On Wednesday night, Manchester City recorded a 4-3 home win over Tottenham in the Champions League quarter-final second leg. However, Spurs progressed to the semi-finals on away goals, as the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate.
The tie hinged on two major incidents involving VAR. Tottenham saw a controversial Fernando Llorente goal allowed, despite it appearing to hit the Spaniard on the arm before going into the goal off his hip. The second saw a Raheem Sterling effort disallowed in injury-time, as Sergio Aguero was offside in the build-up.
Those incidents were key in the result of the game. However, something that was even more crucial was how open City were in the first ten minutes of the game.
City needed Fernandinho in the centre of midfield
Pep Guardiola decided to name a Manchester City team without central midfield destroyer Fernandinho. This was a risky move and it looked very foolish, as Spurs cut City open in the first ten minutes of the clash, as Heung-Min Son grabbed a well-taken brace.
Fernandinho’s replacement German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is a good player. However, he is not in the same league as the Brazilian when it comes to breaking up play in midfield. Without the veteran midfielder, City looked highly vulnerable in defence.
City are normally highly attacking and pretty open. They flood players forward, but they can afford to because of Fernandinho’s brilliant positioning and sense of danger. He is the Citizens security blanket that allows the players in front him to play.
As proven around Christmas time, City are just not the same team without the experienced midfield star. Guardiola’s decision to rest the veteran made some sense with the number of crucial games coming up.
However, I doubt that Spurs would have enjoyed as much success in the opening period if Fernandinho was on the pitch. He did come as a second-half substitute, but it was too late, as at that point Spurs had score two away goals.
Son was magnificent
Heung-Min Son is fast becoming one of Tottenham’s most important players. The South Korean is enjoying the best campaign of his career so far in England, having scored 18 goals and produced five assists in all competitions.
Considering he has started just 19 Premier League games this season that is a decent record. Many worried about Tottenham when Harry Kane picked up a bad ankle injury. However, Son has stepped up his game to devastating effect of late.
His performance against City just typified his strengths. He showed his pace, work-rate and most importantly his quality by scoring two of the two crucial away goals. Ironically, three of his four Champions League games this season have been against City.
Tottenham could make history this season
Tottenham will face Ajax in the semi-finals of the competition. It will be their first European Cup semi-final since 1962, and their first ever in the competitions guise of the Champions League. Boss Mauricio Pochettino deserves immense credit for the teams stellar European run.
The club from north London failed to strengthen their squad, yet they could be on the verge of a historic moment in their history. Spurs are third favourites to win the Champions League this season at odds of 9/2.
A semi-final clash against another one of this season Champions League surprise semi-finalists Ajax will be far from easy. The Dutch side will fancy their chances of making the final, as they are in great form.
Once again City have fallen at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League. Guardiola has yet to go beyond the last-eight stage during his time in Manchester, which will no doubt be a cause of massive frustration for the Catalan boss. The Citizens can now at least concentrate on their title challenge, with Spurs the champions next opponents in the Premier League on Saturday.
What was the key factor in Tottenham eliminating City from the Champions League?
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