Manchester City booked their spot in the Champions League quarterfinals in emphatic fashion in Budapest, inflicting another 2-0 defeat on Borussia Monchengladbach to win 4-0 on aggregate. The German side arrived for the "away" leg of their round of 16 tie in the worst possible form with their previous seven games having brought one draw and six defeats.
Few would have seriously expected them to overturn their first-leg deficit but even the most optimistic of Gladbach supporters would have concluded that the tie was over when Kevin De Bruyne struck a powerful effort in off the crossbar in 12 minutes.
It did not take long for City to double their lead, a Phil Foden backheel slipping Ilkay Gundogan in behind for his 15th goal of the season. It was all Gladbach could do to stem the tide from there on out as they became the latest side to fall to Pep Guardiola's relentless winning machine.
City are through to the quarterfinals along with Real Madrid, Liverpool, Porto, PSG and Dortmund. The last two spots will be decided Wednesday with Chelsea-Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich-Lazio on Paramount+.
Here are takeaways from the match.
City cut loose
Above all you just got the sense that City were having a great time. They were not afraid to try something a bit more difficult, tactically and technically. Players would wander where they wanted, particularly De Bruyne, whose drifts deep opened up space for the likes of Gundogan and Foden to run into.
Meanwhile Joao Cancelo was so inverted a left-back that on occasion he popped up in the right channel to interplay with Kyle Walker. Such timid opposition gave City a chance to cruise through the gears but crucially you never got the sense that they had taken their foot off the gas, at least in the first half.
City would press in great numbers, Gundogan and Bernardo in particular hounding the opposition midfield whilst on the rare occasions Gladbach managed to advance the ball up the pitch they would be the subject of firm but fair hits from John Stones and Ruben Dias.
De Bruyne's perfectly sliced strike from 25 yards killed off the tie (if it wasn't already dead) but City were in no mood to let up and scored one of their best goals of the season soon after, a 15-pass masterwork of patience followed by the devastating slice through the heart of Gladbach.
It might even be more satisfying to see the pass graphic from on high than it is to watch the goal play out.
All of this freeflowing attacking play came without Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero or Raheem Sterling; in effect this was a team designed to dominate play safe in the knowledge that they did not need a 20-goal-a-season forward in the side to kill off this contest. That fact will offer an intriguing option for Guardiola in the latter stages of this competition.
What is keeping Rose at Gladbach?
Aside from the pay off from Borussia Dortmund that Gladbach can hope to receive should they keep Marco Rose until the end of the season it is hard to see what tangible benefit Die Fohlen are getting from keeping their soon-to-be ex-manager at the club. Since they themselves announced their head coach's exit on Feb. 15 this team has lost six in a row, extending what had been a wobble into a full-blown collapse that has seen them exit the Champions League in meek fashion as they slide into mid-table in the Bundesliga.
It is a frustrating end to a season that had begun in bright fashion and that ought not to have gone in this direction. Even at full intensity Gladbach almost certainly could not have matched this City but they are a team that merited their place in the last 16.
This is a collection of good players who can do damage to even teams as good as City. They had already proven that in coming out of a group including Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk and there was passages of quality in this game as well, most notably Marcus Thuram slipping through Breel Embolo to drive wide. Yet those moments were few and far between, as soon as City upped the intensity again the players just dropped.
How could Rose get his message through to players who know he is soon to be gone? What is there to motivate these players beyond personal pride? That certainly is not enough.