Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said that his team “felt the pressure” of expectancy in the UEFA Champions League as they needed Phil Foden’s 90th-minute winner to take a slender 2-1 lead in the first leg of their quarter-final tie against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.
City have now won 27 of their last 28 games in all competitions to remain on course for a historic Champions League, English Premier League, FA Cup and EFL Cup quadruple, but they have failed to get beyond the last eight in the Champions League in each of the Guardiola’s four previous seasons in charge.
“We felt the pressure today, in this competition, at home, not knowing how we would react,” Guardiola said. “It’s better to win than draw, but even at 1-1 we had 90 minutes to do it.”
The sides are to meet again in Germany on Wednesday next week with the winners facing Bayern Munich or Paris Saint-Germain in the last four.
Dortmund are at serious risk of missing out on the Champions League next season after slipping seven points adrift of the top four in the Bundesliga.
However, the visitors started brightly until Emre Can gifted the ball away to Riyad Mahrez and City launched a ruthless counterattack.
Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden and Mahrez exchanged passes before the Belgian tapped home from close range.
City thought they had a great chance to double their advantage moments later when Rodrigo went down under Can’s challenge inside the area and referee Ovidiu Hategan pointed to the penalty spot.
However, Hategan rightly overturned his call on a video assistant referee (VAR) review in the first of a number of dubious decisions from the Romanian official.
His next big call ruled out a Dortmund goal when he adjudged Jude Bellingham to have fouled Ederson as he dispossessed the Brazilian and tapped into an empty net just before halftime.
This time VAR could not intervene as Hategan had blown before Bellingham rolled the ball home.
“I definitely think I won the ball fairly,” the England international said. “It’s a bit frustrating at a time when they have so many cameras, they don’t let me put the ball in the net and check it.”
Erling Haaland was the focus of much of the pre-match hype with City one of a number of clubs interested in the Norwegian wonder kid.
The 20-year-old had failed to score in just two of his previous 14 Champions League appearances, but he spurned his one big chance to net early in the second half.
Haaland showed great strength and pace to outmuscle and outsprint Ruben Dias, but could not lift the ball over the advancing Ederson.
De Bruyne was at the heart of all of City’s most dangerous moments as Foden should have done better than fire too close to Marwin Hitz with the goal gaping.
The City captain then sent a low shot inches wide before once more picking out Foden, who saw another effort beaten away by Hitz.
However, City were then hit with a sucker punch as Haaland showed he is more than just a goalscorer.
His brilliant reverse ball released Marco Reus to fire beyond Ederson in what seemed a sting in the tale six minutes from time, but Dortmund could not hold out in the closing stages as City pushed for a winner.
De Bruyne was the creator again as his cross found Ilkay Gundogan at the back post and his cut-back was swept home by a relieved Foden.
TAKE TWO: Tainan TSG are the favorites going into this season, which starts on Sunday. They have fearsome forwards and national ’keeper Pan Wen-chieh between the posts Defending champions Tainan TSG (Taiwan Steel Group) face a tough challenge from their southern neighbors Taipower and CPC FC when the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) season starts this weekend with four matches on Sunday. Promoting grassroots soccer, and organizing relegation and promotion between the top and second divisions last year was important for the progression of Taiwanese soccer, CTFA chairman Chiou I-jen told a news conference in Taipei yesterday. “We are going in the right direction ... and becoming more competitive” for international competitions, Chiou said. Still the favorites, Tainan TSG have the league’s most fearsome forwards, with three international star players.
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