Manchester City snatched a late, late win against an excellent Borussia Dortmund side thanks to Phil Foden’s 90th minute strike, following Kevin De Bruyne’s first half opener and a late leveller from Marco Reus.
The game had been remarkably tight throughout, with Dortmund equalising during City’s only real dominant spell of the game, but contentious decision making in the first half will leave the Germans feeling understandably short changed.
Dortmund were the better side early on, and created a good opening inside 10 mins. A raking pass through midfield by Manuel Akanji led to Jude Bellingham creating half a yard and smashing a shot on goal, with Ederson only just able to beat the ball away.
Both teams were guilty of sloppiness throughout the half, with routine passes and touches regularly going astray. Emre Can had been one of the main perpetrators and, in the 17th minute, he was made to pay.
Under no pressure in the centre circle, the former Liverpool man kicked a pass straight to Riyad Mahrez with Dortmund pressing up the field. Instantly, there was trouble.
De Bruyne ran at the retreating defence before slipping a perfectly weighted pass through to the overlapping Phil Foden. Foden crossed low to Mahrez at the back post, and the Algerian rolled the ball back into the path of De Bruyne to sweep home.
It was City’s first shot. They did not have another until first half added time.
The football was failing to ignite, but unfortunately one person was taking centre stage. That man was Romanian referee Ovidiu Haţegan.
Just before the half hour, a low De Bruyne freekick found Rodri at the back post with Can, with the City man going down theatrically clutching his face following a lazy flick of the leg by Can.
It did not look much initially. It looked even less on the replay.
Yet for some reason, it took almost three minutes for the referee to overturn what was a blatantly incorrect decision.
VAR then, for once, to the rescue. At least there were no more contentious decisions in the game, right?
Or in the same half?
Well, how about five minutes later?
A long pass towards the through run of Bellingham was well read by Ederson, but instead of clearing, the Brazilian took a woeful first touch and had his pocket pinched by the 17 year old.
Bellingham rolled the ball into the empty net, but the referee inexplicably blew his whistle right as the ball was heading in, meaning that VAR could not go back and correct the foul he had given in favour of City.
To add insult to injury, Bellingham was booked. Borussia Dortmund’s twitter account summed up the decision perfectly:
Half time: Manchester City 1-0 Borussia Dortmund
Erling Haaland had been on the periphery throughout the first half, but just four minutes into the second he passed up a golden chance to equalise.
Another ball in behind saw the Norwegian outpace Ruben Dias, although the centre back did well to knock him off stride, with Ederson coming out and making a crucial save to preserve City’s clean sheet.
It was a warning City took time to heed, with another chance soon materialising for Dortmund in the shape of a freekick inside the D, following a foul by John Stones on Haaland. Luckily for City, Reus could only fire into the wall.
As the half drew on, Dortmund appeared to tire, and more brilliant play by De Bruyne saw him spin in behind and pull the ball back to Foden, who should have scored but instead found the right leg of Marwin Hitz.
Foden was starting to torment Mateu Morey, Dortmund’s young fullback, but his final product was lacking. An outrageous piece of skill saw him spin in behind but his cross eluded everyone, before a drop of the shoulder and a nutmeg brought him into the area once again. Once again, the end result was poor, a mishit shot that bobbled harmlessly wide.
Dortmund had been dropping deeper and deeper, but with six minutes to play and from absolutely nothing, they scored a wonderful equaliser.
Bellingham was central yet again, weaving through the middle before finding Haaland. The first time flicked pass into Marco Reus was outstanding, and the Dortmund captain made no mistake in burying his shot into the far bottom corner.
Even without the first half decisions, it was a goal Dortmund fully merited.
City instantly went on the offensive, driving at an entrenched yellow wall and firing in dangerous crosses into the box, as Dortmund sought to retain a precious draw.
However, it was an offense that proved too much for the Bundesliga giants.
De Bruyne, yet again, was the architect. His brilliant cross from deep midfield found Ilkay Gundogan at the back post, who controlled the ball into the path of Foden to drill home the winner with just 20 seconds of normal time to play.
It was harsh on Dortmund, but you cannot allow De Bruyne to pick passes at will.
Full time: Manchester City 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
Man of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne
Jude Bellingham was incredibly impressive for Dortmund, while Phil Foden also sparkled, but the Belgian maestro is simply in his own world. Once more at the heart of everything, he is back in his very best form, with games often being dictated at his wont. If City are to triumph in the return leg, much will rest upon his shoulders.