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Man City Opinion: de Bruyne was the star on an eventful night at the Etihad

Man City were knocked out by English rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League on away goals rule, despite winning the second leg 4-3 at the Etihad on Wednesday night.

Having lost the first leg 1-0 away from home, City were still pretty much the favourites to destroy Spurs at their home turf and progress to the semi-finals. Pep Guardiola’s side were expected to take the game by the scruff of the neck and they did exactly so in the opening stages of the game. In fact, a much-anticipated tactical battle between two high-profile managers turned into a rather open, free-flowing and direct game of football.

The first 21 minutes of the game saw five goals shared between the two teams, with Raheem Sterling and Heung-min Son each scoring a brace. City led 3-2 at halftime after a dramatic and frantic first 45 minutes but the away goal rule was always going to be a huge factor in the tie.

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The tie swung in favour of City in the second half as Sergio Aguero put the home side 4-3 ahead on aggregate but there was plenty of drama left to unfold on an eventful night at the Etihad. Fernando Llorente’s VAR-approved scrappy finish in the 73rd minute proved to be the decisive moment in the quarter-final clash, drawing Spurs level 4-4 on aggregate and giving them the cushion of a vital away goal. The home crowd erupted when Sterling found the net in the third minute of stoppage time but more drama followed when the goal was ruled out for offside following a VAR review.

It was a night where the game changed hands multiple times over the course of the ninety minutes. It was indeed an enthralling contest, a fierce battle fought at the European stage between two great English teams looking to stamp their authority on one another. Whether or not Spurs deserved to go through to the last four at the cost of City’s quadruple hopes is certainly worthy of discussion but one player who certainly didn’t deserve to leave the pitch with a morose look was none other than Kevin de Bruyne.

It would be fair to say that the Belgian was the most influential player in the match from both sides combined. Stats would show that he registered 3 assists but in all honesty, he was directly or indirectly involved in all of City’s four goals on the night. Guardiola shifted Bernardo Silva to the wide right position to play the Belgian on the right of a midfield trio and the former Chelsea man produced arguably his most impressive performance of the season, albeit in a losing cause.

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De Bruyne exchanged a quick one-two with Aguero and showcased his remarkable vision to find the run of Raheen Sterling down the left, who cut Trippier into half to draw City level on aggregate. That was just the beginning of a wonderful show from one of the most talented attacking midfielders of the current era. De Bruyne paved the way for Bernardo’s goal and City’s leveller, this time with his subtle movement off the ball to draw Danny Rose inside.

The Belgian continued his dominance and fired in a driven cross from the right to lay the ball on a platter for Sterling to bag his second of the night, putting City 3-2 ahead on the night. He continued to impress in the second half and reminded the fans of his pace, power and remarkable dribbling skills, tearing Tottenham’s defence to pieces with a wonderful solo run and setting up Aguero for City’s fourth. Influential in the attacking third with his creativity and vision, De Bruyne also showed plenty of energy to press the opposition off the ball and dropped back to help out his defenders.

The Belgian completed a total of 38 passes at an accuracy percentage of 84.2, including 1 cross, 1 successful long ball and 1 through ball, while playing a total of 4 key passes over the course of the 90 minutes. Furthermore, De Bruyne registered a total of 3 shots, 3 dribbles, 2 tackles, while also drawing 3 fouls in a performance that spoke of pure class, hunger and determination.

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As much as Tottenham did well to cope with the absence of Harry Kane and put up a good fight, De Bruyne’s display in the midfield was also worthy of plenty of praises. It was indeed a pity that he could not see Man City through to the last 4.

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