Man City 5 CSKA Moscow 2: Four talking points as Aguero stars
Man City 5 CSKA Moscow 2: Four talking points as the Citizens book their place in the Champions League knockout stage
Thankfully the issue of crowd trouble and racial chanting was not a prominent one following the dreadful scenes in Russia a fortnight ago. The Manchester City supporters showed their Russian counterparts how to behave appropriately in a 21st century society, let alone at a football match, by backing their side without discriminating. And any risk of controversial noises being generated by the 800 or so CSKA Moscow fans was soon silenced by Sergio Aguero’s third-minute penalty. By the time Alvaro Negredo had made it three after 30 minutes the only fans making any noise at all were in blue. There was a brief whimper of a cheer when CSKA pulled one back just before half-time, and another when Seydou Doumbia scored from the spot. England missed out on hosting the 2018 World Cup at the expense of Russia, perhaps FIFA may be regretting that decision following the behaviour of the two sets of supporters at their respective stadiums?
City’s goalkeeping spotlight
Costel Pantilimon started between the sticks again which meant Joe Hart spent his evening on the touchline for the third successive game. The Romanian goalkeeper, making his Champions League debut, failed to keep his third successive clean sheet following blanks against Newcastle United and Norwich. It was not a flawless performance from the shot stopper. Just before half-time, Doumbia easily rounded the goalkeeper, who failed to muster an attempt to win the ball, and scored. Before that, when Zoran Tosic’s free-kick deflected up into the air, the keeper came to punch it clear but got nowhere near the ball and fortunately his defenders hacked it away. Much has been made of Hart’s errors and the need for Pantilimon to come into the side, but if the Romanian is treated the same way as Hart, then the England number one should have another opportunity soon rather than later.
City progress into knock-out stages
City supporters will finally be able to watch their side in Europe’s elite competition beyond the new year. After successive campaigns that have ended prematurely, Pellegrini’s side booked their place in the knock-out stages – and with two matches to spare. The progression also ticks one of the Chilean’s managerial requirement boxes and eases any pressure on him following an inconsistent start to their domestic campaign. Qualification was guaranteed thanks to Bayern Munich’s win in Plzen, and the German side look destined to top the group unless City can beat them in Germany. If the Citizens can replicate some of the silky attacking football that they displayed on Tuesday, then it may not be completely impossible. The Eastlands outfit have averaged 3.7 goals at The Etihad this season. But on the other hand, their defensive frailties, which Bayern exposed at will in October, were again present in Manchester. CSKA, a poor side in truth, always possessed a threat on the counter-attack and pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time when Doumbia split City’s centre backs and scored. Also, Gael Clichy’s clumsy foul inside the penalty may be cause for concern for Pellegrini.
Aguero continues good form
In a squad crammed full of world-class attacking options, the Argentinian again proved himself to be top of City’s attacking tree. The striker continued his incredible hot streak in front of goal, taking just three minutes to get on the score sheet. Once David Silva had been brought down for a penalty, Aguero crisply placed his spot-kick effort to the left of Igor Akinfeev. Mid-way through the second half, the South American met Samir Nasri’s pass with a deft flick to elude Alekski Berezutski and fire across Akinfeev and into the net. Aguero also showed his unselfish side as he laid on a goal for Negredo, his first of three, to make it three before half-time. Unlike his strike partner, he was unable to add to his five Champions League goals to complete his hat-trick, but his movement and work-rate remained nonetheless. Aguero, who signed in 2011 for a reported £38m, now has nine goals in six games, and his astonishing purple patch doesn’t look like ending any time soon.