Manchester City played easily their most perfect match of the season against Schalke. They were strong in defence, stronger in midfield, and strongest in their attack. They put Schalke to the sword in perfect response to a recent run of games where they have struggled to score, and Pep Guardiola’s rode that perfect performance into the quarter-final.
Manchester City Play Perfect Match Against Schalke
It was the perfect first half from Manchester City. Defensively, with Danilo playing at centre-back, they held Schalke to next-to-nothing going forward. Danilo was outstanding, not a foot wrong going forward or in defence. The midfield was exquisite, Ilkay Gundogan continuing what has been his best run of form in a City shirt.
Gundogan’s first stellar ball of the night was intended for Bernardo Silva in the box, but he was brought down for a penalty. Sergio Aguero stepped up and hammered it home, and then the fun started. When those two parts of City’s game are clicking like they were, the attack always falls in line.
First, Raheem Sterling got in behind the Schalke defence on a lovely ball, again from Gundogan. Sterling executed a wonderful backheel that found Aguero, who nutmegged the keeper for the second goal. Four minutes later Oleksandr Zinchenko played Leroy Sane in behind and instead of cutting it back, he decided to score against his former team himself.
Three goals and rock solid at the back, there wasn’t much more to ask for from a City perspective. With a 6-2 aggregate lead, they just had to see out the second half and they were into the Champions League last eight.
When Manchester City came out for the second half they left nothing on the table. They kept on getting at Schalke the same way they did in the first. The supply line started with Gundogan and finished with Sane or Sterling in behind. Eventually Sane played a lovely cross to Sterling and he smashed it into the net for City’s fourth.
From there it seemed like job done. Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus were brought on for David Silva and Aguero. However, the changes didn’t change City one bit. Seven minutes after the change, Leroy Sane was in behind again, this time to cut it back for Bernardo Silva. So to keep the game interesting, Guardiola decided to bring Fabian Delph on for Aymeric Laporte, creating the Kyle Walker-Danilo centre-back partnership nobody knew they needed.
Once those two became the centre-backs it was easy to expect a chaotic finish, but it was a pleasant surprise when Sane played Phil Foden in behind and he rounded the keeper beautifully to find the back of the net. Jesus added a lovely finish to give City a 7-0 win at home in the Champions League.
Manchester City head into the quarter-finals playing their best football of the season. Since the Newcastle defeat City has been relentless, but lately the goals had not been coming. Three against Watford at the weekend seems with hindsight like it has opened the doors. Tonight’s seven goals were the reward for the strong play they’ve had over the last few weeks.
They blitzed Schalke from the start and got some of their key players going. They also got a clean sheet with only one true centre-back playing only 70 minutes. Walker and Danilo played their best 90 minutes of the season. Schalke couldn’t get anything from this Manchester City defence, a great sign going into the knockout stages.