De Bruyne lights up the magic of Man City
There were Pep Guardiola’s bold, courageous and unusual selections and tactics. There was the selfless performance of Gabriel Jesus on the left wing before his equalizing header. And there was the exciting cameo of Raheem Sterling, who won the game’s winning penalty. But Manchester City’s historic victory at Bernabeu owed so much to Kevin De Bruyne’s splendor.
He made the first City with his cropped cross and, after many of his teammates had failed since the point in the past few weeks, he took responsibility for taking the 12-yard winner home. These were key moments and City’s key man has risen. For the first time he scored and assisted in the same Champions League game.
It was brilliant in everything. On the pitch with a fake nine unknown roles, De Bruyne had less touches than usual but when he was on the ball he connected the game and dropped into the pockets of space to pass the City runners. His disappearance was immaculate, taking care of City’s hard-fought possession.
Cool, calm, composed – the mentality that allowed him to score the decisive penalty also saw him measure his celebrations when the ball hit the net and talks about half the work done after the game. He knows there is still a long way to go, but thanks to De Bruyne City he has a fantastic chance of reaching the quarterfinals.
Gerrard savor most European evenings
The Rangers produced a disciplined and hard-fought performance to defeat Braga and reach the Europa League last 16.
Their opponents boasted an impressive record in the competition during this period, surpassing a group that contained Wolves as well as being the team with the highest score with 17 goals.
But they have been brilliantly chained by the Rangers, who have conceded only seven goals in eight Europa League away games this term. It was their defensive solidity that helped them reach the bottom 16 for the first time since 2011.
After the parade in the 2-2 draw with St Johnstone last weekend, Gerrard revitalized his players and this was much more like the Rangers before the winter break.
Gerrard admitted that he “would be next” after the Rangers missed a sixth penalty from their last 10 attempts, but it was the only stain on a memorable evening for the Ibrox club.
Chelsea outclassed by Bayern Munich
Under Frank Lampard, Chelsea aspires to return to the top of the football pyramid and win multiple titles. But in their 3-0 defeat against Bayern Munich, there was a noticeable class gap.
From the start, Bayern had more possession and more chances, with Willy Caballero called into action three times in the first half to stop Robert Lewandowski while Thomas Muller made an effort on the crossbar. After the break, Bayern took the highest gear and exuded class. Serge Gnabry has scored two exquisite goals, having scored six times in two visits to London this season and clearly enjoys his return trips to the city.
Lewandowski added the third and showed why he is one of the best strikers in Europe right now, with Thomas Muller also showing that he still has gas left in the tank. A word must also go to the enormously impressive Alphonso Davies, who has shown incredible speed and maturity for a 19 year old.
Yes, Chelsea had their chances, but they all seemed to follow the same pattern: a sparkling cross in the area that was not converted. You struggle to remember something different and, despite being strong in the first half, a slip from Cesar Azpilicueta was enough to allow Gnabry to move forward and it was all downhill from there, culminating in Chelsea’s heaviest home defeat in Europe.
To use a big football cliche, they now have a mountain to climb in Monaco. Chelsea will be without Jorginho and Marcos Alonso, and who knows if then Christian Pulisic and N’Golo Kante will be in shape. What we do know is that Tuesday’s game shows that there is still a long way to go before Chelsea can really compete against the European elite again.
Sarri’s Juventus is still not up to par
The Wednesday morning edition of the Italian one Gazzetta dello Sport he published the title “Sarri’s revolution has not failed”. Overcoming Serie A, sailing in the Champions League last 16 and having a foot in the Coppa Italia final is not enough proof of your worth to be successful with the most proud club in the country, with questions already asked to the man nominated only for the best job last summer.
Two defeats out of five in Serie A made life less comfortable for Sarri, therefore also a notable lack of sliding football that had to follow Max Allegri’s pragmatism.
“Will the Champions League knockouts be the right time to finally see a brilliant Juventus?” the article continued. If that was hope, the reality was very different.
Faced with a Lyon team that barely made it out of the group stage, Sarri’s men were defeated, outdated and – even more worryingly – rethought in eastern France and could not argue that they were on the wrong side of a defeat for 1-0. Only one other team prevented Juventus from scoring this season, but none managed to escape without suffering a shot on goal against a front line including Cristiano Ronaldo.
Sarri’s questions have been fairly light so far, but in one of Juve’s poorest European nights in some time, they will grow. A repeated performance in Turin in two weeks could increase pressure on the former Napoli boss, regardless of Juventus’ results elsewhere.
All eyes on Messi, but he needs a hand
The stage was set up in Sao Paulo for Lionel Messi to stage a stadium that was once honored by Diego Maradona. But having scored only twice in five games during the group stage, the Barcelona talisman extended its sterile run on Italian soil to six games.
For Napoli, there is no comparison between Messi and Maradona. After leaving Barcelona, the latter brought Napoli to his only two Italian league titles, in 1987 and 1990. He also helped the club win the 1989 UEFA Cup.
Messi has admitted that he has tasted the possibility of playing on the iconic ground of Naples for some time, while opposition manager Gennaro Gattuso had praised the Barcelona forward, saying to reporters: “I see what Messi does when I play PlayStation with my son. “
Gattuso’s containment work on the six-time Golden Ball winner was reflected in the numbers of the first half – no Barcelona player recorded a lower passing accuracy (75%). But the 32-year-old belatedly found his rhythm when Napoli started to tire, brilliantly escaping two defenders on one occasion before playing selflessly in Arturo Vidal.
Messi has not been able to add to his 114 Champions League goals, while he has now scored only in two of his last eight games – against Leganes and Eibar. For all the comparisons this week with Maradona, it’s Messi who needs a hand.
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