LISBON – Lyon stunned Manchester City to reach the Champions League semifinals for the first time in a decade, with Moussa Dembélé scoring twice for the French outsiders Saturday to seal a 3-1 win that sets up a meeting with Bayern Munich.
City, one of the most expensively assembled squads in football history, lost to the team that finished seventh in the French league and needs to lift the European Cup for the first time to return to the competition next season.
It leaves Pep Guardiola without a Champions League title since 2011 with Barcelona, falling short in three attempts with Bayern Munich and never making it past the quarterfinals in his four seasons at City.
Guardiola's decision to deploy an unfamiliar five-man defense to match Lyon's system backfired when gaping holes were left at the back before Maxwel Cornet struck the opener in the 24th minute.
Kevin De Bruyne equalized in the 69th but substitute Dembélé restored the lead 10 minutes later after being on the pitch for only four minutes. Then came the moment to level that will haunt Raheem Sterling, who blazed the ball over an empty net, and a minute later Dembélé scored again.
There was no way back for City, which has been eliminated three consecutive seasons in the quarterfinals, leaving the club still waiting to become European champions despite the huge influx of cash from Abu Dhabi since 2008.
“We need to learn — it’s not good enough and that’s it," De Bruyne said. “Different year, same stuff."
City's biggest Champions League win of the season, though, came off the pitch when its lawyers overturned a two-season ban from European competitions.
But for a City side that eliminated record 13-time champion Real Madrid in the previous round, losing to Lyon was not in the script.
Given that a place in the semifinals was on the line, City’s back line didn’t rise to the challenge.
The lack of urgency in dealing with Lyon’s advance for the opener was careless as Marçal sent a long ball over the top from inside his own half.
At that point Kyle Walker was alongside Cornet at the halfway line but the City right back lingered rather than tracking back. Aymeric Laporte also lost the advancing Toko Ekambi. Eric Garcia did run back to make the sliding tackle that prevented Ekambi from shooting.
But Cornet had sprinted forward and was left unmarked to pick up the loose ball before exploiting Ederson being caught off his line. Cornet shot low past the goalkeeper into the corner of the net.
“This team is great," De Bruyne said, “but we make too many mistakes.”
City should have been well aware of Cornet’s threat. He scored three goals against the then-Premier League champions across the two group stage games last season.
Although City began to find more space to attack, the only threat came from De Bruyne's free kicks.
More creativity was added when Guardiola replaced Fernandinho with Riyad Mahrez who created the equalizer. The Algerian passed long down the left flank to Sterling and the ball was cut back for the unmarked De Bruyne to curl into the bottom corner.
Lyon made its own game-changing substitution with the arrival in the 75th minute of Dembele, who met Maxence Caqueret's pass to complete a counterattack four minutes later.
City hoped the goal would be overturned by VAR for a foul on Laporte in the buildup but it was allowed to stand.
There were gasps among the few people allowed into the stadium — as part of coronavirus pandemic restrictions — when Sterling missed the chance to equalize after Gabriel Jesus squared across the face of goal.
“We scored a magnificent goal but unfortunately we missed another one," Guardiola said. "You have to be perfect, you cannot make mistakes.”
Had Ederson saved Houssem Aouar's tame shot at the other end, City might still have been able to force the game into extra time. But it was spilled and Dembele was primed to complete the job for Lyon.