- Riyad Mahrez began demolition in 7th minute with a close-range volley that was only given after VAR
- Silva then scored in the 17th and 44th minutes — either side of Foden’s goal in the 32nd minute
- Raheem Sterling curled in a sublime fifth in the 58th minute
Manchester City were good in the Champions League on Tuesday that even the fans of their opponents couldn’t help but applaud.
When Phil Foden side-footed home the third of City’s four first-half goals in a 5-0 win over Sporting in the last 16, it wasn’t just the vocal away fans showing their appreciation inside the Estádio José Alvalade.
Some of the home supporters were also seen clapping in recognition of one of the most dominant performances ever seen at this stage of Europe’s top club competition.
Helping inflict the humiliation were four players who once played for Sporting’s fierce Lisbon rival, Benfica. One of them was Bernardo Silva, who scored two of the goals — his first an outrageous half-volley that flew in off the underside of the crossbar.
Riyad Mahrez began the demolition in the seventh minute with a close-range volley that was only given after a long video review.
Silva then scored in the 17th and 44th minutes — either side of Foden’s well-worked team goal in the 32nd — as City went into half time leading 4-0.
Raheem Sterling curled in a sublime fifth in the 58th and Pep Guardiola’s team can start planning for the quarterfinals, even with the second leg still to come in three weeks.
Not that City manager Pep Guardiola, as close to a perfectionist as there is in world soccer, was getting too carried away.
“The players know me — they know the way we work. They can do better,” Guardiola said. “I am incredibly happy, don’t misunderstand me, but we can do better.”
What did please Guardiola was City's efficiency in front of goal, which is something he often criticizes his players for.
“Today we were so clinical,” he said. "Every time we arrived in the first 30 minutes, we scored. The difference between the teams is not 0-5, but we finished so well.”
For Sporting and its fans, it was that sinking feeling again in the last 16 — where the club hasn't been since the 2008-09 season.
On that occasion, the Portuguese team was embarrassed 12-1 on aggregate by Bayern Munich after losing 5-0 at home and 7-1 away.
The thrashing by City must have felt similar.
As for the English club, tougher tests are coming in the Champions League but these kinds of performances are why many make it the favorite to win the competition for the first time.
It was City’s ninth straight appearance in the knockout stage and the team arrived on the back of a stunning run of form that had seen it lose just one of its last 20 games in all competitions.
The mismatch was obvious from the moment Mahrez guided in a volley with his right foot after Foden had a shot tipped aside by Antonio Adán. The ball fell to Kevin De Bruyne and he teed up Mahrez for the finish, only for VAR to check if De Bruyne was offside when Foden got his shot away.
The second goal was the highlight of the match, with Bernardo showing audacity to take a shot on the half-volley after Rodri got his head on a deep corner from Mahrez. Somehow, the Portugal playmaker got his foot over the ball and guided it powerfully in off the bar.
And when Foden coolly converted Mahrez's right-wing cross, sparking applause from both sets of fans, it was already a case of damage limitation for Sporting.
Bernardo's second was a deflected shot that spun into the net past the wrong-footed Adán and the midfielder was only denied a hat trick by VAR, which spotted he was slightly offside before heading in De Bruyne's cross three minutes into the second half.
It was a brief respite for Sporting as Sterling, the scorer of a hat trick against Norwich in the Premier League on Saturday, cut inside from the left and curled a shot into the top corner for what proved to be the final goal of a one-sided game.
Sporting's fans stood and whirled their scarves in the final minutes in a passionate show of support for their team, which had been on the end of a clinic by City.
The worrying thing for the Portuguese team is there are still 90 minutes left for more potential embarrassment at the hands of Guardiola's team.
“There is still a job to do in Manchester,” Bernardo said. “We cannot relax.”
(Reported by AP)