Manchester City picked up a 5-3 win against Monaco at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 matchup. The game was a real goal-fest, being the highest-scoring first leg ever in a Champions League knockout tie, where neither team seemed to remember how to defend properly.
The lack of solid defending made for an interesting and compelling game of soccer, as both sides went all out in their attacks. City took the lead in the 26th minute after a goal by Raheem Sterling. Leroy Sane did a great job leading up to the goal as he dribbled past several Monaco players before squaring it to Sterling who put the ball into the back of the net from close range.
Monaco have been averaging close to three goals per game in Ligue 1, and they showed why as they flipped the game on its head before the end of the first half. Goals by Falcao and Kylian Mbappe saw the French league leaders head into the locker room with a 2-1 lead after the opening 45 minutes. Both goals came after highly questionable defending on City’s part, and the center back pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones had a very poor outing.
But City came roaring back in the second half. Goalkeeper Willy Caballero came up huge for City as he saved a penalty in the early stages of the second half when he went the right way on Falcao’s attempt from the spot. Sergio Aguero tied things up in the 58th minute, only to see Falcao score his second of the night to retake the lead for Monaco. Aguero also ended up with two goals on the night as he tied it once more to make it 3-3 in the 71st minute.
John Stones then got some form of redemption as he put City ahead in the 77th minute when he was left unmarked by the far post on a set piece. Sane then made it 5-3 to give City a bigger edge going into the return leg at Stade Louis II in three weeks. With an impressive three away goals, Monaco would need a 2-0 win at home to go through on the away-goal rule. Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim believes the fixture is far from over.
“The first thing I’ll say is that maybe this was one of the most incredible matches in the Champions League this season,” Jardim said. “It’s great for the fans as I’m sure they were happy to watch such quality attacks and eight goals. I think Monaco played really well and I’ve congratulated the players. We made small defensive mistakes and I think the turning point was missing the penalty to go 3-1 up.
“I used Kylian [Mbappe] up front today because we know that City leave space in behind and he’s quick and has fluid movement. I think he played a great game. He’s only 18 and this was his first Champions League start. That’s part of our project too. The difference in the number of mistakes between the two teams is perhaps also linked to the age difference between the two teams.
“Falcao is a great striker and he proved that today, even if things didn’t go well for him in England. Aguero is also a world-class forward.
“We’ve still got 90 minutes to play and it’s far from over.”
The game was a thrill to behold, despite referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz having a real shocker of a game. He missed a penalty for City in the first half and showed a yellow card to Aguero for diving when there was clear contact with Monaco’s goalkeeper Danijel Subasic. A total of 11 yellow cards were handed out by the Spanish ref, and for City, it means that Sterling will miss the second leg in Monaco.
City manager Pep Guardiola was pleased to have gotten the win, but acknowledged that his team will have to play better in its own end in the next leg.
“It was a special game, I cannot deny that,” Guardiola told mancity.com. “Up and downs. We attacked quite good, our build up was quite slow but it was not easy because Monaco are so organized. Of course we have to improve.”