By Olawale Alabi
Manchester City were on Wednesday knocked out of the 2016/2017 UEFA Champions League by Monaco on away goals at the last-16 stage. In contrast, Atletico Madrid walked through to the quarter-finals after an aggregate 4-2 victory over Bayer Leverkusen.
The English side crashed out after Monaco’s second-leg 3-1 victory sealed a thrilling tie at Stade Louis II, after they lost 3-5 in an extraordinary first leg in Manchester.
Monaco dominated the first half and opened the scoring through teenager Kylian Mbappe’s poked finish from close range from Bernardo Silva’s drilled cross.
Mbappe had a goal ruled out for offside and Valere Germain struck narrowly over, before the Ligue 1 side deservedly doubled their advantage on the night via Fabinho.
It was from a well-taken strike from inside the area.
City failed to muster any shot in the opening 45 minutes and it took until the 65th minute for Sergio Aguero to force goalkeeper Danijel Subasic into a sharp save.
They forced their way back into the game as Leroy Sane swept in after Subasic parried Raheem Sterling’s low strike.
But the hosts hit back quickly through Tiemoue Bakayoko’s header 12 minutes from time.
Victory means Monaco join last year’s runners-up Atletico Madrid, FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Leicester City and holders Real Madrid in Friday’s quarter-final draw.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola had vowed his side would go on the attack in order to finish the job, having gained a two-goal advantage at home.
But while the Spanish coach can boast the best record of any manager in Europe after 100 games, he showed tactical naivety by starting with only Fernandinho in the middle.
The middle of the park against a side which had already scored 123 goals this season was important.
Five attack-minded players were deployed in front of the Brazilian midfielder, with Yaya Toure on the bench, and it proved a costly move as City were overrun by sharper opponents.
They pulled a goal back on the night through Sane though — putting them briefly back in front in the tie.
But the English side never recovered from their poor first-half showing.
Big-money signing John Stones struggled again and Monaco’s winning goal epitomised the fragility of the visitors’ defensive backline, as the impressive Bakayoko was allowed a free header eight yards from goal.
This is the first time in Guardiola’s career that he has gone out of the competition at this stage.
He has said his maiden City season will be a failure if he cannot deliver a trophy.
However, barring a dramatic Chelsea collapse in the Premier League, the Spaniard’s only realistic hope of silverware is now the FA Cup.