It was a bitter Winter evening in Manchester but that didn’t stop Hoffenheim fans travelling in their thousands with the visiting supporters bringing traffic to a standstill as they marched from Shambles Square to the Etihad Stadium.
With European football hanging in the balance, Hoffenheim had nothing to lose which was evident from the first whistle. The absence of Fernandinho in Manchester City’s midfield gave the visitors hope and it’s them who proved to be an early threat to City.
World Cup finalist Andrej Kramaric gave Hoffenheim an early lead after 15 minutes from the spot after Aymeric Laporte brought down Benjamin Hübner. The Croat deceived Ederson with a well-executed finished from 12 yards.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City could well have found an equaliser with Gabriel Jesus hitting the post moments later before Hoffenheim’s Oliver Baumann was forced into a goal-line save. Dominant since going a goal down, City’s persistence finally paid off with Leroy Sané finding the net with a sublime free kick in first-half stoppage time.
It’s evident that Guardiola was unhappy with the performance of his players in the first-half despite finding an equaliser. The Spaniard looked a frustrating figure in the technical area but his team came out with a clear game plan in the second-half.
Soaking up the Hoffenheim pressure, Manchester City looked deadly on the break on numerous occasions. Guardiola was again frustrated with City’s inability to convert a 3v1 situation on the break but it was Sané again who finally gave the hosts the lead midway through the first half.
Although fighting to the end, it was always going to be tough for the visitors with them needing Lyon to win in Ukraine and themselves to pick up three points in Manchester.
But as has been the case this season for Hoffenheim, their inability to defend has cost them wins.
1 | The talented Joelinton
With eight goals and seven assists in 21 games in all competitions this season for Hoffenheim, Joelinton was always going to be a danger man for Hoffenheim. Up against John Stones in the opening 45 minutes, Joelinton got the better of his opponent which resulted in Pep Guardiola hauling the Manchester City defender off at the break.
Joelinton has become an integral part of Julian Nagelsmann’s plans after two seasons on loan at Austrian club Rapid Wien and Wednesday night made it clear that the 22-year-old can do it against Europe’s best teams with his power and technical dribbling his key attributes.
2 | A Leroy Sané masterclass
Hoffenheim fans made their hate towards Germany international Leroy Sané clear every time he got near the ball near the travelling contingent but it was the 22-year-old who stole the show. Scoring the equaliser with a beautifully taken free kick, Sané was then on hand to score what proved to be the winner with a well-executed finish on the break.
It begs the question just as to why he didn’t go to Russia with Germany but as Pep Guardiola said earlier in the month, his exclusion from the national team has moulded the youngster into a better player. Sané is always capable of making something happen and he got the better of Hoffenheim’s Pavel Kadeřábek for most of the night.
3 | Hoffenheim may struggle without Julian Nagelsmann
It’s old news now that Julian Nagelsmann will be leaving his role at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in the summer in favour of a move to RB Leipzig. What the young tactician has achieved at Sinsheim in such a short space of time is nothing more than admirable but it does beg the question as to how Hoffenheim will do post departure.
Nagelsmann has brought consecutive European football to the Bundesliga club and he’s certainly put them on the map. Working well with sporting director Alexander Rosen, the duo have created an identity for the club, recruiting high profile players such as Andrej Kramaric and Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson, while Nagelsmann is known for his tactical nouse on the training pitch, revolutionising training with a video-wall that gives coaches the ability to playback and pause video.
By Daniel Pinder.