MANCHESTER-Sergio Aguero starred as Manchester City beat Monaco 5-3 in a breathless and dizzyingly end-to-end Champions League last 16 first-leg encounter at a rocking Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

Raheem Sterling put City ahead, only for Kylian Mbappe to level and Radamel Falcao to score twice, the second goal a magnificent chip, as Leonardo Jardim’s side moved into a 3-2 lead. But City struck three times in the last 19 minutes, through Aguero’s second goal, John Stones and Leroy Sane, to put Pep Guardiola’s men in charge ahead of the return leg on March 15.

Having recently lost his place in the team to Gabriel Jesus, only to regain it after the Brazilian broke his foot, it was a personal triumph for Aguero, who departed to a standing ovation.

It was City who went in front in the 26th minute. Sane lit the fuse, dancing away from three players on the City left and exchanging passes with David Silva before crossing for Sterling to slide home from close range. But within six minutes Monaco were level as Guardiola’s goalkeeping problems came back to bite him.

He had restored Caballero to his line-up, having fielded Claudio Bravo in the FA Cup at Huddersfield Town on Saturday, but the Argentine’s wayward kicking gave City jitters all evening. It was his loose, lofted clearance that gifted possession to Fabinho prior to Monaco’s leveller, the Brazilian playing a one-two with Bernardo Silva and crossing for Falcao to net with a flying header.

Moments later came a contentious moment as Aguero nudged the ball past Danijel Subasic and went to ground, only to be booked for diving. On the touchline, Guardiola reacted furiously, angrily gesticulating at fourth official Teodoro Sobrino, but there was worse to come.

City had all the time in the world to organise themselves when Monaco won a free-kick on halfway, but Fabinho was still allowed to find Mbappe, who steadied himself before finishing coolly. It might easily have been 3-1 by the interval, with Mbappe and Falcao both going close either side of the former’s goal.

Monaco looked poised to extend their lead five minutes into the second half when Otamendi was penalised for fouling Falcao, but the Colombian’s weak spot-kick was comfortably saved by Caballero. City levelled eight minutes later courtesy of a howler from Subasic, who allowed Aguero’s shot to go right through him at his near post after a storming run down the right from Sterling.

But the momentum swang back Monaco’s way just three minutes later when Falcao shrugged off Stones and then lofted an exquisite right-foot chip over Caballero from just 15 yards. After Sterling had seen a penalty appeal turned away following a robust challenge by Benjamin Mendy, Aguero levelled again, volleying in smartly from Silva’s right-wing corner. The momentum was City’s and after Stones had put them ahead in the 77th minute, jabbing in at a corner, Silva’s dinked pass enabled Aguero to set up Sane to set the seal on an extraordinary match.

In another match, Atletico Madrid beat hosts Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 in a topsy-turvy encounter on Tuesday to take a firm handle on their Champions League round-of-16 tie ahead of the return leg in Spain next month.

Two lethal counter-attacks in the opening 25 minutes put the 2014 and 2016 finalists in the driving seat, with Saul Niguez and Antoine Griezmann on target, and give them the edge for a quarter-final spot for the ninth time.

Leverkusen, who struggled to contain the hard-charging Spaniards for more than an hour, cut the deficit before Atletico`s Kevin Gameiro scored with a spot kick and Stefan Savic`s own goal set up a nervous finale.

Fernando Torres ended any speculation with his goal in the 87th minute as the Germans suffered their first home loss in Europe after a 10-match unbeaten run. They are at risk of missing out on the last eight for the fifth time with Atletico taking revenge for a 1-0 loss at the same stage last season.

The Bundesliga club, finalists in 2002 before the introduction of the round of 16, have never gone past this stage on four previous attempts. They were supposed to be dangerous on the break but it was Atletico who came close early on with keeper Bernd Leno stopping a Griezmann effort and Wendell seeing his subsequent clearance bounce off his keeper`s crossbar.

Niguez did better in the 17th minute, charging down the right and curling his shot past Leno after it took a slight deflection off Aleksandar Dragovic. Griezmann then doubled the score after the hapless Dragovic fluffed his clearance and sent the ball into the path of Gameiro who picked out the onrushing Frenchman to sweep in.

Leverkusen played completely into Atletico`s hands with their high defensive line, for the first time in the competition conceding goals in the opening 30 minutes. Griezmann should have added another in the 34th when Gameiro again sent him through but Leno stood his ground and the hosts cut the deficit four minutes after the restart with Karim Bellarabi from inside the box.

But their hopes were short-lived as Dragovic capped his nightmarish performance by giving away a penalty after bringing down Gameiro. Savic`s own goal put Leverkusen back in the game but despite constant pressure they failed to carve out an equaliser before substitute Torres finished them off.

 

Manchester City players celebrate after Leroy Sane scored their fifth goal during the match between against Monaco at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester.–AFP