They were made to work for it, but Manchester City moved a step closer to ending their Champions League hoodoo in Dortmund.
Pep Guardiola’s side rode out a Jude Bellingham-inspired storm from the hosts to win the tie 4-2 – an aggregate scoreline that looks far more comfortable on paper than it felt during a tense second leg in the Ruhr valley.
Bellingham’s brilliantly taken first-half goal had Dortmund temporarily going through on away goals, but, after Riyad Mahrez had equalised from the spot, it was another young English talent who produced the game’s defining moment after the break, Phil Foden slamming home a piledriver of a shot to make it 2-1 on the night and give City a virtually unassailable lead in the tie.
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The win sends City into the last four of the Champions League for only the second time in the club’s history, and the first since the arrival of Guardiola as manager. And it really feels like this could be the year that Pep comes out on top in his fractious battle with Europe’s elite club competition. This year’s final will be a decade since the Spanish coach last won the competition with Barcelona, and he has famously failed to get over the line with either his excellent Bayern Munich side or his record-breaking City squad.
But City will go into this year’s semi-finals as the favourites to win the tournament, and rightly so after a controlled and professional display against Dortmund side.
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Kevin De Bruyne was the standout performer on the night for City, constantly moving from his false-nine position to try and find holes in an organised but vulnerable Dortmund defence. And the Belgian almost scored one of the great Champions League goals in the second half, dancing through the home side only to be denied by a great save from Marwan Hitz.
But with City it is very much a case of the collective rather than the individuals, and the constant movement from Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Mahrez, Foden and De Bruyne eventually proved too much for their hosts. At times City games at this level feels like you’re watching a surgical procedure, such is the intricacy of the movement, the frequency of the prods and probes as Guardiola’s team look for weaknesses in their opponents.
Manchester City celebrate
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When it comes off it seems like the win was inevitable, but every now and again the approach can feel vulnerable, and for a while it looked like being that sort of night for City, the sort of all fluffing and no finish display that has come to characterise the club’s latter-stage displays under Guardiola in this competition.
But this year is different. This year City have Foden, a player who stands up when it counts. He delivered late on in the first leg to give his side an advantage in the tie. And he delivered again at the Westfalenstadion, striking just when City it, to add a second away goal that extinguished any remaining hopes Dortmund had of pulling off an upset.
Next up for Foden and his City team-mates it is Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-finals, and PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino would surely have been watching proceedings in Germany very closely. What the Argentine would have seen from Dortmund is the template for how to trouble City.
Edin Terzic’s side did almost everything right across the two legs, coping well with City’s movement in attack, dropping into a solid five across the midfield when required, and pressing high off the ball when the opportunity to put City under pressure arose. In Bellingham they had a midfielder who perfectly suited that style, not afraid to get stuck in when called upon, but possession enough quality to turn half-chances into golden ones.
Bellingham’s goal was dispatched with a level of composure you wouldn’t expect of a 17-year-old, but ultimately Dortmund lacked the range of attacking weapons to hurt City enough. Erling Haaland lurked menacingly but received very little service, and young Ansgar Knauff looked very inch a player who has barely played at the top level before.
But the blueprint for how to beat City was clear, and PSG certainly have the attacking weapons to cause more damage than Dortmund did, as they showed repeatedly across their two quarter-final games against Bayern Munich.
Tonight though, City should bask in the glow of a Champions League quarter-final win that they fully deserved. Thoughts of how to deal with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe can wait for another day.
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