Pulp Action

A rare shot of Falcao and Leroy Sané aiming at the same direction, February 2017.

It doesn’t happen these days. In the era of tactics, calculation and efficiency, finding a football match like this is an absolute rarity. Manchester City and Monaco have both lived up to the attacking expectations and more – they’ve actually went for each others’ throats, completely forgetting about any sort of discipline and providing us with 90 minutes of non-stop action-movie excitement. It was light-hearted, crazy and, at times, plainly silly – but it worked so well for the spectators. In honour of that – time to do something that I rarely do at all when teams tend to play trillions of back passes or are knocking the ball around the middle circle. Time for a minute-for-minute battle report. Believe me – each and every one of them was packed with pure dopamine:

1 – The game takes off with a backpass to Bakayoko. Fourteen seconds later, Fernandinho – Manchester City’s makeshift left-back! – concedes the very first foul of the match.

2 – Monaco win the corner and play it short only to cross the ball all over the penalty area.

3 – De Bruyne makes a run, gives the ball to Touré, who releases Sterling. The Englishman cannot beat Subašić to the through ball and, on the top of that, he’s offside.

4 – Stones, Sagna, Bravo and Otamendi are all having trouble playing it from the back under pressure. It seems that the Frenchman is now a CB and the Argentinian stays on the right.

5 – The very first Silva vs Silva duel. David tries to take on Bernardo but the cross in Subašić’s area is way overhit for Agüero to reach it.

6 – Another corner for Monaco, again won in the right-wing area. Yaya Touré clears it and it all ends with Lemar’s long shot that goes far, far off target.

7 – Monaco’s pressing with 2 forwards and 4 midfielders right behind them, stifles City’s buildup as up as at the middle line of the pitch.

8 – Glik overcommits and fouls Sane. That action earns him a yellow card and a suspension for the rematch in Monaco. Big, big boost for City out there.

9 – Bernardo Silva’s formidable defensive work stops multiple MC crosses from the left.

10 – Monaco exchange just two passes in their half and Mbappé bursts forward on the break, cuts inside in front of Stones before Otamendi arrives to stop him.

11 – The visitors are overrunning their right wing all over again. Mbappé and Sidibé are trying to send the crosses in but all they hit is Fernandinho’s stomach.

12 – Silva – Sterling – Silva – goal. The hosts are through down the left wing but unfortunately, their goal is chalked off as offside.

13 – Long ball to Falcao is cleared by Stones. Lemar reclaims it but passes it backwards.

14 – Bernardo Silva 1-0 David Silva. The Portuguese midfielder out-strengths his Spanish colleague, nutmegs Yaya Touré and releases Falcao with a through ball. Otamendi barely, barely manages to catch up and clear the ball.

15 – Raggi and Subašić are making a mess out of the in-behind pass to Sterling. In the end, it’s Agüero, who picks it up and tries to chip it into the open net from an angle. Cleared.

16 – For a change, it’s Sané, who fouls Silva. Bernardo, I mean.

17 – Mbappé on a fantastic turn again, beating Fernandinho…

18 – …and he lays it off to incoming Lemar down the left. Caballero stops it, though.

19 – It’s the third corner for Monaco to MC’s zero. The cross goes all the way through, misses Yaya Touré and finds Kamil Glik, who heads with his… face – wide.

20 – And here come the hosts winning their own corner. Sané fools Mendy with a simple trick and cuts into the penalty area – only to see his cross intercepted by Sidibe.

21 – De Bruyne’s tackle cancels the visitors’ counterattack before in reaches MC’s half…

22 – …but he still can be a victim of a nutmeg – this time, from Mendy.

23 – Terrific, long ball from Fernandinho to Sterling. He gives it to De Bruyne, whose cross misses Agüero’s tap-in on the near post by a millimetres.

24 – Glik blocks yet another cross, this time from the left wing.

25 – De Bruyne’s revenge nutmeg on Mendy; too bad the ball escapes him for a throw-in.

26 – 1-0! Sidibé’s pull on Sané’s shirt earns him a yellow. Seconds late, the German winger dances around about every defender he can find, gives the ball to David Silva, who squares it to Sterling for an easy tap-in.

