Sane earns 8/10 with sensational double to orchestrate Man City comeback
MANCHESTER, England -- Manchester City came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory over Hoffenheim on Wednesday to top Group F in the Champions League. Andrej Kramaric put the German side ahead from the penalty spot, while City hit the post through Gabriel Jesus and John Stones. Leroy Sane equalised just before half-time with a vicious 30-yard free kick and then grabbed the 61st-minute winner.
After an awkward group stage, City secured the point they needed to finish top of Group F. In theory, it should give them an easier route to the quarterfinals, but one of Roma, Schalke, Atletico Madrid and Ajax lie in wait in the round of 16, although the second leg will be at the Etihad Stadium.
Although they came away with a win, City's difficulties in Europe with well-organised and fast sides continue to cause them problems. The Premier League side have kept just two clean sheets in the Champions League this season and Hoffenheim created enough chances in the first half to have been further ahead. City had suffered four defeats in their previous five European matches at the Etihad and it's far from the fortress it appears when they face English opposition.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Pep Guardiola's not known for making big calls on substitutions -- his sides don't normally require them. But his decision to take off Stones at half-time was the right one and City looked much more balanced both defensively and offensively. His slow integration of Phil Foden into the first team also looks the right move, despite the clamour for the 18-year-old to be thrust onto the big stage quicker.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Ederson, 8 -- An outstanding save to keep out a Kramaric shot with his fingertips was the pick of his contribution. The Brazilian showed his value to the team is more than just his calmness on the ball.
DF John Stones, 4 -- Never looked comfortable shifted out to right-back and was taken off at half-time. He was knocked out of his stride by the power and skill of Joelinton and struggled to offer much meaningful support in attack.
DF Aymeric Laporte, 6 -- Got caught on the wrong side for the penalty when he hauled down Benjamin Hubner. A rare off-night when City's defence looked out of shape.
DF Nicolas Otamendi, 6 -- The lively Kramaric caused him plenty of issues in the first half. Needs to improve when the knockout stages resume in the new year.
DF Oleksandr Zinchenko, 6 -- Had a couple of awkward moments defensively and lost Reiss Nelson in the second half with Ederson helping him out. He was replaced shortly after.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, 6 -- Playing in a holding midfield role gave him the opportunity to play some incisive passes from deep, but he wan't as effective as Fernandinho at stopping the opposition's counter-attacks. His dead-ball delivery was excellent and led to two touches onto the woodwork and a pinpoint save from Oliver Baumann.
MF Phil Foden, 6 -- A lot of the focus was on the academy product and he found it hard to impose himself on the game in the first half. Improved in the second half and hit one ferocious volley. He will have learnt a lot from coming up against one of the most organised midfields in Europe.
MF Bernardo Silva, 6 -- Showed flashes of why he has been one of City's most creative players this season, but not quite at his best.
FW Raheem Sterling, 7 -- He looked unaffected by all the off-field spotlight of recent days and drove City forward after they fell behind.
FW Gabriel Jesus, 6 -- His lack of fortune in front of goal continues with one close-range header bouncing back off the foot of the post. Frustratingly, he was caught offside on too many occasions.
FW Leroy Sane, 8 -- Quiet first half until his stunning 30-yard free kick brought the sides level. After making a mess of a counter-attack with an unselfish pass, ruthlessly tucked away the second.
DF Kyle Walker, 6 -- Gave City a better shape in the second half.
MF Fabian Delph, 6 -- Brought on to stop the dangerous Nelson.
DF Vincent Kompany, N/R -- Late change to shore up the defence.