"A crazy night" is how Sergio Agüero described Manchester City's 5-3 win against Monaco; UEFA.com's Simon Hart picks apart the game and finds hope for the future in the Sky Blues' performance.
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"A crazy night" is how Sergio Agüero described it with some justification. Tuesday's eight-goal thriller between Manchester City and Monaco was a match that had just about everything, from special goals to slack defending, via some wondrously slick and swift attacking football by both teams.
Vision of the future?
Above all, Manchester City fans will hope it was a night that opened a window on a dazzling future for their team. In Monaco's half of the pitch, at least, we saw the kind of spectacle everyone of a Sky Blue persuasion must have dreamed of when Josep Guardiola walked into the building.
Even better, some of their best football in establishing their hard-earned 5-3 first-leg lead came from young wingers Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané. Both scored. Both set up a goal. Sané ghosted away from three Monaco players in the lead-up to Sterling's opener. Sterling raced upfield and supplied Agüero to equalise at 2-2. Together they brought pace and movement and trickery. At 22 and 20 respectively, they can only improve.
Agüero's timely reminder
There has never been any question about the sense of timing of the man who scored City's added time, Premier League title-winning goal in May 2012. There has been a question, though, about whether he fits into Guardiola's system. Yet Agüero, still more than any other City player, has an innate knack of finding the net.
"It's always important to score goals," he told UEFA.com after an evening where he contributed two – the second a terrifically controlled volley – and an assist. "I like it when they're decisive goals and today they were, and especially given that we won by two goals as it's important to go there with a cushion."
Game of risk
Guardiola acknowledged afterwards that his strategy is a high-risk one. "We attack in small spaces and we leave big spaces behind – that's why I was brought here," he said. It means there will be occasions when the Spaniard can be seen hopping up and down in frustration – as he was in the lead-up to one Monaco goal – but he will not change.
What may change, in time, is Guardiola's defensive personnel. This was a difficult evening for Nicolás Otamendi and John Stones, though in the case of 22-year-old Stones – duped by Radamel Falcao before the Colombian's sensational second goal yet later on target with his first UEFA Champions League strike – he is a young centre-half still learning the game.
Caballero makes his mark
Willy Caballero has waited patiently in the wings at Manchester City yet this was his most influential display since usurping Claudio Bravo as first-choice keeper. His fortunes were typical of City's on a blink-and-you'll-miss-it night: there was a mistake ahead of Monaco's first goal but then a penalty save and, late on, another pivotal intervention to deny Falcao.
Agüero described his compatriot's spot-kick stop as a turning point. "It was an extra lift for us – a boost. From there we picked ourselves up and played a good game." That really is not even the half of it.