Swiss giants Basel welcomed Premier League champions elect Manchester City to St. Jakob-Park for the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 tie between the two sides. Basel qualified as runners-up in Group A, finishing three points behind City’s eternal rivals Manchester United. The Citzens meanwhile topped Group F, and headed into this game as the clear favourites to progress.
Gundogan slams in a headed opener
While no team is to be underestimated in the Champions League, Manchester City would have considered themselves the superior team on paper heading into this game, and the early exchanges seemed to confirm that. The Cityzens dominated the possession, as they have been prone to do under Pep Guardiola, and Ilkay Gundogan had an early chance with a near-post header, providing an early warning sign for the home defenders. It was actually Basel who had the best chance of the first ten minutes however as Dimitri Oberlin burst through to go one-on-one with Ederson, but the young forward chose to take the ball round the keeper, rather than chipping him, allowing Nicolas Otamendi to make a late intervention.
The quick early chances turned the game into an open affair, and the home side could have had a penalty after a clumsy tackle by Otamendi on Oberlin, but the referee Jonas Eriksson waved the appeals away. The decision proved to be a turning point in the game however as City immediately grabbed an opener up the other end of the pitch. Gundogan met a brilliant in-swinging corner from Kevin De Bruyne at the near post, cannoning his header in past Tomas Vaclik in the Basel net. The goal handed the visitors a valuable lead, but their Swiss opponents responded well, and Valentin Stocker was inches away from getting on the end of a through ball to draw his side level.
Silva and Aguero pile the pressure on Basel
It didn’t take long for Manchester City to weather the storm and grab a second goal however, and this time it was Bernardo Silva who was the scorer. A floated cross from Raheem Sterling found the winger at the back post, and his looping shot caught out Vaclik, who flapped at the ball, ultimately tipping it into the net. The Portuguese international’s effort doubled City’s lead, putting them in a commanding position to go on and win the game and the tie. Clearly aware of that fact, Sergio Aguero stepped up to add to Basel’s misery, striking a stunning shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box. The scintillating strike left Vaclik rooted to the spot, and perhaps put the tie out of reach of the home side.
With a comfortable lead to defend, Pep Guardiola’s men began to take their foot off the gas slightly, managing the game with their passing moves and spells of possession. Their surgeon-like approach allowed them to probe the Basel defence with little danger of being caught out, and Sterling had a good chance to grab another goal, but blasted his close-range shot over the bar. In the end the visitors settled for a three-goal leading heading into the break, giving them a stunning platform to build on in the second period.
Gundogan grabs another as City run riot
The tempo of the game after the break was much slower, owing to the huge lead that the visitors had established, but to their credit Basel fought back into the game in an attempt to decrease the deficit. The Swiss giants almost grabbed a goal back through Mohamed Elyounoussi, whose brilliant strike drew a phenomenal diving save from Ederson. While the home side saw more of the ball in the second half, City became able to attack them on the counter, and Gundogan capitalised with his second goal of the night. Picking up the ball on the edge of the box, the German midfielder curled a beautiful shot into the far corner of the net, putting in his contribution for the goal of the night.
The fourth goal forced Basel to really begin attacking, and City’s pacey attackers started to have a field day on the break. The Cityzens threatened on various occasions to penetrate the home side’s defence, and David Silva, on as a substitute for De Bruyne, really should have added a fifth goal. The diminutive Spaniard was teed up on his stronger left foot by Aguero in the box, but his shot flew high and wild over the bar. There was little attacking threat from Basel as the clock ticked down, and it became easy for the visitors to control the match.
Stunning City close out the game with ease
Despite beginning to pass around the Swiss side in the midfield areas to close out the game, City still peppered the Basel goal with shots, and never gave up on closing their opponents down whenever they did have the ball. The dominance of Guardiola’s men become slightly frightening as they padded their passing statistics with every passing minute, and they began to resemble the Spanish coach’s Barcelona side of a few seasons ago. Raphael Wicky’s side struggled to get a touch of the ball in the final ten minutes, and the tie looked to be out of their reach after the first leg performance. In the end it finished 0-4 to the visitors, who thoroughly deserved their emphatic win, and look capable of beating any side in Europe on current form.
Basel were simply unable to cope with the phenomenal talent of Manchester City, but they did squander a few early chances that could have changed the game. It will take some comeback to secure a place in the next round, especially as the second leg will be played in Manchester, but the Swiss side can at least hope to put up more of a fight next time out.
Manchester City headed into this game as the clear favourites, and they performed as if they knew that. The Cityzens looked as frightening as ever going forward, and sturdy in defence, with Ederson once again standing out as a phenomenal goalkeeper. Pep Guardiola’s men certainly have the talent to go a long way in this prestigious competition, and they are all but guaranteed a place in the next round.
Basel: Vaclik, Lacroix, Xhaka, Suchy, Lang, Frei, Serey Die, Galeano, Elyounoussi (Bua, 85’), Stocker (Ajeti, 71’), Oberlin
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Delph, De Bruyne (D. Silva, 63’), Fernandinho, Gundogan, B. Silva, Aguero (Danilo, 86’), Sterling (Sane, 57’)
Goals: Gundogan (0-1, 14’), B. Silva (0-2, 18’), Aguero (0-3, 23’), Gundogan (53’)
Referee: Jonas Eriksson
Yellow Cards: Xhaka (38’), Fernandinho (59’), Serey Die (89’), Gundogan (89’)
Red Cards: None
Basel: Vaclik 5, Lacroix 6, Xhaka 5.5, Suchy 6, Lang 6, Frei 6, Serey Die 6, Galeano 6, Elyounoussi 6 (Bua n/a), Stocker 6 (Ajeti n/a), Oberlin 6.5
Manchester City: Ederson 8, Walker 7.5, Kompany 7.5, Otamendi 7, Delph 7.5, De Bruyne 8 (D. Silva 7), Fernandinho 7.5, Gundogan 9, B. Silva 8, Aguero 8.5 (Danilo n/a), Sterling 7.5 (Sane 7)
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