly wide.

He didn’t have to wait long for the ultimate revenge as Son put Tottenham ahead in the 39th minute.

The South Korea forward has a knack of scoring at Wembley, but few will have been more fortuitous than his 14th goal at Tottenham’s temporary home.

When Trippier whipped a low cross towards the far post, Son got his feet in a tangle and miscued his shot onto his standing left leg, with the deflection somehow lifting the ball over Buffon and into the net.

Agencies

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