Manchester City has a strong track record in European competitions, with their recent win against Young Boys being their 11th consecutive appearance in the Champions League knockout stages and their 28th home game without a loss in the tournament.
Having Erling Haaland on his team greatly benefits Pep Guardiola. Haaland was the key player for City, scoring two goals and bringing his total goals in the Champions League to 39 in just 34 games. He scored one goal from a penalty and another with a powerful shot into the top corner. Throughout the match, the Young Boys defenders were unable to stop Haaland, with the only time they got close to him being when he walked off the field at halftime and was asked by the opposing captain, Mohamed Ali Camara, for his shirt.
For many individuals wearing yellow and black, playing against the current European champions will be a significant moment in their careers. However, the match was not a competitive one. The closest Young Boys came to scoring was when their supporters threw a smoke bomb onto the field near the six-yard box. They ended the game with no shots and one less player, resulting in an unbalanced match. One Swiss player who will not look back on the evening with fondness is midfielder Sandro Lauper. He conceded the penalty that led to Haaland’s goal and received a second yellow card, causing him to be ejected from the game in the 53rd minute.
Securing a win against Leipzig in their upcoming game will guarantee top placement. In regards to this, Guardiola stated, “Our task is not yet complete as we aim to finish first. This gives us an advantage of playing the second leg of the last 16 at home, where we feel more confident. The first part of our qualification journey is accomplished and I am truly amazed. Our two goals were outstanding, with the second and third being particularly impressive.”
Lauper was not at a disadvantage as City was unable to score any additional goals, spending the last third of the game maintaining their possession statistics. Even with 11 players on the field, Young Boys had no opportunity for a comeback, as they were unable to make any shots on or off target, highlighting the contrasting levels of play.
Anthony Racioppi’s goalline block and double save delayed City’s opening goal until Matheus Nunes was tripped by Lauper, resulting in a penalty in the 23rd minute. Haaland confidently placed the ball on the spot and sent the goalkeeper in the opposite direction, leaving no doubt of the ball’s destination.
Phil Foden impressed on the right side, finally getting his reward just before half-time when he received a pass from Jack Grealish. He skillfully got past Ulisses Garcia and scored a well-deserved second goal in the far bottom corner. There were hardly any nerves at the Etihad Stadium throughout the night, and even the most pessimistic fans would have to admit that the outcome was already determined. Camara himself knew this as he collected his souvenir from Haaland. “I’m a bit surprised by that,” said Young Boys coach Raphaël Wicky. “But on the other hand, I don’t think it had anything to do with the game or the performance. I’ll talk to him about it and find out what he was thinking. Maybe Haaland asked him for it.” Haaland did not receive a shirt in return.
The striker scored a rare second goal from outside the box, which has only happened three times since he joined City. He received a pass from Rico Lewis, turned, and shot a powerful shot from 20 yards that delighted both his fans on and off the field.
Guardiola had a highly efficient night, making the most of his team’s skills. He gave Rodri a break and gave Mateo Kovacic the opportunity to shine in midfield. Kovacic played alongside Lewis and Nunes, who also put on a strong performance. Additionally, Grealish had the chance to play in a central role.
John Stones experienced a relapse of a hip injury during the match, resulting in him being substituted. Guardiola stated that he will be out of commission for some time and expressed disappointment for Stones, praising his professionalism. This is unfortunate news for our team.
The journey from the grandeur of Istanbul in June was arduous, but the initial phase of the second attempt at winning the trophy has been fulfilled.