City and Real book berths in Champions League quarters - GulfToday

City and Real book berths in Champions League quarters


Manchester City and Moenchengladbach players in action during their Champions League match in Budapest on Tuesday. AP

Gulf Today Report

Both the European giants Manchester City and Real Madrid lived up to their billing and sealed their berths in the last eight of the Champions League on Tuesday.

City crushed Mochengladbach 4-0 aggregate with a 2-0 victory in the seocond leg while Real defeated Atalanta 3-1 to win the tie 4-1 on aggregate to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in three years.

Pep Guardiola told his City players to forget their previous Champions League failures after cruising into the quarter-finals. The Champions League is the one trophy that has remained elusive to Guardiola during his five years in Manchester with City failing to ever get beyond the last eight under the Catalan.

But the runaway Premier League leaders will get the chance to break that barrier next month as they showed why they are the bookies' favourites for the competition with another classy performance in Budapest, which hosted both legs of the tie due to coronavirus restrictions on travel between England and Germany.

Early goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan killed off any hope of a fightback from the Germans as City recorded a 24th win in their last 25 games in all competitions.

"What happened in the past is the past," said Guardiola, who won the Champions League twice as coach of Barcelona but has been unable to replicate that success with Bayern Munich or City.

De Bruyne and Gundogan were two of a host of first-team regulars left out by Guardiola for Saturday's 3-0 win at Fulham and City looked refreshed in a fast start.

De Bruyne blasted in the opener from outside the box off the underside of the bar on 12 minutes.

Six minutes later a flowing move from back to front saw Phil Foden release Gundogan in behind the Gladbach defence to score his 15th goal of the season.

Gladbach have now lost all seven games since manager Marco Rose announced he will be leaving the club at the end of the season to join Borussia Dortmund.

Real-Madrid-750x450Real Madrid's defender Sergio Ramos (right) celebrates his goal against Atalanta during the UEFA Champions League match at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas. AFP

Defensive frailties have been the cause of City's previous Champions League exits under Guardiola.

They conceded six goals to Monaco over two legs in 2017, five to Liverpool a year later, four to Tottenham in 2019, and suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to Lyon last season in a one-off tie in Lisbon.

However, the signing of Ruben Dias has transformed Guardiola's men into the complete team this season as they remain on course for an unprecedented quadruple of Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.

City have now kept seven consecutive Champions League clean sheets.

With no key players missing through injury, the wealth of options Guardiola has to choose from is another reason this could finally be City's year for a major breakthrough in Europe.

Meanwhile, Sergio Ramos marked his return from injury by converting a penalty after Karim Benzema continued his scoring streak by capitalising on a glaring error from Atlanta goalkeeper Marco Sportiello.

Sportiello's scuffed clearance in the first half resulted in Benzema being given an easy finish at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium and after an electric start, Atalanta never really recovered.

Luis Muriel pulled one back for the visitors late on but any hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed as substitute Marco Asensio fired in a third for Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane's side will be in Friday's draw for the last eight and with their old guard fit and firing again, they will be hopeful of exceeding what are now dampened expectations of La Liga's reigning champions.

Ramos played just over an hour in his second appearance since recovering from a knee injury while Benzema's goal was his eighth in as many games and 70th in the Champions League, making him only the fifth player to reach that number.

The 35-year-old Modric and Toni Kroos were dominant in the absence of the suspended Casemiro.

How Madrid's veterans would fare against more polished opposition remains to be seen, after they came up short against Manchester City last year and Ajax the year before that, both in the last 16.

They will be unlikely to benefit from the same generosity Atalanta afforded them across the two legs.

Remo Freuler's red card and a late goal spoiled the Italians' night in Bergamo and it was individual errors from Sportiello and then Rafael Toloi for the penalty that let them down again here.

Atalanta tore into Madrid early on, with the intensity of their press giving their opponents no time to settle and Robin Gosens could have scored, only to fail to connect with Muriel's cross.

The early storm weathered, Madrid found their feet as Kroos began to dictate from deep and the tireless Modric popped passes around Atalanta's midfield.

The lively Vinicius Junior took too long after a neat one-two with Benzema, who then showed the youngster how it should be done.

Sportiello's clearance was tamed by Modric, whose second touch pushed the ball into the box before a third cut the ball back to Benzema, who had an open net.

The goal killed Atalanta's belief and Vinicius almost added a second after half-time, only to prod wide after a surging run to the edge of Atalanta's six-yard box.
But the warning was not heeded and Vinicius raced past Toloi, whose dangling leg made enough contact to concede the penalty, which Ramos whipped into the corner.

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