EletiofeDembélé at the double as Lyon crush Man City's...

Dembélé at the double as Lyon crush Man City’s Champions League dream


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It was a moment that will haunt Raheem Sterling, one in which he had the opportunity to save Manchester City’s Champions League skin only to conjure up a miss that beggared belief and had Pep Guardiola slumping to his knees on the sideline.

Perhaps it was too easy to score and Sterling, who had got into dangerous areas for a City team that only came to the boil after Guardiola changed his tactics on 55 minutes, made the mistake of presuming that being on the spot from point-blank range, the open goal yawning following Gabriel Jesus’s low cross, was enough.

City trailed 2-1 but here, plainly, was an 86th-minute equaliser. And then Sterling lifted high, the ball disappearing into what felt like an abyss and his team’s hopes following into it when Lyon went straight up to the other end to seal their first semi-final appearance in 10 years.

Houssem Aouar’s shot was tame but Ederson was about to show that City’s inability to focus at the crucial points was not restricted to Sterling. The goalkeeper merely patted the ball back and Moussa Dembélé, the Lyon substitute, gobbled up the rebound.

It was the final act of a helter-skelter finale, which Dembélé had sparked by putting Lyon 2-1 up. Just before that point, with Kevin De Bruyne having cancelled out Maxwel Cornet’s first-half opener, City had looked set fair to progress. Belatedly, they had found momentum.

Yet the tie turned sharply on Dembélé’s first goal, which appeared to unfold in slow motion. Aouar played a pass through for Karl Toko Ekambi, who was clearly offside, and everyone seemed to hesitate. Everyone apart from Dembélé, who charged on to the ball from deep to shoot underneath Ederson. There would be a VAR check for a possible foul by Dembélé on Aymeric Laporte in the buildup but he was given the benefit of the doubt.

For City, this was a fresh take on a plot-line that is as frustrating as it is established. There was looseness at the back and profligacy up front but the overall feeling that they did not click for enough of a top-level Champions League tie.

Guardiola has to take some of the responsibility. He sprang a surprise with his starting 3-4-2-1 formation, which featured Eric García in the centre of the backline and Ilkay Gündogan roaming from a position alongside Rodri in central midfield. It did not work, despite Sterling threatening with his movement, and the service to Jesus was poor. City only looked like rescuing the game when Guardiola introduced Riyad Mahrez for Fernandinho and switched to 4‑2‑3-1, with De Bruyne in the No 10 role.

City were hoping to reach only a second Champions League semi-final and, for Guardiola, it was an opportunity to improve on a series of misses with the club, namely one last 16 exit and two in the quarter-finals. The wider narrative took in his quest to lift the trophy for the first time since 2011 with Barcelona.

City were red-hot favourites against a Lyon team that finished seventh in Ligue 1 and have endured a season scarred by supporter anger. When they sacked Sylvinho as the manager in October, it is fair to say that Rudi Garcia was an unpopular replacement. His ex-Marseille status saw to that. In February, with some fans depicting him as a clown on social media, the club made headlines by calling them out over it. What a strange episode that was but how Garcia has used the Champions League for succour.

The away-goals victory against Juventus in the last 16 was a stunning result and this was from the next level. Lyon can now look forward to a last-four meeting with Bayern Munich and, if they will again start as the underdogs, they will not care.

Garcia’s 3-5-2 system is designed to be compact but Lyon showed themselves to be more than capable of intricate movement, of fizzing the ball about with no little slickness. They craved a break, something to hold onto and, when they got it midway through the first half, nobody could say that it had not been advertised.

Fernando Marçal had blasted at Ederson from outside the area after a half-cleared corner and Léo Dubois missed a cut-back when well-placed before Marçal played a ball over the top for Ekambi.

Ederson raced off his line to address the danger and it was a decision he would regret. García stretched into a tackle on Ekambi but, when the ball broke for Cornet, Ederson was exposed. Cornet knew what he had to do – bend a shot for the near corner from distance, starting it outside the post to take out the back-pedalling Ederson. He executed the skill perfectly and Lyon’s hopes surged.

Since first qualifying for the 2011-12 Champions League, Manchester City have played in nine straight editions – reaching just one semi-final and racking up plenty of painful defeats along the way

Group stage exits

In their first two campaigns under Roberto Mancini, City fail to get out of the groups. In 2010-11 they claim 10 points but are pipped by Napoli; the following season they fail to win a game against Real Madrid, Dortmund or Ajax

Double defeat to Barcelona

City’s first knockout tie comes against Barcelona, who beat Manuel Pellegrini’s side in both last-16 legs. Barça repeat the trick in the following season, Luis Suárez scoring twice at the Etihad Stadium.

Falling at the final four

Pellegrini leads City past Dynamo Kyiv and PSG and into the semi-finals in his final season in charge – but they cannot find a way past Real Madrid, who win 1-0 on aggregate en route to the title

Guardiola outmanoeuvred in Monaco

Pep Guardiola’s first Champions League campaign with City sees them beat Barcelona at home in the groups, but lose 4-0 at Camp Nou. Going through as runner-up, they face surprise package Monaco. After winning a thrilling first leg 5-3, they lose 3-1 in the Principality to crash out on away goals

Quarter-finals and domestic defeats

City are among the favourites in 2017-18 but are blitzed by Liverpool at Anfield, going on to lose the tie 5-1 on aggregate. The following year, Spurs stand in their way. After losing the first leg, they go out on away goals after Raheem Sterling’s last-gasp winner is ruled out by VAR. It is City’s most painful Champions League exit … for a year, anyway.

Niall McVeigh

City made inroads up the inside left channel in the first half, with João Cancelo and Sterling prominent, and they worked up something of a head of steam before the break. Sterling cut back for Rodri who worked Anthony Lopes and Sterling himself was denied by a saving Cornet challenge after a lovely De Bruyne pass. City could also point to the moment when Lopes flapped at a Cancelo cross before redeeming himself but they knew they had to do more.

City looked more threatening after Guardiola’s change of system, with De Bruyne growing in influence. He made his side-foot finish look easy after Sterling had beaten Jason Denayer to cut back and City were primed for the kill. Jesus cut inside to work Lopes before he fluffed a volley from Sterling’s cross. Then came the unravelling.

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