The game started brightly at the VELTINS-Arena, with a flurry of free kicks and corners from Man City, as well as the partisan home crowd in loud voice. However, the German crowd was stunned in the 18th minute. Sergio Agüero punished a sloppy mistake from the Schalke defence to score his 24th goal of the season and put City in front. The goal was confirmed a couple of minutes later by VAR, due to a perceived foul by Laporte in the build up, although it would be City who would suffer next from the new technology.
Before the half time whistle blew, City were 2-1 behind from 2 penalties. Firstly, a shot was rifled at Nicolas Otamendi and a penalty was given after the ball struck the defender’s outstretched arm. Both Schalke and City players surrounded the referee in protest and the decision was only made after 5 minutes due to a fault with the pitch side VAR screen. If the City players were feeling hard done by, that would be further compounded a few minutes later when Fernandinho pulled down Salif Sané inside the area after a quick and clever Schalke set piece. Ex-Tottenham midfielder, Nabil Bentaleb scored his second penalty of the night, beating Ederson once again to put his side ahead.
The game had turned on its head for City, although there was more twists and turns to come. The visitors came out attacking but an organised Schalke defence spurned City’s chances and they were unable to break down the resolute back line. Things worsened for City on 68 minutes when Otamendi stupidly fouled Burgstallar resulting in a red card and the Blues playing the last 20 minutes with 10 men. This reinvigorated the side instead of hindering them and they managed to turn the tide in a thrilling end to the second half. In the 84th minute, Man City’s own Leroy Sané curled a wonderful free kick into the top corner to level the score against his old club, before Ederson launched a 70 yard pass up to Sterling to cleanly finish in the 90th to seal a spectacular comeback.
Schalke will be left scratching their heads about how to approach the away leg at the Etihad on 13th March - after not managing another shot on target apart from their penalties. The officials at UEFA will hopefully be figuring out how to get VAR functioning efficiently. And Man City will be mulling over their options; with Fernandinho and Otamendi banned for the next Schalke game and the defence still shipping silly goals it remains to be seen whether they can actually contend for 4 trophies this season.