Manchester City thrashed RB Leipzig 7-0 at the Etihad to give the defending Premier League champions an 8-1 win on aggregate and a spot in the Champions League quarter-finals for the sixth consecutive season.
Erling Haaland became just the third-ever player to score five goals in a Champions League match and joined Lionel Messi as the only other person to do it in the knockout stages.
As is tradition in key Champions League ties, Pep Guardiola selected an XI with an emphasis on control.
It was an unchanged backline, with Ederson in goal, protected by John Stones, Manuel Akanji, Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake. A midfield trio of Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan supported the attacking front of Bernardo Silva, Erling Haaland and Jack Grealish.
From the opening kick, it was apparent that City were prepared to play. Less than three minutes into the match, Gundogan had a perfect chance to take the lead. De Bruyne found a few yards of space on the right wing and lofted a cross into the six-yard area, but the ball bounced just before reaching the German midfielder and caused the shot to sky over the bar.
Haaland’s first real opportunity to get on the scoresheet came in the 11th minute. Ake lobbed a ball over the RB Leipzig defence, which perfectly hit Haaland in stride, but Leipzig keeper Janis Blaswich came off his line and made a kick save to keep the game scoreless.
But not long after, City were awarded a penalty due to an apparent handball in the 19th minute. In real-time, it wasn’t clear why a VAR check was being conducted. However, replays showed the ball grazing against the outstretched arm of a Leipzig defender.
After the penalty was awarded, Haaland was the clear choice to take the shot. The Norwegian placed the ball down and beat Blaswich, who correctly guessed where the ball was going, with a powerful effort into the side-netting.
It was the sixth penalty Haaland has scored this season and just the second time he had sent a penalty to his right.
Just over a minute after Haaland’s penalty, City were back on the scoresheet. Another Leipzig turnover gave De Bruyne space to take a venomous shot from distance. His effort beat the keeper but was denied by the bar and bounced back Haaland, who was running in for an easy header to double the lead.
City capped off their dominant first-half display with a third goal. City were awarded a corner after a Leipzig clearance; Dias’ header hit off the inside of the post and somehow followed along the goal line until it nearly hit the opposite post before being tapped in by Haaland for his hat trick.
Despite securing a manageable lead in the first half, City picked up right from where they left off.
In the 49th minute, City worked the ball around, and Grealish found Gundogan at the edge of the box. The German faked a shot and dribbled past a Leipzig defender to give him enough space to fire in a low-driven shot far post past a diving Blaswich to make it 4-0.
It was Gundogan’s first Champions League goal in two years. The 32-year-old last scored against Borussia Monchengladbach, who Marco Rose also managed.
However, a 4-0 lead and a hat trick weren’t enough for Haaland and City. Four minutes after Gundogan’s goal, another Leipzig clearance gave City a corner. Haaland’s first attempt on goal was saved, and after a flurry in front of the goal, the ball made its way to Haaland again, who was able to convert the chance to make it 5-0.
Following the fifth goal, Bernardo and Grealish were substituted off for Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden.
With two pairs of fresh legs on the wings, City were still pushing, and in the 57th minute, they were able to get their sixth goal. Mahrez’s cross from the right wing found its way into the box, and after a goalkeeper parry, Haaland rifled it home to make it 6-0. The goal tied Messi and Luiz Adriano’s record for most goals in a Champions League match.
After the sixth goal, Guardiola used his three remaining substitutions to bring on Julian Alvarez, Sergio Gomez and Kalvin Phillips for Haaland, John Stones and Rodri.
With 30 minutes left in the game, it was a perfect opportunity to give minutes for squad players who have rarely seen game time as of late.
While City did have a few opportunities to extend their lead further, the final third of the game was a traditional “game killing” by City, with constant possession recycling and any potential counterattack being thwarted by a successful counter-press.
However, in the 92nd minute, De Bruyne was able to extend the lead to seven and score a much-deserved goal. Mahrez found the Belgian on the outside of the box, and this time the 31-year-old was able to curl the ball beautifully around a diving Blaswich to make it 7-0.
It capped off one of City’s most dominant displays of the season and was a fitting way to finish the best De Bruyne outing since the World Cup break.
City will learn their Champions League quarter-final opponents, potential semi-final opponents, and their potential route to the competition’s final on Friday, with the draw scheduled to take place at 11 am (GMT) at UEFA’s headquarters in Switzerland. The Blues could draw AC Milan, Benfica, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid or Liverpool, or Napoli or Frankfurt, with home and away games decided by the order the respective teams are drawn.
Man of the Match
Erling Haaland. It’s hard to imagine anyone else being more deserving than the man who scored five goals tonight. There isn’t much else to say; it was easily the most involved he’s been in the buildup of a game this season, and hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come for the remainder of the season.
Ederson - 6
John Stones - 8
Akanji - 8
Dias - 7
Ake - 8
Rodri - 8
Gundogan - 7
De Bruyne - 9
Grealish - 8
Bernardo - 8
Haaland - 10
Subs: Foden - 6, Mahrez - 7, Gomez - 6, Phillips - 6, Alvarez - 6
Written by: @IVIeehan
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