Coming off the back of a 5-1 victory against Leicester City, Manchester City had all the confidence they needed heading into Europe’s most competitive club competition. In last Saturday’s matchup with the Foxes, striker Sergio Agüero bagged himself four goals, two of which were assisted by the midfield maestro Kevin de Bruyne who recorded three assists in all, making it 18 for the season.
The tie was essentially wrapped up in the first 23 minutes of the game as the Citizens went three goals ahead, canceling any ideas of Basel preserving a clean sheet. And with Germany head coach Joachim Löw in the stands, German midfielder İlkay Gündoğan made sure to leave his mark on the game with a Man of the Match performance to hopefully earn himself a starting spot in this summer’s 2018 World Cup.
It took a mere three minutes for City to test Basel’s defense, as Gundogan forced a strong save out of Basel goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík following a well-delivered cross from Bernardo Silva’s right foot. While the statistics suggest it was men against boys, Basel came close to having a foot in the game after a series of defensive errors coming from miscommunication among City’s back five.
Regardless, Man City proved they deserved to be on top and they were rewarded for their attacking prowess when de Bruyne whipped in a corner to the front post to be met by the head of Gundogan who managed to get in front of his defender. After Basel conceded the first away goal, the boys in sky blue saw the opportunity to stretch the lead to an unreachable point.
Two minutes later, Raheem Sterling found himself on the end of another de Bruyne pass and sent a ball into the box, on which Bernardo Silva capitalized. The winger chested the ball under his control and looped a volley over Vaclík who was, regrettably, a few yards too many off his line.
With the game in their hands, City played almost exactly how their coach Pep Guardiola would have liked with a staggering 80% in possession throughout most of the first half and a mammoth 868 passes in total. Just five minutes after Silva’s strike, Man City threatened again as defensive midfielder, Fernandinho broke through the Basel defense and deflected the ball into Agüero’s path who took a touch, fired a shot, and left the keeper rooted to the spot.
After going up 3-0 in 23 minutes, City slowed into second gear and continued to move the ball from left to right despite the ear-piercing whistles from the near 50,000 Basel fans. Following the break, Basel sought to reduce the Citizens massive deficit and prevent any more shots from hitting the back of the net. However, the Swiss giants could do nothing to stop Ilkay Gundogan’s peach of a strike in the fifty-second minute as the German cut the ball onto his right foot and curled the ball beautifully into the right corner of the net.
In what ESPN analyst Craig Burley called a “training ground match,” Manchester City were always heavy favorites to defeat the Swiss champions. In other news, Tottenham Hotspur came back from two goals down against Juventus to draw 2-2, while Liverpool also blew out their Champions League opponent by obliterating Porto 5-0 away.
Real Madrid also saw victory during the first-leg of the Champions League Round of 16 by narrowly beating Paris Saint-Germain 3-1, with two goals coming after the eighty-second minute. While eight more first-leg matches still remain, teams like Manchester City and Liverpool have made massive strides towards booking their spot in the final eight and proving their quality as soccer teams to the rest of the competitors.