Man City exploit UEFA’s rule change to show they can be gun-slingers as well as control freaks – Alex Brotherton

Manchester City moved into a commanding position in their Champions League round of 16 tie with a 5-0 first leg win against Sporting CP on Tuesday.

Pep Guardiola’s side obliterated the Portuguese champions in a pulsating first half as goals from Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden, along with a Bernardo Silva brace, put City 4-0 up by half-time.

After the interval, Raheem Sterling’s stunning long-range strike put the result beyond any slight doubt that remained.

Sporting’s raucous fans will travel to Manchester for the second leg on March 9 hoping for nothing more than a cracking night out.

However, despite City’s ruthlessness in front of goal, something was clearly irritating Guardiola when the score stood at 2-0.

Bernardo’s stunning half-volley – his first goal of the night – might ordinarily have caused Sporting to throw in the towel, but they did the exact opposite.

Ahead of this season’s Champions League, UEFA abolished the away goals rule – a rule that has caught City out in Europe on more than one occasion.

Because of this, Sporting knew that the tie was far from over. Nowadays all goals are worth the same, so they had every chance of getting back in the tie.

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However, that meant that while Sporting threatened every time they advanced, they also left oceans of space for City to exploit at the other end. Time and time again Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne in particular found gaps to run into. As did Mahrez when he set up Foden to dish out further punishment.

Scoring four away goals in the first game they don’t count for anything extra feels amusingly ‘Typical City’, but it was probably because of the rule change that Sporting threw caution to the wind played into Guardiola’s hands.

Last season, City did not score more than two goals in any of their away knockout ties. If this game had happened last season, Guardiola would maybe have been content to shut up shop and maintain their advantage, happy to take two away goals back to Manchester.

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This season though a 2-0 win away from home carries less weight, so City decided to go for Sporting’s throat and rack up the goals.

City may have failed to control their opponents in the first half through possession and space in the way that Guardiola would have liked, but in creating so many clear chances and making the most of the toughest of half-chances, they didn’t need to .

City showed they can be gun-slingers as well as control freaks. Against better opponents than Sporting, Guardiola will likely revert to his more controlled approach from him, but in the meantime, let’s sit back and watch the goals fly in.

What did you make of City’s performance against Sporting? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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