Manchester City sauntered through to the Champions League quarter-finals as Wednesday’s second leg against Sporting CP proved entirely academic, a 0-0 draw sealing a 5-0 aggregate win.
Armed with their handsome lead from the first leg in Portugal, City barely got out of first gear and nor did they need to.
Gabriel Jesus had a goal disallowed for a tight offside, and Riyad Mahrez saw a shot blocked as City went close to a late winner.
Even Scott Carson, the rarely seen reserve goalkeeper, got a run-out for the last 17 minutes, pulling off a fine save to deny Paulinho and taking a whack for his efforts.
FULL TIME | Goalless on the night but our five goals in the first leg means we’re through to the quarter-finals
— Manchester City (@ManCity) March 9, 2022
Last season’s runners-up are favourites with many to carry off the trophy this year and this was as much of a formality as Champions League knockout games come.
Sensibly, Pep Guardiola gave a rest to derby-day destroyers Kevin De Bruyne, on a yellow card, and Mahrez, benching both. This was no night for risk-taking, but still it was unlike City for it to reach the 24th minute before they registered a first shot at goal, Phil Foden’s drive from 20 yards tipped behind by Antonio Adan.
Raheem Sterling was thwarted when he looked to dink over the goalkeeper after Foden’s sharp pass found his England colleague, as City, who led 4-0 at half-time in the first leg, drew a blank in this opening 45 minutes.
Teenager CJ Egan-Riley was tidy at right-back on his Champions League debut, while Oleksandr Zinchenko featured on the opposite flank and was given a huge pre-match roar, the crowd firmly behind the Ukrainian amid the unfolding dire events in his homeland.
Wizardry from substitute Mahrez created an opening from Jesus to strike from a tight angle to the left of goal in the 47th minute. Cue joyful celebrations, but a VAR check showed the Brazilian was a shade offside.
In 2008-09, the only previous season during the Champions League era when Sporting reached the knockout rounds, they lost 5-0 at home to Bayern before being suffering a 7-1 beating in Munich.
They were at least spared such humiliation this time, with City going through the motions rather than for the jugular. Sporting’s first shot came in the 57th minute, with Ederson gathering Bruno Tabata’s attempt with no trouble.
Chances came and went as Sporting bowed out, John Stones heading over perhaps the best in stoppage time, while Sterling lashed wide with the last kick.
What does it mean? Easy does it for City
The Etihad Stadium was packed out for this one, most hoping for another landslide. Sporting brought vibrant support, despite their desperate position, and the chirping of two noisy sets of fans was more entertaining than much of the early fare on the field.
Yet these are nights City should savour. Pressure is rarely off in the Champions League knockout rounds. Let others have the drama: Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain had plenty of it, while Guardiola’s blue machine kept quietly rolling. A calm night but a good night this, for City, however you look at it.
Academy graduate CJ passes test
Egan-Riley was thrown in at the deep end and proved a competent adversary to Sporting’s left-sided threat, winning four of five duels and completing 58 of 60 passes. His inclusion was an endorsement from Guardiola of his qualities, as the Spaniard could have used Fernandinho in central defence and shuffled Stones out to the right.
The homegrown youngster was only the seventh teenager to feature for City in the Champions League, with Guardiola having given each of them their chance. James McAtee then became the eighth, replacing Foden, and Luke Mbete was the ninth in the closing moments. At the other end of the scale, home skipper Fernandinho made his 100th Champions League appearance at the age of 36 years and 309 days.
Formality but City miss out on matching record
A five-goal first-leg deficit had never been overturned in the Champions League, with Barcelona holding the record for the biggest comeback when they came from 4-0 behind against Paris Saint-Germain on March 8, 2017.
Five years and one day on, there was nothing to suggest this would be the day for the ultimate fightback, with Sporting having failed to win any of their last seven away games against English opposition, since a 3-2 win at Middlesbrough in the last 16 of the 2004-05 UEFA Cup.
Key Opta Facts
– Manchester City have now reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in each of the last five seasons, the only English side to do so each time over this period.
– Sporting CP are winless in their last eight away games against English opposition in European competition (D3 L5), with their last such victory coming against Middlesbrough in the 2004-05 UEFA Cup (3-2).
– City goalkeeper Scott Carson came on to make his second appearance in the Champions League, 16 years and 338 days after his debut for Liverpool versus Juventus in April 2005 when he was 19 years old. This is the largest gap between appearances in the competition’s history.
– Aged 19 years and 66 days, CJ Egan-Riley became the second-youngest English player to start in the Champions League for Manchester City, after Phil Foden, who made his first start aged 17 years and 192 days back in December 2017 against Shakhtar Donetsk.
City are not back on duty until they face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday evening, in the Premier League. Sporting also must wait until Monday for their next game, a Primeria Liga battle with Moreirense.Follow us on Social Media