By Williams ‘Bantu’ Irubor
Sergio Aguero scored twice as Man City battled back to beat Monaco 5-3 in a remarkable Champions League last-16 first-leg on Tuesday.
Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappe cancelled out Raheem Sterling’s opener to put Monaco on top at half-time at the Etihad after a breathless opening 45 minutes.
The pace didn’t ease up after the break as Aguero equalised and Falcao made amends after his second-half penalty was saved, brilliantly chipping Willy Caballero to put Monaco 3-2 ahead.
But the French side collapsed in the final 20 minutes, conceding three times to hand City a first-leg advantage. Aguero levelled for a second time and two goals in five minutes from John Stones and Leroy Sane completed the scoring.
It ensures City take a two-goal cushion back to France for the return leg on March 15.
It was a stunning attacking performance from both sides, albeit one aided by some woeful defending as a Champions League first-leg tie ended with eight goals scored for the first time in the competition’s history.
Stones and Caballero each atoned for errors, with the City goalkeeper also on hand to prevent Falcao from scoring a hat-trick with a late stop.
Pep Guardiola made seven changes from the goalless draw at Huddersfield in the FA Cup, while Monaco, the highest scorers in European football this season, recalled Mbappe as one of four alterations from their 1-1 draw against Bastia.
Sterling’s close-range finish broke the deadlock after a lively start as the winger tapped in after excellent work by Sane, but Monaco’s response was swift.
A poor clearance by Caballero put his side under pressure and Falcao converted Fabinho’s fine cross with a diving header.
City felt they should have been given the chance to go back in front when Aguero then went down under the challenge of goalkeeper Danijel Subasic in the penalty area.
There appeared to be contact between striker and ‘keeper but Aguero was booked for diving, leaving Guardiola up in arms on the touchline.
To add insult to injury, Monaco grabbed their second five minutes before half-time. City failed to deal with a long ball forward, allowing impressive teenager Mbappe to race clear of Nicolas Otamendi and fire over Caballero.
The City defender endured a difficult night and conceded a penalty two minutes after the break, tangling with Falcao in the box.
Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz pointed to the spot but Caballero stepped up to save the Colombian striker’s tame effort. The stop means City have saved each of their last five penalties in the Champions League, two by Caballero and three by Joe Hart.
A howler from Subasic allowed City to get back on level terms as Aguero’s low shot squirmed into the net, but once again Monaco responded immediately.
Less than three minutes had passed when Falcao shrugged off a weak challenge from Stones and expertly chipped home his second to put the Ligue 1 club back in front.
The home side’s frustration with the referee only grew after he waved away Sterling’s appeal for a penalty, but City kept their composure to capitalise on poor Monaco defending in the closing stages.
Aguero volleyed in from a City corner to make it 3-3 and Stones turned past Subasic from another City delivery six minutes later.
Monaco pushed back in search of an equaliser but were caught out when David Silva sliced open their defence, with Aguero setting up Sane for City’s fifth.
There was still time for one final opportunity as Falcao, who managed just two goals in 15 appearances in Manchester during his time at Man Utd, was denied his third of the evening by Caballero’s reflex stop.