Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said his side “forgot to attack” against Basel as they suffered their first home defeat since 2016 but still reached the Champions League quarter-finals.
City’s 4-0 away win meant Wednesday’s second leg of the last-16 tie was almost a formality, with Pep Guardiola resting several first-team players.
They led through Gabriel Jesus’s opener from Bernardo Silva’s cross – his first goal since November.
But Mohamed Elyounoussi lashed home a leveller and then set up Michael Lang’s second-half winner.
The Premier League champions elect, who dominated the first half but wilted after the break, actually broke the Champions League record for passes completed in a game – 978 – despite losing. This was three days after breaking the league landmark with 902 against Chelsea.
But Guardiola was not too impressed, saying: “Just to pass the ball for itself is nothing.
“The first half was quite good but in the second half we forgot to attack, we forgot to play. When we pass the ball we do it to move through the opponents to attack. The second half was really, really poor.
“It is not easy to play with a 4-0 lead. I think in the first half we showed we wanted to win the game. We created a lot of chances and we were good.
“But after 1-1 in the second half, it didn’t happen. We just passed for itself and when that happens, that is not football.”
It is only the second time City have reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup or Champions League. Juventus, Real Madrid and Liverpool are the other sides to have clinched their last-eight spots this week.
Guardiola – who has won the Champions League twice with Barcelona but not since 2011 – is not worried about a repeat of the performance in the next round.
“In the quarter-finals, this kind of situation is not going to happen – to play the second game 4-0 up, the rhythm will be completely different,” he said.
Job done – sort of – for City
The damage was done in Switzerland three weeks ago.
A much-changed City were impressive going forward in the first half, although John Stones and Aymeric Laporte had some shaky moments at the back.
Their 17-year-old midfielder Phil Foden – the youngest Englishman to play in a Champions League knockout game – showed some good touches in midfield and earned praised from Guardiola.
“In the second half, maybe he and Leroy [Sane] were the only ones who tried to be aggressive, who tried to do something, to get the ball and go forward,” Guardiola said.
Silva and Sane were explosive at times in the first half, with both players having a hand in their goal.
Sane ran from deep, played a one-two with Foden and charged on some more before playing the ball right to Silva. His low cross was tapped in at the back post by Jesus, making his first start of 2018.
Elyounoussi equalised for Basel after finding some space in the box but City still dominated the first half. Ilkay Gundogan forced a save and the German and Yaya Toure both had shots blocked.
The second half was poorer, though, and City fell to just a fourth defeat of the season and first at home since 3 December 2016 when they lost 3-1 to Chelsea.
The hosts lacked bite going forward and left room at the back for Lang to receive Elyounoussi’s pass and smash into the top of the net at Bravo’s near post.
Guardiola named Ederson, Kyle Walker, Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne and Nicolas Otamendi on the bench in case of emergency, but he only introduced more youngsters from the bench.
Basel catch out City
Basel’s dominance of Swiss football looks like it might come to an end this year. Having won eight titles in a row, they sit 14 points behind leaders Young Boys this season.
But at least they ended their European campaign on a high. No team have ever gone through having lost the first leg 4-0 at home and boss Raphael Wicky never pretended an unprecedented comeback was on the cards, saying before the game that it would “look a bit daft” to talk about it.
He did set his side a target of winning the second leg, though, and they achieved it – in front of a sizeable, noisy away support.
They deserved their victory – with City midfielder Yaya Toure even saying so after the game.
Elyounoussi had a hand in both goals, scoring the first and then assisting right-back Lang – who scored his second winner against a Manchester side in the Champions League this season – having netted the only goal against United in the group stages.
Stats – City break passing record
- Manchester City have made it through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for just the second time, having only previously done so in 2015-16, when they reached the semi-finals (knocked out by Real Madrid).
- City’s 13-game winning streak at home as well as their 36-game unbeaten run at Etihad Stadium (W29 D7) came to an end.
- They have never won the second leg of a last-16 tie in the Champions League (D1 L4).
- Manchester City have scored in each of their last 13 Champions League games.
- Only Barcelona (23), Bayern Munich (15), Real Madrid (11) and Juventus (nine) have won more Champions League games against English clubs than FC Basel (six).
- Basel have won their last three away games in the Champions League (against CSKA Moscow, Benfica and Manchester City) – their best run in the competition.
- Only Sergio Aguero (18) and Kevin de Bruyne (11) have been involved in more goals for Manchester City in all competitions in 2018 than Bernardo Silva (10 – five goals, five assists).
- City completed 978 passes in this game – the most recorded by a side in a Champions League match since 2003-04 (when Opta began recording this metric).
‘Man City are one of the top two or three teams in the world’
FC Basel coach Wicky was asked if his side had gone out to the eventual winners.
“That is really difficult to say. For me, Manchester City are one of the top two or three teams in the world at the moment – they have showed that for months in all competitions, playing every three days, why they are one of the top favourites for the Champions League.
“But we all know the Champions League is a competition that depends on the form on the day and the draw has to go right so it is difficult to say how it will go, but in terms of quality and momentum then this team is clearly one of the top two or three teams.”
Man of the match – Geoffroy Serey Die (Basel)
Manchester City – four wins from clinching the Premier League title – go to Stoke on Monday (20:00 GMT). Basel visit mid-table Luzern on Sunday.