A much-changed Manchester City side barely broke a sweat in a rather anticlimactic 0-0 draw against Sporting CP at the Etihad.
Manchester City breezed through to the last eight of the UEFA Champions League following a 5-0 aggregate win over Portuguese champions Sporting CP. The tie was essentially decided after the first leg in Lisbon that Manchester City won 5-0. The emphatic scoreline dampened the proceedings for the return leg as both sides played out a forgettable 90 minutes.
With the tie all but decided, Pep Guardiola rang in the changes, giving his fringe players a chance to garner playtime. The Citizens did not have to get out of first gear and coasted through the night in a scoreless draw.
The first half had little moments of magic as Manchester City passed around the ball, probing patiently for an opening. Sporting CP, for their part, were content to sit deep, seeking not to risk another humiliation. Both sides appeared satisfied with each other’s approach, and the result looked to be a rather foregone conclusion.
Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus all had opportunities but failed to find the back of the net. Jesus, in particular, was lively and can consider himself unlucky not to have won a penalty early on. The Brazilian also scored in the first half, only for the strike to be chalked off for offside.
John Stones went close in stoppage time before Sterling found the side netting with the last kick of the match. But in the end, both sides had to settle for a draw. Given how little was at stake, neither team can complain about the outcome. The Hard Tackle looks at how the Manchester City players fared on the night.
Ederson Moraes: 5/10
The Brazilian goalkeeper had little to do all game as Manchester City enjoyed the Lion’s share of possession. Sporting CP barely threatened, effectively handing Ederson a night off. Guardiola appeared so comfortable with his team’s dominance that he took off Ederson for Scott Carson in the second half.
CJ Egan-Riley: 7/10
The youngster made his UEFA Champions League debut and looked at home on the field. Just 19, he looked confident, assured and even found time to show off his technical prowess on the ball. Overall, a solid debut.
John Stones: 7/10
The English international saw a lot of the ball as Manchester City appeared to pass Sporting CP into oblivion. He was hardly troubled on the night and almost grabbed a stoppage-time winner in the second half.
Aymeric Laporte: 6/10
Job done tonight and we're through 🔥 congratulations to Luke for this first one. More to come 💪🏻💙 pic.twitter.com/xKZk4wsJ52
— Aymeric Laporte (@Laporte) March 9, 2022
Laporte was coolness personified and proved to be the perfect foil to Stones at the heart of the Manchester City defence. He held his own all night and was at hand to snuff out a rare Sporting attack led by Islam Slimani.
Oleksandr Zinchenko: 6/10
The Ukrainian international did a good job, given all the distractions he must be experiencing. He held his own on the flank but found himself troubled following Marcus Edwards’s introduction off the Sporting CP bench.
The 36-year-old celebrated his 100th UEFA Champions League outing with a dominant performance that helped Manchester City win the midfield battle. At times, the Brazilian midfield enforcer was untouchable and put his vast experience to good use.
100 – @Fernandinho is set to make his 100th Champions League appearance, the 44th player overall to reach this milestone and the fourth Brazilian, after Roberto Carlos, Dani Alves and Marcelo. His debut came back in September 2006 with Shakhtar Donetsk, over 15 years ago. Legacy. pic.twitter.com/VC4e5iz2Yi
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 9, 2022
Ilkay Gundogan: 5/10
The German international was handed the freedom of space in the midfield but failed to take advantage of it. It was far from a vintage performance by the 31-year-old who could not influence the proceedings much.
Bernardo Silva: 4/10
Silva was a pale shadow of the player who ran the roost in the first leg. Silva did not need to be at his best and was not either. The game largely passed him by, and he was taken off at half-time for Riyad Mahrez.
Gabriel Jesus: 6/10
The Brazilian was privy to a few contentious challenges that went unpunished. He can consider himself unlucky not to have won a penalty and saw his strike get chalked off for offside. He huffed and puffed on the night but got only a yellow card to show for his efforts.
— Gabriel Jesus (@gabrieljesus9) March 9, 2022
Phil Foden: 6/10
The youngster led the line on the night and did his best to link up with his teammates. Foden often dropped deep to act as a playmaker and even went close to breaking the deadlock in the first half. He was taken off at half-time for James McAtee, who made his UEFA Champions League debut.
Raheem Sterling: 4/10
The English international continued to frustrate, and it was clear why he has had to settle for a role off the bench in recent games. He failed to connect with the opportunities presented to him and lacked the killer’s instinct in the final third. A very disappointing performance from a player who can do much more.
Riyad Mahrez: 6/10
The winger showed off his excellent skills on the ball after coming on at half-time. He appeared to have made the game-winning assist only for Jesus’s strike to be ruled offside.
James McAtee: 6/10
The youngster made his Champions League debut on the night and looked barely out of place. He showed off his excellent touch on the ball and appears to be a promising prospect.
Scott Carson: 7/10
The veteran was surprisingly brought on for Ederson in the second half. He was immediately called into action and did well to thwart Paulinho in a one-on-one situation.
16 – Scott Carson's only previous Champions League appearance came 16 years and 338 days ago for Liverpool vs Juventus when he was 19 years old; this is the largest gap between appearances for any player in the competition's history. Icon. pic.twitter.com/tpCJPANjpC
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 9, 2022
Luke Mbete: N/A
The youngster replaced Laporte late on for his first appearance in the competition. Looked tidy but did not have enough time to make an impact.