Man City 4 Viktoria Plzen 2: Three talking points
Man City 4 Viktoria Plzen 2: Three talking points as the Citizens record an unconvincing home win
A mixed night for City
With the primary aim of qualification already assured, this game was always going to be fairly trivial for Manuel Pellegrini’s side. Unfortunately, despite four goals and a good attacking display, the overall performance poses a lot of questions for the Chilean. The first of those will be: how quickly can he get Vincent Kompany back? The central defensive pairing of Martin Demichelis and Joleon Lescott looked incapable of dealing with the quick, counter-attacking football that saw Plzen double their goal tally in the competition. They were let off the hook for their poor showing by City’s forward firepower. Pellegrini will also be wondering how much the injury to Sergio Aguero could dent City’s form. Edin Dzeko has a good goals-to-game ratio but despite his late header he looked short of form and confidence. If he cannot find an effective way of linking up with Alvaro Negredo and the goals dry up then City could be out of the title race by Christmas. Pellegrini will be praying the Argentine’s knock is only minor.
Hart’s return to the side an unfortunate one
It is hard to judge how Joe Hart will be feeling after this game. He certainly got more of a workout than he would have bargained for before kick-off. His flying, one-handed save from Daniel Kolar’s long-range thunderbolt was reminiscent of the stops that made him one of the best in the world not so long ago. He also made a good reaction save with his legs to deny Frantisek Rajtoral. He did what he needed to with Plzen’s less taxing attempts and this was all backed up by some superb distribution. Yet he still conceded two goals and this will frustrate him hugely. This game was unlikely to ever be the tipping point for the England man getting back in the starting line-up but whilst he could do nothing about either goal, he would have loved a clean sheet to throw down the gauntlet to Costel Pantilimon. Still, if he can produce more solid displays like this when he does get a chance and he does well in training then it may only be a matter of time before he becomes first-choice again.
Plzen a great advert for the Champions League
There were whispers this time last year of Uefa expanding the Champions League to halt the general declining interest in the Europa League. While there are plenty of issues with the idea, Plzen’s performance was an example of how entertaining it can be when a smaller team go to the big stadiums and give inspired performances. Certainly the two goals that they scored did not flatter them and they actually had enough chances to win the game. The likes of Rajtoral and Tomas Horava looked particularly threatening as the Czech champions poured forward repeatedly. Allowing more teams like Plzen into the competition would mean more games as entertaining this. However they still sit bottom of the table without a point. If they play like this in their final game against a fairly average-looking CSKA Moscow then that may change. If they were to lose it would confirm their status as whipping boys and would only add weight to the argument that allowing more teams unable to reach a competitive standard entry would devalue the world’s premier club competition.