Football Features

“Purest footballer” Bernardo Silva breaks mum’s heart to put Man City in full control of Champions League last 16 tie

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:26, 15 February 2022

Bernardo Silva put in an inspired performance to help Manchester City take full control of their Champions League last 16 tie against Sporting CP.

Pep Guardiola’s side travelled to Lisbon on Tuesday night and will have been hoping for a result that would have them almost guaranteed them a spot in the quarter-finals. In the build up to the match a lot of the talk was about the abolition of the away goals rule and how that would effect first legs.

But Sporting will be glad of the rule going out as Man City put five past them at the José Alvalade Stadium. And it was former Benfica man Silva running the show.

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Having come through the academy at Benfica, with the club in his blood, Silva will have a hatred for Sporting ingrained in him. But he didn’t actually play any games for Benfica against Sporting’s first team before moving to Monaco in 2014.

Seven-and-a-half years later, Silva returned to Lisbon and made Sporting feel his wrath with two goals and one assist in the 5-0 victory, helping Man City put one foot and an extra four toes in the quarter-finals.

It was a quick start for Man City at the José Alvalade Stadium, as Riyad Mahrez put them ahead after just seven minutes, tapping in from Kevin De Bruyne’s cutback. The goal was initially ruled out for offside but VAR correctly overturned the decision as the Belgium was just behind the second-to-last defender.

Ten minutes later, it was two and Silva had his moment. Sporting had managed to deal with Man City’s first ball in from a corner but it fell straight to Silva who sent a first-time powerful effort past the goalkeeper and into the roof of the net on the half-volley.

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It was Silva’s ninth goal of the season across all competitions, already his second-best return in a single campaign for Man City and the strike earned high praise from former Manchester United and Bayern Munich midfielder Owen Hargreaves.

“He’s one of the purest footballers in Europe,” he said on BT Sport’s coverage of the match.

“Honestly, he makes football look far too easy. You dream of hitting it that clean.”

Even Silva agreed, saying after the game: “I don’t know how I hit that ball that well.”

Silva wasn’t done there though. Just before half-time, after Phil Foden had made it three, the Portuguese midfielder scored his second of the night after a quick break from Raheem Sterling – making a late run into the box for his 10th goal of the season. Only in 2018/19 has Silva scored more goals than he has this season, managing 13 across all competitions then.

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Silva also set up Raheem Sterling for the Englishman’s curling effort to wrap up the win, and while he wasn’t happy with some parts of Man City’s performance, his mum might have been even more upset.

He said: “I honestly think in the first half we weren’t that good to be winning 4-0, I think sometimes we were a bit sloppy, lost some easy balls which gave them the opportunity to counter attack.

“But we were very clinical, you need luck as well to score that many goals in not so many chances. Very happy with the win, 5-0 away it’s a great result. A good performance especially some minutes in the first half and the second half.

“I’m Portuguese, I’m from the other side of the city because I played 12 years for Benfica. My mum she’s from Sporting, my dad from Benfica but it was special to score here in my home town and nice to start the last 16 with a 5-0 game.

“It’s always an extra motivation to come here to Lisbon, to play such an important game.”