Phil Foden’s last-minute winner against Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night gave Manchester City a slender lead to take into next week’s Champions League second leg quarter-final showdown in Germany.
It looked to be another frustrating last-eight tie in the Champions League for Pep Guardiola and his men after Marco Reus had cancelled out Kevin De Bruyne’s first-half opener, only for the brilliant Phil Foden to strike at the death.
City made five changes to the side who beat Leicester City 2-0 at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, with John Stones, Joao Cancelo, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva all returning.
Raheem Sterling was a surprise omission from the Citizens starting XI, with Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero also dropping to the bench, as Guardiola opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Silva preferred up top in a false nine role.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Ruben Dias, Cancelo, Rodri, Gundogan, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden, Bernardo Silva.
Interim Dortmund manager Edin Terzic made three changes to his side who lost 2-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt on the weekend, with Mateu Morey, Ansgar Knauff and Mahmoud Dahoud replacing Nico Schulz, Thomas Delaney and Thorgan Hazard.
Knauff’s bold inclusion saw the 19-year-old making his full debut for Dortmund, with the German previously featuring only three times from the bench, as Terzic opted for a 4-3-3 setup.
Borussia Dortmund: Hitz, Morey, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro, Bellingham, Can, Dahoud, Knauff, Haaland, Reus.
In a highly contentious first half, where Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan controversially chalked off a Jude Bellingham leveller, Dortmund had the first real chance of the game.
The lively Bellingham tested Ederson early on, finding space on the outside of Kyle Walker in the box, and firing an angled left-footed shot towards goal that was pushed away by the Brazilian stopper.
With 19 minutes on the clock, Dortmund found themselves 1-0 down after City swiftly capitalised on a defensive error from the German side.
Emre Can’s tame pass in midfield was dispossessed by De Bruyne, who charged through Dortmund’s defence before whipping the ball out to Foden, who sent a low cross in from the left, which was smartly cut back by Riyad Mahrez for the onrushing City captain to sweep home.
City were then given a penalty ten minutes later in bizarre circumstances after Can was adjudged to have caught Rodri with a high foot in the box. The decision was eventually overturned after the referee was advised by VAR to check the pitchside monitor.
Controversy struck again before half time after Bellingham’s leveller was ruled out by Hategan, with the 17-year-old found guilty of fouling Ederson.
Replays clearly showed that the onrushing teenager cleanly beat Ederson to the loose ball, and VAR would have surely overturned the referee’s decision if the Romanian had not instantly blown for a foul on the City stopper.
Erling Braut Haaland’s first chance of the game came just after the break with the in-demand forward bursting through on goal, effortlessly brushing off Ruben Dias, only for his shot to be smartly saved by Ederson, who was typically alert to the danger.
City were beginning to control the game and should have been 2-0 up on the hour mark after De Bruyne broke in behind Mats Hummels and found Foden in the box seven yards out, only for the Englishman to fire straight at goalkeeper Hitz.
Dortmund survived City’s press and clinically levelled six minutes from time.
Marco Reus is the first player to score against Man City in the Champions League since October. 😱 pic.twitter.com/zXPdmirVA4
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 6, 2021
Bellingham showed superb strength to play the ball into Haaland, whose first time pass on the turn set Marco Reus through on goal for the captain to calmly slot home.
Dortmund looked to have secured a well-deserved draw to take back to the Westfalenstadion for next Wednesday’s second leg. However, there was to be one more twist in the tale.
As the clock hit the 90th minute, De Bruyne superbly picked out Gundogan at the far-post whose deft touch set up Foden, who deservedly got his goal as he swept home from close range.
City held on during the four minutes of injury time to claim their first-ever Champions League quarter-final first-leg win.
Man of the match: Kevin De Bruyne
Foden terrorised Dortmund’s defence all night long with his dynamic runs and silky ability on the ball, and on another night the 20-year-old could have easily taken home the match ball.
The former Birmingham City playmaker will be pushing for a spot on the plane for the Euro’s this summer, and last night’s performance justified why he should be in contention.
Mature beyond his years, Bellingham played with assured confidence throughout and was desperately unlucky not to register a goal on his return to England.
However, it was another imperious display from City’s main man De Bruyne. The Belgian has now been involved in 13 goals in his last 12 Champions League appearances, scoring four and registering nine assists.
His ability to run into goal-threatening positions was evident as he scored the game’s opener, and his incredible vision was clear for all to see as his pass to find Gundogan was crucial for City’s winner.
If the blue side of Manchester are to secure an unprecedented quadruple, there is no doubt that De Bruyne will be at the heart of City’s ambitions.
Guardiola’s side are back in action on Saturday, as they host Leeds in the Premier League’s early kick-off (12.30 pm) before next week’s second leg in Dortmund on Wednesday.
The Germans face Stuttgart on Saturday (5.30 pm), where they will be hoping to improve on their standings in the Bundesliga as they push for a Champions League qualifying position for next year’s campaign.
"We are going there to win the game."
Pep Guardiola had his eyes on the second leg and some praise for Phil Foden after Man City left it late to grab a first-leg lead vs. Dortmund 🗣️
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 6, 2021