Imagine what could have happened if they had played their first team. Manchester City sent a warning to the whole of Europe with a quite magnificent win that stunned arguably the best club team in the world and silenced the Allianz Arena.
Two goals down to a rampant Bayern Munich and in danger of being overrun, a City side missing several key players cleared their heads and fought back to claim a famous victory. Make no mistake, this was the night they came of age in Europe.
It was not quite enough to send Manuel Pellegrini’s men through to the knockout stage as winners of Group D and secure what will probably prove to be an easier draw, but they will fear no one after this.
Halved: David Silva scores past Bayern Munich’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the first-half for 2-1
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Thiago, Muller, Gotze, Kroos, Ribery, Mandzukic.
Subs: Starke, Van Buyten, Javi Martinez, Shaqiri, Rafinha, Pizarro, Contento.
Goals: Muller 5, Gotze 12
Man City: Hart, Richards, Lescott, Demichelis, Kolarov, Milner, Javi Garcia, Jesus Navas, Silva, Fernandinho, Dzeko.
Subs: Pantilimon, Kompany, Zabaleta, Negredo, Aguero, Rodwell, Boyata.
Goals: Silva 28, Kolarov pen 59, Milner 62
Referee: David Fernandez Borbalan (Almeria)
The scale of the challenge facing City to win by two goals and top the group was put into stark perspective by Bayern’s form going into the final game.
The European champions were seeking to become the only the sixth team in Champions League history to win all six of their group games. Just for good measure, they were also on a record run of 10 Champions League wins and had the best defensive record in the competition this season.
No wonder Pellegrini thought discretion was the better part of valour after guiding City into the knockout stage for the first time, and chose not to push his luck ahead of Saturday’s clash with Barclays Premier League leaders Arsenal.
Already without the suspended Yaya Toure, the City boss left Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Pablo Zabaleta on the bench.
He also gave Joe Hart his second start since the England goalkeeper was axed in October following a series of blunders. Two of those came in the 3-1 loss to Bayern at the Etihad in October and he was certainly under the spotlight — even more so with Manuel Neuer, rumoured this week to be a £40million target for City, in goal at the other end.
All smiles: Bayern Munich’s Mario Gotze (right) celebrates with Alcantara Thiago after scoring the second goal
Hart could hardly have got off to a worse start, however. Less than three minutes were on the clock when he was involved in a mix-up with Joleon Lescott, whose back-pass beat the keeper as he made another of those ill-judged dashes off his line.
That time the ball went out for a corner but moments later Hart was picking it out of his net.
There appeared to be little danger when Dante received the ball just inside his own half, but the centre-back opened City up with an exquisite 40-yard pass arrowed into the path of Thomas Mueller.
The German international controlled it on his chest in full flight, held off the challenge of Aleksandar Kolarov and drilled a shot past the helpless Hart. It was an ominous start by Bayern and one that only got worse for City in the 12th minute when Hart’s defence again did him few favours. Lescott failed to cut out a cross from the right and the goalkeeper managed to turn Ribery’s effort from a tight angle on to the post.
Opener: Muller scored in the fifth minute to give the current champions the lead
It was only a brief reprieve, however, as City failed horribly to pick up Mario Mandzukic and Mario Goetze at the resulting corner. Mandzukic’s scuffed effort fell kindly at the feet of his team-mate on the edge of the six-yard box and Goetze had all the time in the world to slip the ball past Hart.
City’s problems only worsened when Micah Richards was forced off with a hamstring injury, although the defender hardly helped matters by launching the ball 50 yards downfield with his bad leg in frustration.
Still, Pellegrini’s side somehow hauled themselves back into the game with their first effort on target in the 28th minute.
Jesus Navas swung over a cross from the right and this time it was Bayern’s defence who were slow to react as James Milner headed back across goal at the far post and David Silva reacted faster than Dante to beat Neuer from close range.
Not your ball: Bayern’s Thiago Alcantara keeps the ball away from Brazilian Fernandinho
It still needed a smart save from Hart to deny Goetze before half-time and Martin Demichelis’s vital block on Mueller to keep the deficit to one at the break, but at least City were still in contention.
Neuer had to be alert to get down to Milner’s first-time effort inside his near post soon after the restart after good work by Silva, and it was the England man who earned City the penalty that brought them level in the 59th minute.
In fairness, it was only the slightest of nudges by Dante on Milner but enough for Spanish referee David Borbalan to point straight to the spot, and Kolarov stepped up to beat Neuer.
Three minutes later, the Allianz Arena was stunned into silence once again.
It was former City defender Jerome Boateng who failed to cut out Navas’s low cross from the right but there was still plenty of work for Milner to do as the ball ran through to him at the far edge of the area. The technique was perfect, however, as Milner opened up his body and sent the ball curling around a despairing Neuer and inside the far post. A quite wonderful goal to cap a wonderful comeback.
Pep Guardiola’s side had conceded three goals in their last 10 Champions League games, and now they had let in as many in just over half an hour.
One more would have put City through as group winners, and substitute Negredo almost got it when he was denied at close quarters by Neuer. It wasn’t to be but, for now, that matters little.
Source : Daily mail