Haaland on target as Man City cruise into Champions League quarters

Manchester City’s Norwegian striker #09 Erling Haaland (R) vies with FC Copenhagen’s Danish defender #19 Elias Jelert (L) and FC Copenhagen’s Scottish defender #26 Scott McKenna (C) in the build-up to scoring their third goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16, second-leg, football match between Manchester City and FC Copenhagen at the Etihad Stadium, in Manchester, north west England, on March 6, 2024. AFP

Manchester City cruised into a seventh consecutive Champions League quarter-final as a much-changed side still put FC Copenhagen to the sword 3-1 on Wednesday to progress 6-2 on aggregate.

Goals from Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez killed the tie as a contest inside 10 minutes before Erling Haaland drilled in his 29th goal of the season.

Mohamed Elyounoussi briefly reduced the Danish champions deficit to 2-1 on the night, but Copenhagen were outclassed over two legs as the European champions remain on course for another treble.

City are involved in a tight three-way title race at the top of the Premier League with Liverpool and Arsenal and will face Newcastle in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Pep Guardiola showed he had one eye on Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash at Liverpool as he made seven changes from the side that beat Manchester United at the weekend.

Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva were among those to spend the 90 minutes on the bench to rest up ahead of the trip to Anfield.

But City were still a class apart and aided on their way into the last eight by some comical Copenhagen defending.

Akanji made a sweet connection with Alvarez’s outswinging corner but was given far too much room in the centre of the box to find the top corner.

Worse was to come for the visitors as former Liverpool goalkeeper Kamil Grabara let a simple shot from Alvarez slip through his grasp.

The 2,500 strong visiting support from Copenhagen refused to be downhearted as they kept a flat atmosphere at the Etihad going, and they had something to cheer on the half-hour mark.

Former Southampton and Celtic winger Elyounoussi drove forward with purpose and exchanged a slick one-two with Orri Oskarsson before firing into the far corner.

Haaland had been having a quiet night until he sprang into action in first-half stoppage time.

The Norwegian was picked out by Rodri before chopping onto his favoured left foot and firing in at Grabara’s near post.

That took Haaland’s total to 41 Champions League goals, matching the tally of City’s all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero, but in just 37 appearances for three different clubs.

The goals also set a record for City as they became the first side to score three or more goals in nine consecutive Champions League or European Cup home games.

Rodri’s assist was his final act as the Spaniard was withdrawn at half-time to keep him fresh for the weekend.

City took their foot off the gas in the second period and could have been punished but for some smart goalkeeping from Ederson to deny Magnus Mattsson.

But Guardiola’s men are rounding ominously into form for those trying to dethrone them in England and in Europe.

City have won 18 and drawn two of their last 20 games in all competitions and remain the side to beat when the draw for the Champions League quarters and semi-finals takes place on March 15.

Madrid edge past Leipzig into Champions League quarters

Real Madrid scraped through into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 1-1 second-leg draw against RB Leipzig on Wednesday, progressing 2-1 on aggregate.

The record 14-time champions were far below their best but did just enough over the two legs of the last-16 clash to edge out their Bundesliga opponents.

Despite Leipzig shading the game, Vinicius Junior opened the scoring in the 65th minute after being set up well by Jude Bellingham.

Willi Orban quickly levelled for the visitors but they could not find a second goal to force extra-time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“It was not our best day, but we have to be happy because the objective is complete, which was to get into the next round,” Madrid captain Nacho Fernandez told Movistar.

“When things don’t go as you want, you have to battle, to fight, to play games like today’s that make you grow and learn, and then think about the next one.”

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti warned his players before the game they needed to be at their best to progress and showed his cautious side by playing four midfielders behind Bellingham and Vinicius.

The Italian brought Aurelien Tchouameni forward into defensive midfield, also deploying Eduardo Camavinga, Fede Valverde and Toni Kroos, as he looked to protect the 1-0 first-leg lead.

However Ancelotti’s gameplan stunted Madrid’s own attacking game without completely stifling Leipzig’s.

The German side had the better of the first half, albeit without carving out clear chances until just before the break.

Andriy Lunin palmed away a strike from Xavi Simons, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, while Lois Openda rifled a shot into the side netting.

Ancelotti shifted back to a more typical set-up for the second half, introducing Rodrygo at half-time for Camavinga.

It opened up the game at both ends and Vinicius began to have more influence after a quiet first half — albeit not always for good. The Brazilian was booked for barging Orban in the back and then shoving the Leipzig captain.

Vinicius delivers 

Vinicius’ frustration quickly turned to joy though when Bellingham burst forward, showing superb timing to release the forward, who fired into the top corner at the end of a smart counter-attack.

Toni Kroos started the break and despite being outnumbered, Bellingham and Vinicius showed their decisive quality to send the hosts ahead.

Madrid’s delight was short-lived though, with Orban levelling just three minutes later.

The Hungarian defender’s excellent diving header from David Raum’s cross set up a gripping denouement.

Madrid striker Joselu, on as a substitute, sent a tame effort at Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi before Dani Olmo hit the woodwork.

The former Barcelona youth player’s lob dropped on to the crossbar and out of play as thousands of Madrid fans held their breath.

Europe’s most crowned side were taken to the wire on a nervy night by Marco Rose’s side, only founded in 2009, but steeled themselves and held on to progress.

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