27 – (late marking…)

28 – Another incisive action from the hosts, as Agüero runs in-behind the defenders but his touch leads him to lose the ball in favour of Raggi.

29 – The teammates clearly continue to pick out Sterling wide down the right wing. This time, the long ball to him is overhit and goes out for a throw.

30 – Mendy attempts two, very dangerous crosses into the area. The latter is particularly troublesome, but Fernandinho blocks Sidibé and clears.

31 – Lemar goes past Yaya Touré like Ferrari past Skoda Octavia – but he passes to Mbappé, who’s offside.

32 – 1-1! Caballero kicks the ball right to Fabinho in the home side’s half. The Brazilian finds some space and curls a wonderful, pitch-perfect cross to Falcao, whose diving header simply cannot be stopped.

33 – (Stones’ expression…)

34 – After a brief spell of passing at the back, City finally rush forward. Silva’s first-touch pass finds Agüero. The latter, however, loses a one-on-one with Subašić and… gets booked for diving. Absolutely right decision – Agüero dragged his left foot through GK’s shin on purpose.

35 – In the sidelines, Pep Guardiola waves an imaginary red card. A disciplinary hearing soon?

36 – Meanwhile, Mbappé picks up the ball from Falcao’s header and fires a shot over the bar.

37 – Lemar’s free-kick from afar misses the goal by a rather large margin.

38 – Monaco’s high pressing continues – City are getting dispossessed three times in 60 seconds.

39 – Even Otamendi rushes forward – he goes past 2 players before giving the ball to Sane.

40 – 1-2! Yet another booking-into-goal moment! Fernandinho is cautioned and, from the resulting free-kick, Mbappé goes in-behind Otamendi, chases the ball and fires it with power into the top-left corner of Caballero’s goal. Simple, but brilliant stuff.

41 – (next next Henry…)

42 – Bernardo Silva steals the ball from Agüero and makes two or three Xavi-esque (or… Guardiola-esque!) turns before laying it off to a teammate.

43 – Sane and Silva overrun Monaco’s right flank again. Only Subašić’s save and Raggi’s desperate clearance are keeping the visitors from conceding.

44 – Sidibé to Lemar, Lemar to Falcao and the Colombian to the side of the net. The story of just one of hundreds ASM’s counterattacks this season.

45 – Silva and Sterling are having one more go but Agüero is stopped by Glik. Half-time.

46 – Sterling involved again. He wins the ball back, gives it to De Bruyne but the return pass is overhit and the winger cannot possibly get it.

47 – Alright, nothing really happened in this minute. I rest my case, though.

48 – Mendy’s cross to Falcao misses the target. It’s initially given as a goal kick, but after the linesman’s intervention, the referee gives the penalty to Monaco and a yellow to Otamendi, who hooked the Colombian from behind. According to the replay – another spot-on call by Mr Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz.

49 – That however doesn’t stop the entire Etihad Stadium from whistling and booing.

50 – Oh, he miss… no. Caballero sav… no. Okay, let’s settle on this: Falcao’s simple pass to the City goalkeeper is comfortably held by it’s addressee. Terrible!

51 – Touré’s tackle breaks a messy bit of play, as both teams continue to look fired-up.

52 – Mbappé outruns Otamendi to a long ball that looked absolutely impossible for the young lad to catch up with. It all ends with John Stones’ panicky clearance.

53 – Lemar and Silva bamboozle Fernandinho and Sane again, but with no consequences.

54 – Danger at the other end, as De Bruyne’s deflected cross nearly reaches Agüero.

55 – Bakayoko cannot keep up with Sterling’s pace, so he concedes a foul and gets booked.

56 – KdB’s free-kick delivery is so terrific that it beats all players in the penalty box.

57 – Silva’s trademark chip to Sterling doesn’t quite go through the Monaco’s bodies.

58 – 2-2! Sterling makes a brilliant interception in his own half, outruns the opposition’s midfielders and feeds Agüero with the ball. The position is awkward for the Argentinian, but he shoots anyway – and Subašić, who was ready to collect the ball, lets it slip under his left hand into the back of the net!

