It looked like an unpleasant evening for Manchester City, and not just because of the plastic turf.
Numerous missed chances and then a real equalizer seemed to end their 100 percent record in this group.
But a controversial penalty opened things up, and you know who sent it. One of the Swiss daily newspapers featured Erling Haaland as a cartoon giant on its front page that morning.
The Tiny Young Boys defenders were drawn in and clung to him with rope. The headline asked how they managed to tame the most menacing man in Europe. Nowhere did it say that he shouldn’t be punished. Actually not necessary: that much is completely obvious.
Using Mohamed Camara over Rodri was a decision and City are not the type to capitalize on a fortune, so they are very short of qualifying for the last 16 again. An intense evening, but overall a breezy group phase.
The artificial turf and rainy conditions left one of the greatest midfielders of his generation paralyzed. A routine ball into Guardiola’s technical area just had to be collected and passed on to Ulisses Garcia for the Young Boys left-back to resume play.
Guardiola’s legs went away and a confused manager stared at his feet as the ball wobbled back and forth. When he finally got it under control, his black dress shoe couldn’t find any purchase as he tried to throw the thing into Garcia’s arms.
And there were fewer people better than him back then. Now a mere mortal on the slippery artificial turf. Could have just as easily been at any Power League. It was one of those nights when you were playing with a group of five mates and the most practical thing was to throw the ball towards the other end of the cage and run after it.
Erling Haaland tried something not too dissimilar, using brute force to charge through the middle past three defenders as City realized that any kind of extended passing pattern was simply too dangerous against an opponent who sprung into action on command. The command was any casual touch.
Filip Ugrinic had warned them within seconds, Joel Monteiro embarrassed the dawdling Nathan Ake before his striker stung Ederson in the palms. Ake later made a decisive intervention to prevent Sandro Lauper from sliding into City’s goal on the counterattack.
City, who had trained on this surface 24 hours earlier, had begun to gain more control. Rodri headed Matheus Nunes’ corner wide before the summer signing powered past Jack Grealish’s cross.
What Grealish did to the good people of Bern is known only to the locals, but – as is common at any away ground in England – the No.10 was constantly mocked at every touch, with the strange obsession that he is now continental. The fact that his accidental collision with Lewin Blum cost blood hardly added to the animosity.
He was good, Grealish. Probably their most productive player before the break, which felt fitting ahead of Sunday’s derby. Again it was he who held off Jeremy Doku, but the winger hesitated too long, deflected his left foot and pushed it away when he should have hit it with his stronger right. Doku later made a much better save from Anthony Racioppi, whose shot appeared to deflect from the edge of the box.
The chances increased, Racioppi’s right foot reached a Rodri shot that seemed dangerous from another corner.
Loris Benito had a goal cleared off the line when the goalkeeper fumbled with Nunes following him. A £53million signing from Wolves, Nunes has never shone in the City shirt. The role directly behind the striker is a concept he is not particularly familiar with and it is showing at the moment.
However, City returned from the break with renewed vigor and forced corners. Manuel Akanji’s header from a Grealish cross hit the post before the Swiss hero managed to score in his own back yard three minutes into the second half. Ruben Dias attacked a Rodri center more aggressively than anyone else, Racioppi tipped it onto the crossbar but Akanji shot over the line.
It should have calmed City down. It has not. A ridiculously high line was revealed four minutes later by a long ball across goal as Meschack Elia ran behind Rico Lewis. He was finished with a task to be done; Ederson stormed out, Elia calmly threw himself over him.
For a while this place resembled the famous Bear Pit a mile down the road. The beasts there, a tourist attraction, are not expected to go into hibernation for another few weeks, and there was no place for the young to hide here either.
The home side were outraged by the penalty awarded by the desperate Morten Krough for Mohamed Camara’s fall on Rodri. VAR agreed with the Danish official and Haaland did the rest. Guardiola sent on Bernardo Silva and Julian Alvarez, with the latter seeing a third goal disallowed for offside.
However, Haaland missed further chances, sliding wide and then throwing an unconvincing effort as he got through, before finally scoring his second, curling with class on his right foot.