For the first time since 2006, there will be no Champions League semi-finals involving Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
The search for new legends is increasing. Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Robert Lewandowski have already shown their talents in Lisbon and Saturday night seemed like the perfect setting for prime Premier League candidate Kevin De Bruyne to follow.
It did not happen, largely because of Pep Guardiola’s tactical decisions, that the Belgian played out of position in the first half and then was deprived of technical players around him during the second half.
Kevin De Bruyne and Manchester City were again eliminated in the quarter finals
Manchester City’s main man equalized, leaving Pep Guardiola hoping for progress
However, two late goals from Moussa Dembélé mean that De Bruyne has to wait another year
One felt terribly sorry for the 29-year-old who now has to wonder if he will ever get his hands on the coveted Champions League.
Despite Jordan Henderson’s selection as Footballer of the Year, most agree that the Manchester City midfielder is the best player in the country at just over a mile.
His record of 16 assists last season was not only a class high, but double that of everyone else except Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Despite all the praise, at the age of 29, De Bruyne knows he must lead City to their first Champions League title in their history to reach the tenuous atmosphere of legends and balloon d’Or winners.
As an intelligent and inquisitive footballer, like many of the great Belgian players, he will wonder why Pep Guardiola seemed to have a tactical brainstorm against Lyon that negated many of his own qualities.
Despite all his undisputed brilliance, Guardiola has sometimes been accused of overcomplicating things for one-off matches and that seemed to be the case for a long time yesterday.
Pep Guardiola’s tactical decisions during the game were unsuccessful for Manchester City
Rather than allowing De Bruyne his usual role to come forward from the right side of midfield in a 4-3-3, where he can see the game and deliver accurate passes, the lead maker was sitting wide out. the right side, a virtual winger in a 3-4-3.
Not only that, all of De Bruyne’s skilled henchmen – David Silva, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden – all stayed on the bench, leaving him without like-minded teammates who could create space for him.
City entered the game with clear favorites to beat the seventh-best team in France. Guardiola’s decision to tinker with Lyon’s back-five always seemed like an unreliable move, and the early signs were not encouraging, especially from their star man.
De Bruyne, who was closer to the sidelines than we would normally see him, puffed and puffed instead of slid. He seemed to be working too hard instead of letting things happen naturally.
His first touch was a volleyball intended for Gabriel Jesus, but aimed straight at Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes instead. A few set pieces, usually his strongest point, were both too close to the goalkeeper.
De Bruyne was played on the right side and cuddled closer to the sidelines than usual
Frustration increased when the underdogs scored first after 24 minutes through Maxwel Cornet.
De Bruyne’s only signature pass at the end of the first half was not used by Raheem Sterling.
The Belgian, who has grown from a calm boy at Chelsea and Wolfsburg to an influential dressing room leader, was City’s acting captain during the lockdown and appeared on all Zoom calls on Project Restart to represent the club in place of the official skipper. David Silva.
You could see his visible frustration grow when City’s attempts to equalize hit a French wall. He took the armband when Fernandinho was changed and got two free kicks on the edge of the penalty area that he would normally have gobbled up in domestic football.
This time he put the first too close to Lopes who gave away with a flying save for the TV cameras. The second was sent across the bar.
In the meantime, De Bruyne was the go-to man for City as Neymar had been for PSG on Wednesday evening when they were behind Atalanta.
De Bruyne’s attempt to get Manchester City back into the game was rewarded after 70 minutes
He moved geographically to central areas where he could have more effect on the game. He had a sighter with a point and shot that was blocked at the last minute by former Manchester City defender Jason Denayer of Lyon.
Real champions of course do not give up and De Bruyne’s efforts were finally rewarded after 70 minutes. When Sterling squirmed to the byline on the left and looked back, he would have been happy to see his illustrious teammate break into the box at the right moment.
Sterling’s cut was perfect and De Bruyne didn’t waste his moment, opening his right foot and shooting low to the corner past Lopes, his 19th goal of the season but surprisingly only his second in the Champions League.
The relief was short-lived. Ten minutes later Lyon started the offside trap and Moussa Dembele, once of Celtic, defeated Ederson. De Bruyne led protests that Aymeric Laporte had been polluted in the run, but to no avail.
De Bruyne was visibly frustrated when Manchester City no longer made it past the last eight
Guardiola’s failure to get his technicians off the couch to help De Bruyne, meanwhile, became more difficult to understand. It took 56 minutes for winger Riyad Mahrez to move De Bruyne to the infield and until the 83rd minute for David Silva to arrive.
It was too little, too late. Sterling missed a sitter to equalize and Lyon went to the other side to score their third, again from Dembele.
It means that De Bruyne will have to wait another year for the Champions League that deserves his talent. He is now going on vacation with Neymar and others claiming to be the ‘best player’ in the world once Ronaldo and Messi leave the podium.
De Bruyne may not have been at his best, but on this occasion he was not helped by his illustrious manager.