Manchester City overcame an onslaught from Monaco’s prolific attack to score three late goals in 11 minutes for a 5-3 win in a wild Champions League game on Tuesday.
The highest-scoring first leg in a Champions League knockout match was breathless from start to finish, leaving both coaches to congratulate their teams on producing a Round of 16 game to remember.
“It’s something special for football,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “When two teams want to attack and attack, the football is marvelous.”
City was on the ropes when Radamel Falcao scored with a glorious chip, his second goal of the game, to put Monaco 3-2 ahead in the 61st minute at Etihad Stadium. At that stage, Monaco — the highest-scoring team in Europe’s top leagues — was threatening to score at will and City looked like it was heading out of the competition.
But in a stunning turnaround, Sergio Aguero volleyed in a 71st-minute equalizer for his second goal of the night, John Stones prodded home from a corner in the 77th, and Leroy Sane pushed City further ahead with a tap-in in the 82nd.
“I imagine everyone was happy to witness such a spectacle,” said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim, who was willing to excuse his young team for its late collapse.
Guardiola was keen to stress that the match is far from over. In a damning indictment of his defense, he said City would have to score in the second leg on March 15 to stand any chance of going through.
“If one team can score a thousand-million goals, it’s Monaco,” Guardiola said. “It’s a long time since I saw a team attack with such a huge amount of good players.”
The night’s other last-16 first leg was also a goal feast, with Atletico Madrid winning 4-2 at Bayer Leverkusen as French forwards Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro overwhelmed German side’s defense.
They both scored for Atletico, last season’s losing finalist, along with Saul Niguez and Fernando Torres.
Coming into the match, Monaco’s players had scored 108 goals in all competitions this season and they put on another attacking show against City after falling behind to Raheem Sterling’s goal in the 26th minute.
Falcao, making a successful return to England after disappointing spells on loan at Manchester United and Chelsea, equalized with a diving header after City goalkeeper Willy Caballero’s pass from the back was picked off by Fabinho. Kylian Mbappe, a highly rated 18-year-old winger making his first Champions League start, then exposed more poor defending from City by latching onto Fabinho’s free kick and lifting a shot past Caballero.
Guardiola was incensed in his technical area, revealing afterward his frustration at being unable to control a chaotic game.
The visitors, so mobile on the break, had City exactly where they wanted them and Falcao had a great chance to put Monaco 3-1 ahead when he was fouled by Nicolas Otamendi as he was about to apply a close-range finish. A penalty was awarded, but Caballero made amends for his earlier error by guessing the right way and smothering Falcao’s low, weak attempt.
Then it was the Monaco goalkeeper’s turn to make a mistake, with Danijel Subasic failing to stop Aguero’s low shot and the ball dribbling slowly into the net for City’s first equalizer.
That set the tone for a chaotic final half hour, which Jardim said was played at “150 percent speed.”
Falcao held off Stones and applied a deft chip over Caballero to restore Monaco’s lead, but City came roaring back.
Aguero met an outswinging corner with a sweet volley into the corner and, from another corner, Yaya Toure glanced on Kevin De Bruyne’s cross and Stones was at the far post to poke in a volley.
Sane gave City a potentially crucial two-goal cushion when Aguero was set free by De Bruyne, and squared the ball for Sane to virtually walk into an empty net.
City scored five goals from six shots on target and Guardiola promised another open game at Monaco.
“We are going to fly to Monaco to score as many goals as possible,” he said.
“You have to live these kinds of situations, be in trouble and become a better team,” Guardiola added. “Huge compliment to the players to be there – don’t give up and be there. We are still there.”