The last time the ‘Cityzens’ played at the Estádio José Alvalade in 2012, an audacious Xandão backheel forced a desolate trip back to Manchester, as they were eliminated from the Europa League via the now-defunct away goal rule. Aiming to avoid history repeating itself, Pep Guardiola’s side dominated from the off and had the ball in the net after seven minutes when Riyad Mahrez, scoring his sixth UCL goal of the season, converted Kevin De Bruyne’s killer pass from the byline. Initially, the goal was ruled out, as De Bruyne was adjudged to have been in an offside position, but the goal was awarded after a lengthy VAR check.
The relentless Premier League leaders continued to apply pressure and eventually made it 2-0 in the 17th minute, when Bernardo Silva spectacularly half-volleyed past a stranded Antonio Adán, with the ball crashing off the underside of the crossbar. The ‘Lions’, who were contesting their first UCL knockout stage tie since the 2008/09 season, struggled to impose themselves on the game and succumbed to another City attack in the 32nd minute, as Phil Foden pounced inside the area to coolly fire home the visitors’ third and become the second-highest UCL goal contributor under Guardiola behind Lionel Messi.
The English champions soon made it four on the stroke of HT, when Silva doubled his tally by swooping on a pass from Raheem Sterling with his left foot and surely ending the tie after just 45 minutes. It was more of the same after HT for Guardiola’s men. They knocked the ball around with precision, and Silva thought he’d bagged his hat-trick with a deft header early after the restart, but the Portuguese international’s goal was disallowed for offside by VAR.
Distraught Sporting boss Rúben Amorim introduced Manuel Ugarte in an attempt to salvage some respectability, but the ‘Cityzens’ soon made it five, this time with Sterling adding his name to the scoresheet. He greeted an enticing pass from Silva and hammered the ball in from the edge of the area. Ultimately, City was a class above their opponents throughout, and now know they are all but in the UCL quarter-finals for a fifth straight season.
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