Versatile, tactically astute and boasting the creativity of a midfield playmaker, Joao Cancelo is a one-of-a-kind defender who’s proving to be Manchester’s City unlikely secret weapon this season.
Borussia Monchengladbach actually couldn’t deal with the Portugal worldwide within the Champions League on Wednesday.
Two pinpoint and almost-identical crosses from Cancelo — City’s roving full again — arrange targets for Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus in a 2-0 win for the Premier League leaders in a one-sided first leg within the final 16.
Make that 19 straight wins in all competitions for City, whose squad depth is such that Pep Guardiola had the posh of leaving star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne on the bench in opposition to Gladbach in a match going down in Budapest due to coronavirus journey restrictions.
Given the supply of Cancelo, who wants De Bruyne?
“He is so clever,” Guardiola stated of Cancelo, who has been one thing of a pet mission for the City supervisor this season. “He gives us something special in our process of play.”
Seeking to push extra gamers into offensive positions, Guardiola has devised a system that allows the technically gifted Cancelo to float from full again right into a deep-lying midfield function to complement City assaults.
It was no shock, subsequently, to see Cancelo in the correct place to intercept a poor move out from the again by Gladbach’s midfield anchorman, Christoph Kramer, within the twenty ninth minute after which pick Silva with an inswinging cross to the again publish. The diminutive Silva headed the ball firmly throughout the goalkeeper and into the online.
The similar mixture struck once more within the sixty fifth, Cancelo popping up in an inside-left place and sending over a similar-looking cross this time to the byline, the place Silva nodded the ball throughout goal for Jesus to prod into the online from contained in the six-yard field.
Like Guardiola, Silva is appreciative of Cancelo, having cast a detailed bond along with his compatriot whereas they got here by the academy at Portuguese crew Benfica collectively.
“We’re the same generation and we have a good connection,” Silva stated of Cancelo. “He knows my timing and I know how good he is on these balls.”
A fourth straight look within the Champions League quarterfinals is in sight for City and this was one other dominant show by a facet unbeaten in all competitions for greater than three months — a run of 26 video games. City has gained each recreation since mid-December.
The sight of file scorer Sergio Aguero approaching as a late substitute for his first look since Jan. 3 due to damage capped an evening filled with positives for City — aside from the very fact the margin of victory ought to have been wider at an empty Puskas Arena.
City’s protection is perhaps just about impenetrable this season — Gladbach didn’t have a contact in City’s field till the 63rd minute and or a shot heading in the right direction till the third minute of stoppage time — however there was an absence of leading edge that clearly aggravated Guardiola, who reduce an image of frustration at occasions within the technical space.
Jesus, specifically, was a wrongdoer particularly when he was despatched clear by within the 54th minute after intercepting a back-pass, solely to dally on the ball and see his belated try at a shot blocked.
“Unfortunately today we were not clinical enough up front. It is something we have to improve in this competition,” Guardiola stated.
The Brazil striker made amends with the second goal, which ought to show sufficient forward of the second leg, scheduled for City’s Etihad Stadium on March 16. City final conceded two targets in its 2-0 loss at Tottenham within the Premier League on Nov. 21 — the crew’s final defeat — and has solely allowed its opponents 13 touches in City’s field in its 4 away video games within the Champions League this season.
They have solely conceded 29 photographs within the competitors — 19 fewer than the subsequent finest crew, Real Madrid.
It’s that robust defensive unit created by Guardiola that might lead City to changing into European champion for the primary time, after plenty of painful eliminations lately. Guardiola has by no means reached the semifinals with City since becoming a member of in 2016.
Mendy’s late goal gives Madrid 1-0 win over 10-man Atalanta
Real Madrid struggled to interrupt down 10-man Atalanta earlier than Ferland Mendy netted an 86th-minute winner to present the Spanish large a 1-0 win within the first leg of the spherical of 16 on Wednesday.
Madrid entered the sport as the large favourite regardless of a slew of accidents, and Atalanta’s probabilities diminished additional when midfielder Remo Freuler was despatched off within the seventeenth minute after being adjudged to have denied a scoring alternative.
“The match was ruined,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini stated. “I don’t know what the result would have been, we might have still lost, but it would have been a much different and better match.”
Madrid — which was lacking gamers together with ahead Karim Benzema, midfielder Eden Hazard and captain Sergio Ramos — nonetheless discovered it troublesome to check Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini till the tip of the primary half, when he pulled off a terrific response save to maintain out Casemiro’s header from Toni Kroos’ free kick.
Just because it regarded as if Atalanta would maintain on for a draw, Mendy obtained the ball exterior the realm after a nook and curled a shot into the correct facet of the online from 20 yards.
“Yes, we’d practiced that play, but it wasn’t supposed to be Ferland who took the shot,” stated Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane with a smile. “We didn’t have a great game tonight but what was most important was the result. Scoring away from home was important for us.”
The second leg can be on March 16 in Madrid. Atalanta can take consolation from the very fact it has gained all its European matches away from house this season, together with a 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield.