MAN CITY 0, SPORTING LISBON 0
(City won 5-0 on aggregate)
Manchester City’s 100th Champions League game was an eminently forgettable affair, an uneventful goalless against Sporting Lisbon at the Etihad.
Five goals ahead from the first leg in the Portuguese capital, this was a dead rubber with City assured of a quarter-final spot.
And that is how it turned out as Sporting, with a defensive 5-4-1 line up, eager to avoid another humiliating loss, and City hardly needing to break sweat with the job already done.
But it gave City manager Pep Guardiola the chance to give a full game to 19-year-old rookie right back Conrad Egan-Riley, cameos to youngsters James McAtee and Luke Mbete and a rare appearance for veteran goalkeeper Scott Carson.
It was also a special night for Guardiola and Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti as they reached the quarter-final stage of the Champions League for a 12th time as managers to equal Sir Alex Ferguson’s record.Embed from Getty Images
Guardiola said: “I am very pleased because in both games we deserved to be in the Champions League quarter finals.
“CJ Egan-Riley played really good and didn’t miss one ball. He is a seven. He is nothing exceptional in anything but that is a good sign as a defender as he doesn’t make mistakes.
“Scott Carson deserves it. He is so important to us in the dressing room. It was good for him. And he made the biggest save, so we didn’t lose the game.”
On higher expectations for City in Europe, Guardiola added: “It’s a good sign. The people didn’t care what we were and now step-by-step the club grew and now for many years we are there in this competition.
“Now we are again in the quarter-finals as the best eight teams in Europe which is an honour. I learn to enjoy the moments. I celebrate it because I know how difficult it is. When you go through every opponent is difficult. Now it’s time to congratulate everyone, focus on the Premier League then next week we will see the draw.”
Fernandinho, named man of the match on his 100th Champions League appearance, said: “It’s important to keep playing good especially after we played against Manchester United. Everyone wants to keep going in that direction. We played the same way we always play.
“The second half we scored but it was offside, and they had more chances. But that’s football, sometimes you don’t get lucky.”
Fernandinho was also delighted to see the young players rewarded, explaining: “It just shows the great work Manchester City have been doing with the academy.
“They have been training with us and know the way to play. They felt really comfortable playing with us. I’m really happy for them tonight. I hope they can play more often for Manchester City.”
City made six changes from the side that thumped neighbours Manchester United on Sunday, but still fielded a far stronger side than had been anticipated as Guardiola had been expected to start several youngsters.
Only one was in from the start, Egan-Riley for only his second senior start – his first was against Wycombe in the Carabao Cup in September – as he replaced the suspended Kyle Walker.
Ukraine international Oleksandr Zinchenko came in at left-back to replace Joao Cancelo, who was ill, while Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan were back in midfield and Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus returned up front.
Kevin De Bruyne, who is one booking away from a suspension in the Champions League, dropped to the bench, as did Rodri, Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish. There were six more City academy products among the substitutes.: BBC Sport
Former Leicester forward Islam Slimani scored twice for Sporting on Saturday as they beat Arouca in the Primeira Liga and he joined ex-Tottenham player Paulinho and Pablo Sarabia in their attack as they attempted the most unlikely of comebacks.
The Sporting side also included former Liverpool centre back Sebastian Coates while ex-Wolves player Ruben Vinagre was on the bench.
There was a spectacular light, laser, pyrotechnics and sound show pre-match, the highlight of the night as the match was a non-event.
City had an early penalty appeal rejected as Manuel Ugarte clearly looked to shove Gabriel Jesus in the back.
More than one quarter of the game had been completed before either side created a goal attempt as Phil Foden’s drive was beaten away by goalkeeper Antonio Adan.
Seven minutes before the break, Sterling had a great chance to break the deadlock when he raced through on goal and tried to lob Adan only for the keeper to make an easy catch.
After a lacklustre opening period, in which City had only four goal attempts and Sporting none, Guardiola made two changes at the break.
Foden and Bernardo Silva made way for Riyad Mahrez and McAtee who was making his Champions League debut.
City thought they had broken the stalemate within two minutes of the restart, but Jesus’ effort was ruled out by VAR for offside.
Mahrez weaved his way in from the right and, after a couple of ricochets, found Jesus who squeezed an angled shot between Adan and the near post.
Sporting started to create chances as right wing back Matheus Reis blazed over and Pedro Porro bent an effort past the upright.
There were huge cheers when Guardiola brought on 36-year-old Carson, the former England number one, for only his second appearance for the club he initially joined on loan from Derby in August 2019.
And Carson was quickly in the action making a superb block to deny Paulinho who was clean through on goal.
Six minutes from time, Guardiola handed young centre back Mbete his Champions League debut when he replaced Aymeric Laporte.
City created two of their best chances of the night in the three minutes of added time.
John Stones header from six yards, following Gundogan’s corner, looped on to the roof of the net and Sterling cut in from the left and dragged his shot wide as the game ended goalless.