Champions League: Man City destroy Sporting with a devastating first-half show

Lisbon, Portugal - Half an hour into Sporting CP's return to the Champions League knockout stages after 13 years, the Estádio José Alvalade rose to its feet to applaud. But the ovation wasn't for the home side – it was for a rampant Man City scoring its third goal without reply.

Bernardo Silva ran the show against Sporting Lisbon with two goals and a man of the match performance.
Bernardo Silva ran the show against Sporting Lisbon with two goals and a man of the match performance.  © IMAGO / NurPhoto

The matchup was billed as Pep Guardiola taking on the next José Mourinho. That title ended up being like a kiss of death for Sporting coach Rúben Amorim. After all, Mourinho was more often than not on the end of a defeat in games against his nemesis.

Still, at the end of a 5-0 roasting, the comparison looks unfair on Amorim's role model. Sporting's performance had nothing of the pragmatism and organization that the best Mourinho teams were famous for. Instead, the Portuguese champions straight up fell apart in a catastrophic first half.

It only took seven minutes for Kevin De Bruyne to start the torment. A City attack down the left led to Phil Foden's shot being parried into the Belgian star's feet. From the byline, De Bruyne could have played the assist to Riyad Mahrez with his eyes closed, and there was never any question about the finish, other than a check by the Video Assistant Referee to rule out any offside.

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Things only went downhill from there for Sporting, as it seemed to completely lose sight of any coherent game plan. Neither battening down the hatches, nor taking the game to Man City, the hosts got steamrollered.

The lineups

Bernardo's brilliance and Sterling's stunner

Raheem Sterling scored Man City's fifth goal with a superb strike.
Raheem Sterling scored Man City's fifth goal with a superb strike.  © IMAGO / Shutterstock

First came Bernardo Silva's absolutely scorching half volley, just 17 minutes in. A poorly-cleared corner fell at the feet of the former Benfica player, who struck the ball like only someone playing against a former arch rival can.

But there was time for much more in the first 45. Mahrez shredded the right side of Sporting's defense and somehow crossed the ball through a ticket of legs all the way to Foden, who allowed himself two touches for a tap in.

With the sound of their own fans applauding the opposition ringing in their ears, you can almost understand why the players in green and white might have felt like giving up. Bernardo's second goal, from a deflected shot, made their mind up for them.

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After the break, the match picked up where it left off: City pulling Sporting's brittle shape apart with its surgical soccer. The brilliant Bernardo was denied a well-deserved hat-trick by VAR, but there was no denying Raheem Sterling's guided missile in the 58th minute, a curling beauty that nestled in the top corner while the helpless Antonio Adán was still diving for it.

The only consolation for Sporting – aside from their brilliant supporters, who never stopped singing – is that the humbling didn't turn into a full-scale humiliation. It's hard to escape the sense that this could have been anything Man City wanted it to be.

Guardiola's team just decided to stop at a five-star performance – more than enough to decide this last 16 tie after only one leg.

Cover photo: IMAGO/NurPhoto

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