Late goals from John Stones and Erling Haaland helped Manchester City recover from a goal down to beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Champions League.
The home side were leggy and lethargic for most of the evening, as a well-drilled Dortmund, knowing they would endure a long period without the ball, dropped deep in a frustrated bid to Pep Guardiola’s side.
BVB even threatened to walk away with a shock away win, as Jude Bellingham cleverly guided Marco Reus’ cross past Ederson just before the hour mark.
But after Stones had rocketed City level, with an effort that Alexander Meyer should really have saved, Haaland stepped up to score his 13th goal of the season – meeting Joao Cancelo’s stunning cross to divert the ball home from six yards out.
The first half at the Etihad was anything but what you’d expect. Dortmund were compact and organized at the back – and mildly dangerous on the counter – whereas City were toothless in attack despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession.
Dortmund’s control of proceedings was highlighted by the fact that Erling Haaland touched the ball just 11 times in the opening 45 minutes – comfortably the fewest of any home outfield player and five less than Ederson.
Kevin De Bruyne was also ineffective in the opening period as the visitors’ low block restricted the half spaces that the Belgian tends to operate in, although Guardiola neglected to make any changes at the break.
But rather than getting any better, like things so often do when City have a poor first 45, things took a turn for the worse just before the hour mark.
Giovanni Reyna’s corner was half cleared and Reus, who should really have given Dortmund the lead minutes earlier after a blistering counter attack, controlled neatly before guiding the ball back into the danger zone.
There stood the alert Bellingham, who was brilliant throughout the evening, and he nipped in front of former Dortmund defender Manuel Akanji to nod past a helpless Ederson in the City goal.
Guardiola immediately introduced Julian Alvarez, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden into the game, for the ineffective trio of Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan, but they weren’t able to make the desired immediate impact as Dortmund stood firm.
However, City never know when they are down and out, and with 10 minutes remaining the game turned on its head. First, Stones gathered De Bruyne’s pass to unleash a rocket into the top corner from 25 yards out, before Cancelo whipped a superb cross into the box that the lively Haaland was quickest to get on the end of.
It was harsh on Dortmund, who were far more organized than many would have expected before the game, but Edin Terzic’s side walked away with nothing from a spirited performance.
GC: Ederson – 5/10 – A spectator for most of the evening, although he could have been beaten on two or three occasions.
RB: John Stones – 7/10 – Not a natural right-back, that much is obvious, but boy can he strike a ball from long range.
CB: Manuel Akanji – 6/10 – Looks composed in everything he does. A shrewd acquisition but not a game changer.
CB: Nathan Ake – 6/10 – Recycled possession simply and was rarely stretched by Reyna or Anthony Modeste.
LB: Joao Cancelo – 7/10 – Played a ridiculous ball in for Haaland’s winner – not the first time the Portuguese has displayed such outrageous skill.
DM: Rodri – 6/10 – Broke played up a number of times and ticked along in his usual robotic fashion.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne – 6/10 – Not the Belgian’s finest evening but he did play a couple of delicious balls in the back.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 5/10 – So often City gets going but was ineffective battling Dortmund’s solid midfield structure.
RF: Riyad Mahrez – 4/10 – One dimensional in his play, Mahrez insisted on doing everything with his left foot and slowing down the pace. Allowed BVB to hold their shape with ease.
CF: Erling Haaland – 7/10 – Didn’t have much of an impact for 83 minutes but took center stage when his side needed him.
LF: Jack Grealish – 3/10 – Only interested in cutting inside where he invariably ran into trouble. Looks a million miles away from being a £100m player.
SUB: Phil Foden (58′ for Grealish) – 6/10 – Raised the intensity for City, something Grealish most certainly didn’t do.
SUB: Julian Alvarez (58′ for Mahrez) – 6/10 – Likewise, Alvarez injected a bit of fresh impetus and his introduction allowed De Bruyne to display his talents out wide.
SUB: Bernardo Silva (58′ for Gundogan) – 6/10 – Always seems to be on the field when City turn things around.
SUB: Kalvin Phillips (90+2′ for Haaland) – N/A
Manager: Pep Guardiola – 6/10 – Should probably have made changes at half-time and will be disappointed with his team’s efforts for the first hour. Won the game though so, ultimately, job done.
Subs not used: Ortega (GK), Carson (GK), Gomez, Dias, Lewis, Wilson-Esbrand, Palmer
GC: Alexander Meyer (6); RB: Thomas Meunier (7), CB: Niklas Sule (7), CB: Mats Hummels (8), LB: Raphael Guerreiro (6); CM: Salih Ozcan (7), CM: Emre Can (7), CM: Jude Bellingham (8); RF: Giovanni Reyna (6), CF: Anthony Modeste (6), LF: Marco Reus (7)
Subs: RF: Donyell Malen (6) CB: Nico Schlotterbeck (N/A), LF: Karim Adeyemi (N/A)
Subs not used: Unbehaun (GK), Rothe, Coulibaly, Passlack, Hazard, Brandt, Moukoko, Wolf,