Monday 14 October 2019

Sterling steals the spoils late on for misfiring Man City

Manchester City 1 Feyenoord 0

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling scores his sides last-gasp winner against Feyenoord. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling scores his sides last-gasp winner against Feyenoord. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Tim Rich

The result was exactly what you might have expected.

Manchester City won their fifth straight Champions League fixture to ensure they will go into the knockout phase as group inners. It was, however, rather more of a struggle than Pep Guardiola's side have been used to this season.

Feyenoord, whose record of five straight losses is a mirror image of City's, were a minute away from a goalless draw full of guts and endeavour when Raheem Sterling's beautiful chip on the run rendered even these thin hopes redundant.

It was a decent night for Guardiola's young Englishmen. Perhaps the night's most significant moment came a quarter of an hour from the finish when Phil Foden, the jewel of the England U-17 World Cup triumph in Calcutta, came on to a huge ovation.

Manchester City's Nicolas Otamendi controls the ball during the match at Etihad Stadium. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Manchester City's Nicolas Otamendi controls the ball during the match at Etihad Stadium. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It is dangerous to pile too many expectations on young footballers. In the final of the 2009 European Championship, the German goalkeeper was Manuel Neuer, the lad between the sticks for England now turns out for Hartlepool. However, Foden looked utterly at home among the elite of Europe.

Deserved

At the finish, Giovanni van Bronckhorst's footballers went over to the thousands who had travelled from Rotterdam knowing they were likely to witness a rout. They deserved their ovation.

In September, at the De Kuip, Manchester City had given the first indication that they were serious contenders for the Champions League, scoring three times in the opening 35 minutes.

There was little respite in the opening exchanges now but Feyenoord coped far more effectively than they had in their own stadium.

While Guardiola had suggested he would make some serious changes for this game, there was still room for Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Sterling and figures of 79pc possession.

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (right) battles for the ball. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (right) battles for the ball. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Yet for all the probing and the pressure and some lovely touches centred around Aguero, the breakthrough almost came Feyenoord's way.

With the game 25 minutes old, Ederson tried and failed to control a back-pass that was struck rather too hard.

Jean-Paul Boetius, a winger-turned-striker, seized the ball, appeared to take it past the goalkeeper and fell in the area.

It might have been a red card, it might have been a penalty, it could have been neither and television replays were inconclusive.

The benefit of the doubt went rightly to the home side but it was a warning and 10 minutes later there came another as Sam Larsson twisted inside a defensive screen of blue shirts that included the lumbering, vulnerable figure of Eliaquim Mangala and sent a shot fizzing past Ederson's post.

Had Bernardo Silva taken the best chance of the first half all of this would have been academic.

Sterling presented him with the ball eight yards out at a slight angle. On a plate as the saying goes. The shot was feeble and straight at Brad Jones.

Standing on the touchline, doing some half-time analysis for Dutch television, Louis van Gaal, who took the opportunity to rule himself out of contention to be Everton's manager, would have been more than satisfied with Feyenoord's resilience.

Things were not quite happening for Manchester City. Danilo's cross was met and scuffed on the volley by Aguero, a shot from De Bruyne flew wildly over. Guardiola took off his overcoat and began gesticulating.

On the hour mark, De Bruyne did something his manager would have wanted. He got himself booked, meaning he is suspended for the meaningless final group game in Ukraine which in December would not be an enticing journey - but available when the serious business begins in February.

However, Guardiola would not have wanted him to have brought down Steven Berghuis on the very edge of the City area. Larsson's free-kick was driven over.

Moments later, Berghuis, standing where Bernardo Silva had been in the first half, should have put Feyenoord ahead.

In between, De Bruyne had shot wide, Yaya Toure had sent a languid free-kick past the post while Aguero, turned, twisted, fell and shot in the same movement.

It was left to Sterling then to claim the spoils on 88 minutes, and ensure all ended as initially expected.(© Independent News Service)

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