Man City too nervous in big Champions League games, says Ilkay Gundogan

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Gundogan battling with Tottenham goal-scorer Son Heung-min.

Ilkay Gundogan believes Manchester City are too nervous and making too many mistakes in the Champions League.

The City midfielder feels City were guilty of trying too hard as they were beaten 1-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final against Tottenham on Tuesday.

The Premier League champions were undone by a late Son Heung-min goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, leaving them with a deficit to overturn in next week’s return leg.

After exits in the last 16 and quarter-finals in the past two seasons, transferring domestic dominance on to the European stage remains a challenge for City under Pep Guardiola.

Gundogan told Sky Deutschland: “We were not brave enough in the game and we made a lot of simple mistakes.

“I have the feeling we are nervous in important Champions League games. We always make the wrong decisions.

“In these matches we always want to do something special because it means (going through to the) Champions League semi-finals. Sometimes less is more.”

Gundogan believes City reacted badly to an early penalty miss by Sergio Aguero.

The Argentinian was denied by Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris after City were awarded a controversial spot-kick when Danny Rose was adjudged to have handled in the box.

Gundogan thinks the game would have been much different had Aguero scored.

The 28-year-old said: “Negative events like that always set us back far too much.

“Had we scored from the penalty we’d have taken Tottenham apart.

Aguero missed from the spot for City

Aguero missed from the spot for City

“But instead we withdrew from the game. That must not happen to a big team. That’s why we’re not there yet.”

Gundogan remains confident City can turn the tie around when the sides meet again at the Etihad Stadium next Wednesday.

He said: “Unfortunately for us we were not able to score the penalty or create chances to get the goal which would have been important, but we take it as it is. We know we are able to beat Tottenham at home, there is still hope and a chance for us.”

City now switch their focus back to their Premier League title defence as they return to London to face Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Despite the Spurs loss, City’s bid for an unprecedented quadruple remains alive, although Gundogan claims the players are not thinking about how many trophies they might win.

He said: “You guys talk all the time, we don’t really talk about it, not even in the dressing room or at the training ground. I don’t think that will change in the upcoming weeks.

“We have to deal with what people are saying on this topic but it’s up to us to be successful and do what we want to achieve.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Hakim Ziyech, David Neres give Ajax Champions League semi-final hope after battling draw with Juventus

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David Neres and Hakim Ziyech starred for Ajax.

Ajax gave themselves a fighting chance of a spot in the Champions League semi-final after coming from behind to get a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the quarter-final at home against Juventus.

The Dutch side dominated the game in a way that belied the gulf in experience between the two sides, as Juve were left hanging on after David Neres’ equaliser after half-time cancelled out Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener. Ajax may wonder how they didn’t end up the winning side.

Here, we rate the Ajax players’ performances.

STARTING XI

Andre Onana 6 – Could do nothing for Ronaldo’s goal, as Ajax’s defence was simply broken down by the Portuguese’s movement. Onana’s distribution was poor at times, which was cause for concern.

Joel Veltman 7 – Given that his chief task was to deal with the dual threat of Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic, Veltman acquitted himself well on Wednesday. Stood up to Juve’s feted attackers.

Matthijs de Ligt 6 –  Matured display from the Dutchman. Read the game well and moved at the right time without getting caught out of position. Bernardeschi and Mandzukic had nothing to work with such was his overall dominance.

Daley Blind 6 –  The former Manchester United man led by example at the centre of the defence. Kept Ronaldo in check for most of the game.

Nicolas Tagliafico 6 – Lucky to not have given away a penalty for a second-half foul that would also have seen him sent off. But he’ll also rue his team-mates’ inability to find him in space – there were plenty of times Tagliafico had stolen a few yards on the left wing only to go unnoticed.

Lasse Schone 6 – Not the best display from one of the stars of the last-16 win over Real Madrid, as his set-piece deliveries were lacking their usual quality. Helped Ajax control midfield but it was no surprise when he was taken off.

Frenkie de Jong 8 – Produced one brilliant last-man tackle that showed a side to his game many may not have seen before. His usual qualities were on display as well.

