Lisbon, Aug 16 :
Gabriel Jesus was crouching on the field and crying. Not even the Manchester City jersey covering his face could mask the agony.
Raheem Sterling was lying across the turf, his hands crossed over his eyes.
Then, the Lyon players broke away from their celebrations to console opponents distraught at being knocked out of the Champions League without reaching the semifinals for a fourth straight season.
City, the most expensively assembled squad in football history, had lost 3-1 to the team that finished seventh in the French league.
It’s incredible because we’re the surprise team, Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes said. I don’t think many people expected us to reach this stage of the competition.”
While Lyon prepares to face Bayern Munich in its first Champions League semifinal in a decade, City must face up to another collapse in its quest to become European champions for the first time.
We need to learn it’s not good enough and that’s it, said Kevin De Bruyne, who scored City’s only goal to equalize before Moussa Demb l scored twice on Saturday.
Different year, same stuff. It leaves Pep Guardiola still waiting for a first Champions League title since 2011 while coaching Barcelona, falling short in three attempts with Bayern Munich before repeated failures with City. After surrendering the Premier League trophy to Liverpool, City ends the season with only the League Cup.
Guardiola’s decision to deploy an unfamiliar five-man defense to match Lyon’s system backfired when gaping holes were left at the back before Maxwel Cornet struck the opener in the 24th minute.
We won the tactical battle as we master our system of play, Lyon coach Rudi Garcia said.
De Bruyne equalized in the 69th but substitute Demb l restored the lead 10 minutes later by putting a shot under goalkeeper Ederson after being on the pitch for only four minutes.
Then came the chance to level again that will haunt Sterling. Facing an unguarded net at the far post, Sterling missed the target completely and Lyon extended its lead 59 seconds later with Demb l scoring again.
This was an error-strewn performance by City on a night when Guardiola was out-thought by Garcia, whose last major titles were the French league and cup double with Lille in 2011.
Rudi Garcia has left his mark, has instilled discipline, sporting director Juninho said. We grew up. Now we need a little humility, a little calm.
For the first time since 1996 the Champions League semifinals will not feature a side from England and Spain. Instead France will take on Germany in this unique pandemic-enforced conclusion to the Champions League in Lisbon, with single games without fans rather than two-legged semifinals.
After Paris Saint-Germain plays Leipzig on Tuesday, Lyon faces Bayern the following night just like it did in the 2010 semifinals. Bouyed by knocking out Juventus and City, Lyon will believe it can make the final this time, even against a Bayern side that thrashed Barcelona 8-2.
City’s biggest Champions League win of the season seemed to come off the pitch when its lawyers overturned a two-season ban from European competitions. But for a side that eliminated record 13-time champion Real Madrid in the previous round, losing to Lyon was not in the script.
Given that a place in the semifinals was on the line, City’s back line didn’t rise to the challenge.
The lack of urgency in dealing with Lyon’s advance for the opener was careless as Fernando Mar al sent a long ball over the top from inside his own half.
At that point Kyle Walker was alongside Cornet at the halfway line but the City right back lingered rather than tracking back.
Aymeric Laporte also lost the advancing Toko Ekambi. Eric Garcia did run back to make the sliding tackle that prevented Ekambi from shooting.
But Cornet had sprinted forward and was left unmarked to pick up the loose ball before exploiting Ederson being caught off his line. Cornet shot low past the goalkeeper into the corner of the net.
Fortune smiled on me again against them, said Cornet, who also scored three goals against City in two group stage games last season.
Although City began to find more space to attack, the only threat came from De Bruyne’s free kicks.
More creativity was added when Guardiola replaced Fernandinho with Riyad Mahrez who created the equalizer. The Algerian passed long down the left flank to Sterling and the ball was cut back for the unmarked De Bruyne to curl into the bottom corner.
Lyon made its own game-changing substitution with the arrival in the 75th minute of Demb l , who met Maxence Caqueret’s pass to complete a counterattack four minutes later.
City hoped the goal would be overturned by VAR for a foul on Laporte in the buildup but it was allowed to stand.
There were gasps among the few people allowed into the stadium when Gabriel Jesus squared across the face of goal. Sterling leaned back to make the connection at the far post but missed the target completely.
This team is great, De Bruyne said, but we make too many mistakes. Had Ederson saved Houssem Aouar’s tame shot at the other end, City might still have been able to force the game into extra time. But it was spilled and Demb l was primed to complete the job.
Lyon has to lift the European Cup for the first time to return to the competition next season after only finishing seventh in a domestic league curtailed after being suspended in March due to the pandemic.
It’s not down to luck, Cornet said. We worked really hard in training before returning to competitive football.(AP)