Raheem Sterling on Wednesday sealed a dramatic 3-2 UEFA Champions League win for 10-man Manchester City at Schalke 04 as the English champions scored twice in the final five minutes.
Sterling tucked away the winner at the Veltins-Arena in the 90th minute just after substitute Leroy Sane fired home a stunning free-kick for the Premier League leaders against his former club in the last-16 first leg.
“I waited for my chance and wanted to shoot from there, as I had previously scored from that position and it restored our confidence,” a delighted Sane told broadcaster DAZN.
Schalke led 2-1 at halftime as the video assistant referee (VAR) twice intervened to award penalties, both converted by Nabil Bentaleb, canceling out Sergio Aguero’s opener in Gelsenkirchen.
City were in real trouble with 22 minutes left when Nicolas Otamendi, who gave away the controversial first penalty, was sent off for a second yellow card before Sane’s moment of brilliance and Sterling’s winner.
“We will not go far in this competition unless we improve,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “At the end, the quality of Sane and Sterling made the difference.”
However, City still have some work to do in the return leg on March 12, with Fernandinho, who was booked when conceding the second spot-kick, and Otamendi both suspended.
Schalke are just above the Bundesliga’s relegation places and winless in their past four league games, yet they gave Premier League leaders Manchester City an almighty scare.
The hosts initially struggled to get out of their half as City dominated the opening 30 minutes, until the match swung dramatically Schalke’s way with the two penalty decisions.
Schalke shot themselves in the foot for City’s opening goal on 18 minutes, when a lazy pass from goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann to Salif Sane was snapped up by David Silva.
The Spaniard drew Faehrmann and selflessly served up a simple tap-in for Aguero to claim his 10th goal in his past seven City appearances.
However, falling behind sparked life into Schalke.
Striker Mark Uth fired wide, then former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Bentaleb got the better of Ilkay Gundogan in midfield.
Likewise, a cheer went up when US international Weston McKennie nicked the ball off Kevin de Bruyne.
Schalke drew level after Daniel Caligiuri fired in a speculative shot, which clipped Otamendi’s arm.
There was a delay of nearly three minutes for a VAR review, which Sky reported was caused by a technical problem, as referee Carlos del Cerro Grande could not view the replay.
Despite City’s furious protests, the spot-kick was duly awarded, which Bentaleb tucked away to the delight of the home crowd on 38 minutes and they would be celebrating again soon after.
The German side took the lead when Fernandinho pushed Senegal defender Salif Sane when a free-kick flew into the box, and VAR again intervened and another penalty went Schalke’s way.
Bentaleb stepped up to smash the spot-kick past Ederson and put Schalke ahead.
The second half was a much more even affair, with Schalke no longer intimidated to be playing star-studded City.
In turn, the visitors’ problems were compounded on 68 minutes when Otamendi clattered Schalke’s replacement forward Guido Burgstaller and was dismissed.
Guardiola reacted by swapping midfielder Silva for veteran centerback Vincent Kompany to settle the defense.
In a bid to turn the match with 13 minutes left, Sane came on for Aguero and the Germany international produced the goods against the club he left in 2016.
Then Sterling latched onto goalkeeper Ederson’s long clearance as the home defense hesitated and slotted in.
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