KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Manchester City remain favourites to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League at the expense of fellow Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspur. But not such clear favourites as before kickoff in their quarter-final first leg.
Spurs’ leader Harry Kane suffered an ankle ligament injury which may rule him out for the rest of the season – and England’s Nations League finals campaign in June – let alone next week’s return leg in which Spurs will defend a 1-0 lead.
But more concerning for City manager Pep Guardiola will be the fact that they are not playing with the confidence and verve and consistency of last season or even the first half of this season.
City should have taken a 10th-minute lead after being awarded a penalty by VAR for handball by Danny Rose. But top scorer Sergio Aguero saw his kick saved by keeper Hugo Lloris.
The two teams created few other chances so the match was decided by a narrow-angle shot from Heung-min Son. City defenders had hesitated fatally for a minute in the mistaken belief that the ball was going out of play. Instead Son pulled it back from byline to shoot past Ederson.
Guardiola brought on Kevin de Bruyne and Leroy Sane in the last few minutes to try to rescue a draw but their arrivals were too late.
Even before the game the ‘waste’ of both players on the subs’ bench for such an important game had sparked criticism of Guardiola by City fans on social media. Fabien Delph was a weakness at leftback and he was the defender most to blame for Son’s goal. Riyad Mahrez, on the right wing, looked like a stranger to his team-mates rather than a £60m footballer.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino said: “We are happy because we showed great quality. The performance was good but there’s still 90 minutes to go. I think the penalty save gave us belief. In the spirit we played here, everything is possible.”
Liverpool win too
Roberto Firmino appears only to be gaining in pace and enjoyment as Liverpool press on in pursuit of ultimate success in both Champions and Premier Leagues.
In last Friday’s 3-1 win at Southampton Firmino did not score but he helped create two and carved three other clear openings which his team-mates wasted. He then continued in style in Liverpool’s 2-0 victory at home to Porto in the Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday.
Firmino helped in the move from which Naby Keita scored their first goal then scored Liverpool’s second goal from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s pass. This was the 21st time Firmino had either scored or assisted in European competition over the past two seasons. Only Cristiano Ronaldo – 24 for Real Madrid and Juventus – outranks him.
This was Jurgen Klopp’s 400th win as a manager in all club competitions, 111 with Liverpool, 180 with Borussia Dortmund and 109 with FSV Mainz.