Another season with dreams of a European Cup fell by the wayside for the most expensively assembled squad in footballing history.
A pair of goals by substitute Moussa Dembele helped propel Lyon to a 3-1 win over Manchester City in the quarterfinals.
Who’s to blame?
A lot of the blame for this latest disappointment will fall on the shoulders of manager Pep Guardiola. For the first time this season the team lined up in an unfamiliar 3-5-2 in an effort to counteract what was expected to be a defensive strategy on the part of Lyon.
Breaking it down
The new strategy failed and Lyon got off to the start they wanted when Maxwell Cornet fired home the opening goal in the 24th minute.
It was only when City changed back to a familiar back four where we seemed to see the real City showed up. The Citizens looked a lot more comfortable in this setup and largely dominated the second half. Their pressure paid off in the 69th minute when Kevin De Bruyne scored a brilliant equalizer.
However, despite carrying a good amount of the play Man City looked incredibly vulnerable defensively all game. In the 79th minute a fresh Moussa Dembele took advantage firing home the game winner before adding a little insurance in the 87th minute.
Seizing the moment
Despite only possessing 28% possession in the game Lyon looked more relaxed and in their element. City created most of the quality chances but the French side made theirs count scoring on 50% of their 6 shots on target.
Raheem Sterling will have nightmares for some time after missing a glorious opportunity late in this one. With a wide-open net in the 86th minute the Englishmen sailed his shot over the bar to the dismay of his manager. They would not get another great opportunity as Lyon iced the game with a third just a minute later.
This is the third consecutive year that Manchester City have been knocked out of the Champions League quarterfinals. Despite coming off a huge high knocking out Real Madrid they could not keep the momentum going for long enough.
What it means moving forward
Perhaps if there’s a silver lining it’s that Manchester City’s two-year ban from European competition has been overturned so they won’t have to wait long to compete again.
This will be the first time since 1996 that there are no clubs from Spain or England in the Champions League semi-finals.
It would seem at this stage City should have learned their past lessons. After the match though, midfielder Kevin De Bruyne emphasized that’s exactly what they need to be doing “we need to learn, it’s not good enough and that’s it” says De Bruyne. He added “the team is great but we make too many mistakes.”
On the other side Lyon Manager Rui Garcia said “we won the tactical battle as we master our system of play.”
For Lyon they will play in only their second even Champions League semi-final next Wednesday in Lisbon. The last time they made it this far was in the 2009-10 when they were ousted by Bayern Munich, the team they’ll face once again this season. The winner of that semi faces the winner of PSG-Leipzig for the Champions League crown.
Manchester City meanwhile won’t have to wait too long to get back into action with the EPL season set to resume next month. They will also be taking part in the Champions League next season where they’ll look to exercise the demons of the past few years. (JSL)