59 – (messing it up…)

60 – At this point: City – 3 shots, 2 on target; Monaco – 11 shots, 4 on target.

61 – 2-3! A long, long, looong pass from Lemar goes to Falcao. The Colombian outpaces, outsmarts, outmanoeuvres his young, English opponent, breaks through and fires a stunning chip over Caballero in a one-on-one situation!

62 – (this deserves a video…)

63 – As this madness was going on, Zabaleta has replaced Fernandinho as a left-back.

64 – Just Monaco clearing more crosses from both wings without too much trouble.

65 – …and more crosses – this time, from Zabaleta.

66 – More defensive graft from Kevin De Bruyne. All things considered, he might’ve been the most defensively sound footballer on the pitch that night.

67 – Falcao booked for a rough, ugly tackle on Stones.

68 – Mendy sprints through the half of the pitch, carrying the ball and then providing the width. Too bad that his eventual cross is cleared by Sagna.

69 – Sterling to Sane, who gives the ball back from where it came through a very clever flick over Monaco players. It ends with Sterling’s tumble in the area, but no penalty given. The ball goes to the other end and Mbappé’s shot hits the side of the net.

70 – Silva fed with the ball by Zabaleta, but he only wins a corner with his cross.

71 – 3-3! Powerful cross from De Bruyne causes a mess and another corner. Silva steps in and finds Agüero with a long, floating pass. A volley shot and the Argentinian is celebrating!

72 – (quick thinking…)

73 – A big, big argument with the referee regarding Lemar’s foul. It ends with Zabaleta getting booked for dissent. Stupid, stupid, stupid yellow card from the lad.

74 – Subašić to Sidibé, Sidibé to Falcao and… nothing. The final pass was inaccurate.

75 – Yellow for Bernardo, who couldn’t find any other way to stop De Bruyne’s run. Monaco are looking pretty exhausted. Leonardo Jardim, where are the substitutions?

76 – Agüero wins a corner after being trapped in an awkward position by Glik.

77 – 4-3! Yaya Toure flicks the corner pass from De Bruyne, it goes to the ground on the back post and Stones taps it in before Agüero can reach it to get his hat-trick.

78 – (Stones’ (slight) redemption…)

79 – Mbappé replaced by Germain. Seems quite late to seek for such a relief. Seconds later, De Bruyne ruins another quick attack with a… pass to Subašić.

80 – Subašić saves Agüero’s shot after the Argentinian managed to run past Glik.

81 – Distance covered in km: Man City – 92.83; Monaco – 90.06. Passes completed: Man City – 454; Monaco – 168. Pretty sure it’s not how that “wearing out the opposition through keeping the possession” thingy works.

82 – 5-3! And here’s the third goal scored immediately after the booking! Fabinho fouls Sane, earns his own yellow. Seconds later, the little combination between Touré, Silva and Agüero sees the Argentinian go through for a one-on-one. He lays it off to Sane and it’s an empty-net tap-in.

83 – (Sterling had to evade the ball due to the offside…)

84 – Monaco aren’t done yet! Mendy is completely unmarked down the left and he sends a great, low cross to Falcao, who shots instantly – Caballero parries it with his legs!

85 – Bernardo Silva replaced by João Moutinho. Certainly, a defensive swap.

86 – Fabinho and Bakayoko still causing loads of trouble. This time, it’s only a corner.

87 – Agüero off for Fernando. Gabriel Jesus who?

88 – Bakayoko replaced by Dirar. Another terrific performer leaves the pitch.

89 – Navas in for Sterling. The latter will be suspended for the second leg.

90 – Another free-kick for City as the refs announce 3 minutes of injury time.

90+1 – Tiny Silva goes into a duel with Fabinho and gets fouled…

90+2 – …only to immediately send the free-kick pass to Sane – who’s stopped by Glik.

90+3 – Monaco’s last attempt to build an attack fails when exhausted Sidibé misplaces a pass to Germain. The madness ends at 25 shots, 32 dribbles won and 38 tackles won for both sides. Outrageous!!!

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