Three (half) chances; three goals. Sergio Aguero again saved Manchester City, just like he has for much of this season – and on numerous other occasions, most obviously that goal to win the league in 2012. For the first, he timed his run brilliantly, took the ball in his stride and anticipated the challenge from Mehdi Benatia to draw the penalty, and then converted it despite the not-inconsiderable frame of Manuel Neuer going the right way. For the second, he seized on a Stevan Jovetic interception, showed great pace over 30 yards to beat Dante into the box and slotted an inch-perfect finish off the post. And for his dramatic, injury-time third he, like any great striker should, sniffed out an opportunity as Jerome Boateng scuffed the ball, drove into the ball and adjusted his body superbly to slide the ball past Neuer. As Vincent Kompany said: “To win anything you need a special player, on special form, and he’s that player. He makes everything achievable”.
Aguero ‘saved’ City because, elsewhere, they were frankly a bit mediocre, as they have been in most of their Champions League campaign (and arguably much of the league campaign too). Despite playing against ten men, who had already qualified, since Aguero’s penalty on 22 minutes, City did not score, nor overly threaten until Aguero’s late two goals – and they sprang from Bayern errors. This is perhaps being overly critical, for no one in the midfield had a bad game, indeed Frank Lampard and Jesus Navas impressed. But they were somewhat lacking a bit of urgency or truly world-class creative play. City fans will hope Yaya Toure (suspended on Tuesday night) and David Silva (injured) can provide this if they return for the Blues visit to Rome, even if the pair have not started their seasons on top form.
Bayern employed a very high line here. To the neutral, it was pleasing to see such attacking intent from a team away from home who had already qualified in first place in the group. But it was dubious wisdom against a forward as quick as Aguero and winger as quick as Navas. Much of the time the defence held their line not far behind the centre circle, including for the first goal, where Aguero latched onto a ball over the top. It’s true the system was set up for Jerome Boateng and Benatia, two relatively quick players who could probably track back to catch any runners in behind, but it could have been changed when the slower Dante came on as a tactical switch after Benatia’s dismissal. It’s true that none of the other two goals came from this, but there were occasions when a slightly better pass or timed run would have put a City player clean through. Maybe something for Pep Guardiola to consider as Bayern go into the business end of the Champions League and face opposition with creative midfielders and strikers of Aguero’s quality, speedy and talented enough to exploit gaps behind the defence.
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