MARTIN KEOWN: Sterling comes off the bench to swing it for Man City

MARTIN KEOWN: Raheem Sterling’s outstanding performance off the bench swings it for Manchester City after Pep Guardiola confounded Real Madrid with a tactical surprise by flooding the midfield

  • Pep Guardiola tries to push the boundaries as the ultimate tactician
  • He unleashed an incredibly fluid set-up at the Bernabeu on Wednesday
  • Gabriel Jesus began at left wing-back before becoming the central forward
  • Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva both acted as false No 9s from the start 

Manchester City’s comeback was down to the magnificent movement of Raheem Sterling, and this is something the 25-year-old has mastered under Pep Guardiola. 

Sterling was brought off the bench in the 73rd minute. In the 78th, he made an off-the-ball run behind Real Madrid’s defence, before Kevin De Bruyne joined his team-mate in support. 

He crossed, found Gabriel Jesus and bang, 1-1. Then in the 83rd minute, Sterling runs directly at Real from the left wing, forcing Dani Carvajal into fouling him and winning the penalty. 

Pep Guardiola tries to push the boundaries in the Champions League as the ultimate tactician

De Bruyne then found the bottom-left corner for 2-1. What an outstanding substitute’s performance this was from Sterling. 

His movement is first class and that was what gave Real nightmares, leaving City in the driving seat of this tie. 

As the ultimate tactician, Guardiola is someone who tries to push the boundaries, and we saw an incredibly fluid set-up from City here. 

Jesus could be seen as left wing-back then the central forward. De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva could be seen acting as false nines. 

Gabriel Jesus began at left wing-back, then became the central forward in the second half

Bernardo Silva (pictured) and Kevin De Bruyne both acted as false No 9s for Manchester City

Guardiola is not averse to springing surprise tactical changes in this competition. As Bayern Munich boss, in May 2015, he fielded a back three and tried to go man for man with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. 

Bayern wound up losing that first leg 3-0. Maybe it is because of what has happened to Guardiola in the Champions League before that made him want to make these changes. 

City left themselves with a lot to do in second legs in recent seasons, after all – losing 3-0 at Liverpool and 1-0 at Tottenham in first legs. 

Guardiola didn’t want that to happen here. City stifled Real Madrid in the first half, then Isco struck. But Sterling turned this tie on its head.  

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