Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Thursday February 23 2012
City easily motored through to the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League last night by disposing of holders FC Porto in devastating fashion to suggest to the European football world that the penny might at last have dropped in term of two-legged football.
Leading 2-1 from the first leg, City needed only 19 seconds for Sergio Aguero to take the doubt out of the result following a poor clearance out of defense from Porto which found Yaya Toure. his slide rule pass went straight into the path of Aguero who beat the keeper easily at the far post.
And that was more or less that. City absorbed everything that Porto could muster, which is fairness didn't really challenge the defenders until a cute move put Varela in the clear in the inside left slot, but his attempt to emulate the Mighty Atom was well saved by Hart, cutting down his angle and as they say 'staying big'.
This was after another delightful move by City, engineered by Silva putting Yaya through one on one with the keeper, who blocked the shot well. Nasri was unconvincing with the rebound preferring to pass to a now offside Yaya rather than 'hit it'.
In amongst this the butcher of the Dragao, Rolando was yellow carded for dissent. Amazing when you think that last week he set about kicking everything on the field except the ball!
More untidy play by the holders saw a pass find its way to Silva who in one movement was aware of the run made by Aguero and played it into his path. He drew and rounded the keeper and as the defenders gather on the line issued a delightful chip which rose above them all only to clip the crossbar and fly away to safety.
City were still prone to allowing free kicks in and around the edge of the box, usually with poorly timed challenges from Barry. Although the Hulk huffed and puffed he couldn't get anything on target or really hurt anyone in the wall and City eased their way to half time without working up a sweat. Time and again any threat offered by Porto was diluted some way away from the key areas of the field.
At the start of the second half maybe Porto realised that an early equaliser on the night might unsettle City and they tried to raise their game. One--time City target, Maicon found a gap but couldn't capitalise on it, his shot missing the left hand post although Hart had it covered.
When they finally did get the ball in the net one of the players involved in the build had drifted offside. He received and played the ball forcing the linesman to flag. The eventual scorer wasn't offside but the flag was already raised.
As the changes came along, Mancini sent on Dzeko with a view to mixing it up a bit more up front. Aguero had run his socks off all night and just had enough left in the tank to draw defenders and place an exquisite pass into the path of Dzeko who for once didn't need to be asked twice.
Poor Rolando once again couldn't keep his mouth shut, convinced Dzeko was offside (he wasn't) and the German referee lost his patience and sent him to the showers.
It was cameo time for Pizarro and what a cameo it was. Where did Mancini find him. This man has the touch and eyes of Ali Bernarbia and it is perhaps fitting that he carries the number 8 shirt. More or less his first involvement saw him send Richards clear down the right. As the defenders closed in Pizarro once again took the ball executed a rapid one-two with Dzeko before squaring past the keeper to find the unattended Silva on the six yard line, who tapped home for 3-0. Total quality.
In more or less the next move, Clichy on the left played the ball into Milner. His header hit a defender and bounced out to Pizarro. He played another neat one-two with Dzeko before himself sliding the ball into the corner of the net.
Beating one of the best prepared teams in Europe 4-0 and 6-1 on aggregate must send some kind of message out. Porto are no mugs, they have some very good footballers on their roster but City did not afford them anything last night. True, Hart did make some good saves towards the end but the result was already abundantly clear by then and you can't even say that the scoreline flattered City.
There were no weaknesses in the line-up as City went with the 'ground attack' style which does confuse big defenders. The mobile Aguero was simply brilliant leading the line solo but quickly supported at times by Yaya, Silva and Nasri, before he went for a well-earned rest.
Hart and his back line looked totally solid well guarded by the returning-to-form de Jong.
The other midfielders were fluid and unpredictable causing problems all over the field for Porto. Up top they just didn't know how to manage Aguero who was clearly man-of-the-match for his work rate, goal and assist.
And when you think that the replacements were Milner, Pizarro and Dzeko, leaving Balotelli to sit it out, it really is unbelievable what we have going down at the Etihad Campus.
I sat amongst around 200 Ajax fans on East Level 3 who had arrived for their match at a stadium just outside Manchester a day early and decided to come and watch City. Decked out in their Friendship Scarves and even City shirts, they cheered City's goals and generally enjoyed their evening, as indeed did most of the just-under 40000 who knocked off work early to get themselves there. The 1200 Porto fans sang their way through the entire 90 minutes and also seemed to enjoy the experience despite the score and despite Manchester's usually welcome...pouring rain.
Well done to Mancini and his extraordinary team. We move on to prepare to entertain Blackburn Rovers oh and .....Carlos Tevez.
Date:Thursday February 23 2012
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