The easier Manchester City make it look, the less credit they get

Bernardo Silva of Manchester City (C ) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the Round Of Sixteen Leg One - UEFA Champions League match between Sporting CP and Manchester City at Alvalade stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, on February 15, 2022. (Photo by Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
By Sam Lee Feb 16, 2022 188
So, that is the first time a team has scored four in the first half of a Champions League knockout game.

Of course it was Manchester City. They are so good they can turn up at the home of the champions of another country and make it look like a trip to Carrow Road.

But it can be hard to know where to pitch City’s brilliance sometimes. Was their evisceration of Sporting Lisbon the latest demonstration of their technical and tactical brilliance or a damning indictment of the state of football?

Maybe a bit of both. Look at the other games in which a team has scored more than four away from home in the Champions League knockout rounds and it’s all the same sort of thing: Bayern Munich and Liverpool did it to Sporting and Porto. Real Madrid did it to Schalke. Schalke did it to Inter Milan, which is a bit of an outlier, and Bayern did it to Arsenal, which was probably a time to start worrying about The State of the Game.

All these results have happened since 2009. Europe’s elite have been pulling away from the rest for ages, and City jumped on board before UEFA made it almost impossible for anybody else to do so — directly or indirectly — with financial fair play.

If European football is heading further and further away from The Good Old Days then the blame can hardly be laid at City’s door.

And of that list above, only Real Madrid went on to win the competition after handing out their hidings. City have done similar to Basel and Borussia Monchengladbach in recent years, too, but things get much tougher in the later rounds, so there’s no point in getting carried away in either direction.

And try this one on for size: City weren’t even at their best in Lisbon. Yet they still had the whole tie wrapped up within 32 minutes.