Real struggles past Atalanta despite a man advantage

Bernardo Silva scored once and set up another as Manchester City eased to a 2-0 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach in their Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday, extending its winning run to 19 games in all competitions.

City, which is unbeaten in its last 26 matches, has a huge advantage for the March 16 return leg in Manchester after Silva headed in a pinpoint Joao Cancelo cross in the 29th minute to put it in front.

Jesus on target

The Portuguese midfielder then headed on another Cancelo cross in the 65th minute for Gabriel Jesus to stab in.

The first leg was played in the Hungarian capital due to COVID-19 travel restrictions in Germany.

City quickly took control of the game, circulating the ball well and looking for openings in the Gladbach defence.

Phil Foden tested keeper Yann Sommer with a crisp shot in the sixth minute but City did not have a clear scoring chance despite controlling possession until Silva’s header.

Jesus should have done much better when he benefited from a Gladbach pass back early in the first half but with only Sommer to beat he hesitated and lost possession.

The Brazilian made amends minutes later, tapping in a Silva header from yet another superb Cancelo cross.

Gladbach, who only had one attempt on target in the entire game, had its best chance through Alassane Plea’s spectacular backflick-volley just past the hour but was otherwise boxed in its own half.

The Germans have now lost three of their last four games in all competitions and while City is on the cusp of a fourth straight quarterfinal spot, the Germans have a mountain to climb in the return leg.

City coach Pep Guardiola, however, said the team was not clinical enough. “The first leg is always more difficult. Up front, we have to be more clinical,” Guardiola said.

“The one-against-one (for Gabriel Jesus) against the keeper. In this competition, you have to be perfect to make sure that you go through.”

“In general, it was good. We controlled the game and conceded a chance at the end,” Guardiola said.

In Bergamo, Italy, Ferland Mendy popped up with a winner in the 86th minute to earn lacklustre Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Atalanta.

Real’s task appeared to have been made much easier after Atalanta’s Remo Freuler was sent off in the 17th minute for denying Mendy a goal-scoring opportunity. However, Zinedine Zidane’s side struggled to break down the host.

Atalanta continued to defend doggedly after the interval, but Mendy’s superb strike in the 86th minute gave the Spanish side a slender lead to take into the second leg.

The results: Atalanta 0 lost to Real Madrid 1 (Mendy 86); Borussia M’Gladbach 0 lost to Manchester City 2 (Bernardo Silva 29, Jesus 65).

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