This was not the City that won 12 of the 13 games since losing their opening Champions League group game, amassing an aggregate score of 43-3. They were shells, tactically disorganised, defensively dishevelled and ultimately escaped from eastern France with a result they scarcely deserved.
Guardiola admitted that those detractors who cry financials to belittle City’s achievements would deem not lifting this trophy a failure and for so long on Tuesday night they looked so far removed from potential champions.
Lyon (3-4-3): Lopes 6; Denayer 6.5, Marcelo 7, Marcal 7; Rafael 7 (Tete 74, 6), Ndombele 7.5, Aouer 7, Mendy 7.5; Cornet 8.5 (Terrier 89), Depay 6.5, Fekir 6 (Traore 84)
Subs not used: Gorgelin, Terrier, Morel, Cheikh, Tousart
Manager: Bruno Genesio 7
Man City (4-3-3): Ederson 6; Walker 6, Stones 6, Laporte 7.5, Zinchenko 5; Fernandinho 6, D Silva 6, Sterling 6; Mahrez 5.5, Aguero 7 (Foden 90), Sane 6 (Delph 71, 6.5)
Subs not used: Muric, Danilo, Kompany, Otamendi, Diaz
Manager: Pep Guardiola 6
Ref: Gianluca Rocchi 7
As Maxwel Cornet let fly to give Lyon a lead after 55 minutes, City woke. Raheem Sterling’s free-kick was flicked on at the near post by Fernandinho and Aymeric Laporte thundered in an equaliser seven minutes later. Cornet gave Laporte the slip and slid underneath Ederson to regain the lead with nine minutes left, only for Sergio Aguero to head in a second equaliser just seconds later.
So with this point they are through to the last 16, but much needs to be done to combat progressive teams who refuse to bow to City’s whim. There also remains a slight edge to this group, with City requiring a draw against Hoffenheim in a fortnight to finish winners.
To guess quite what Phil Foden thought, wrapped up on the bench alongside great mate Brahim Diaz, probably would not take three attempts. Diaz appears destined to leave when his contract is up next summer, with Real Madrid among the interested parties, and Foden would not be human if he did not at least wonder.
As it is, the academy graduate – a boyhood fan – is ready to commit to a new six-year contract that is heavily incentivised. There will come a point in time when he is starting these kind of matches but patience is certainly not a virtue afforded in football. Guardiola had an opportunity to make a real statement of intent about his supposed admiration for the players and refused to take it.
Lyon are 15 points adrift of Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 but were not playing like that, raising their game against illustrious opposition they have already shown the continent how to beat this year.
Former defender Richard Dunne was critical of Guardiola for plumping with Oleksandr Zinchenko over Fabian Delph at left back on television at the break and 10 minutes afterwards the Ukrainian was all at sea. Zinchenko was not switched on, gifting Cornet way too much room on the edge of Ederson’s box and the sumptuous, bending effort was at odds with his efforts earlier in the evening.
Anthony Lopes did superbly well to keep out Aguero’s header but he could do nothing about Laporte’s before this game seesawed in the final minutes. Cornet struck again, Aguero poached another. City still have control of the group but never had this game under their spell.