Hakim Ziyech 7 – Ajax’s most consistent threat on the ball, and on this display a club looking for a right-winger should definitely have perked up. Sent one wild shot wide, but drew a smart save out of Wojciech Szczesny and was lively throughout.

Donny van de Beek 6 – An eager presence in Ajax’s attack, though his runs lacked the timing that could have made this a lethal display instead of merely an encouraging one. But his ability on the ball had Juve on their toes.

David Neres 7 – This game showed the best and the worst of the Brazilian winger. His goal was supremely well-taken, an excellent finish that gave Ajax a deserved leveller. But on other occasions, Neres’ inexperience showed in his eagerness and poor decision-making on the ball.

Dusan Tadic 6 – A quiet night from the man who has graced Ajax’s best performances of the season with his own sprinkles of stardust. This was not one of those occasions, as Tadic was well-marshalled by Juve’s defence and looked off-colour throughout.

SUBSTITUTES

Jurgen Ekkelenkamp 6 – It may not have been a surprise when Schone was taken off but the identity of the substitute certainly was. The 19-year-old’s most significant contribution was to haul down Ronaldo on a break, but it was certainly an eventful Champions League debut.

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Juventus player ratings as Rodrigo Bentancur scores an 8 while Cristiano Ronaldo gets a 7

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Juventus got a crucial away goal thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo‘s away goal in Amsterdam has given Juventus the edge in their Champions League quarter-final against Ajax after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.

Juve were often under the cosh as Ajax put in a robust, thrilling display, but the veteran Italian side held on for a draw after Ronaldo’s header had given them the first-half lead.

Here’s a closer look at how the players performed.

STARTING XI

Wojciech Szczesny 7 – Made one excellent first-half save. Could do nothing for Ajax’s goal, and was assured otherwise.

Joao Cancelo 7 – Contributed to what has fast become a typical Juventus goal: Cancelo cross, Ronaldo scores. Good going forward as always, and dealt with Ajax’s attacking threat well.

Daniele Rugani 6 – Actually looked the more assured centre-back between himself and senior colleague Bonucci. Together, their experience helped keep Ajax at bay when Juve were under the cosh.

Leonardo Bonucci 6 – Bonucci is a great defender on his own right but nights like these show how much he relies on his partnership with Giorgio Chiellini. He was the weaker Juve centre-back on Wednesday, if only by a little.

Alex Sandro 7 – A quiet but solidly assured performance at left-back. Many of Ajax’s attacks came down his side, but none succeeded, and even the chances created were because the Dutch were overloading on Cancelo on the other flank.

Rodrigo Bentancur 8 – Juventus’ best player in midfield. The Uruguayan mopped up Ajax attacks and shielded his back four with determination, and was a threat going forward as well.

Miralem Pjanic 6 – Slightly below his best from the Bosnian, whose passing was occasionally sloppy. In the second half he struggled to keep Juve in control in midfield, though he did a good job of protecting his defence.

Blaise Matuidi 7 – Solid if unspectacular in midfield, as he carried out his box-to-box role with typical industry. Was a little unlucky to be the man subbed off when Massimiliano Allegri decided to make an attacking change.

Federico Bernardeschi 5 – It was his error that led to Ajax’s equaliser. Though he was full of energy, this wasn’t a good performance from the Italian – no player lost possession more times than Bernardeschi’s seven.

Cristiano Ronaldo 7 – Scored the crucial goal of the evening, giving Juventus their away goal, but as Ajax became more dominant he saw little of the ball, and tried too hard to pull off the extraordinary when he did get possession.

Mario Mandzukic 6 – Captain on the night in the absence of Chiellini, Mandzukic did his usual job of being a good support act for Ronaldo in attack. Though he was typically strong in the air, he had a strangely quiet game otherwise.

SUBSTITUTES

Douglas Costa 7 – A livewire in attack during an excellent cameo. Spoiled one good run by drifting in a poor cross, but ended another with a fierce shot that struck the post.

Paulo Dybala 6 – The Argentine will have been disappointed not to start – but his second-half cameo did little to convince Allegri he’d made the wrong call.

Sami Khedira N/A – Came on with barely any time left to have an impact on proceedings.

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