Sport Soccer

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Aguero keeps City firing for Euro assault

Three masterly strikes of surgical precision from Sergio Aguero extended Manchester City's devastatingly perfect start to the season. It is some measure of City's awesome firepower that the Argentinian was able to finish his shift 20 minutes early, and Edin Dzeko, the four-goal destructor of Spurs a fortnight ago, was not even called upon.

These are truly incredulous days for City's loyal and once long-suffering supporters. With their side scarcely able to stop hitting the back of the net in the Premier League, and creating such a plethora of scoring opportunities, they can now savour an introduction to the Champions League, against the Italians of Napoli on Wednesday, with rising optimism.

Four, three, five and three more yesterday, City have now smashed in an impressive 15 goals from their four league outings this season. This time last year, Mancini's men had ground out just four goals and completed the campaign averaging 1.57 per game.

No wonder City fans nowadays sing, with mock irony, "boring, boring City."

Wigan were mere spectators throughout and their manager, Roberto Martinez, was quick to hail the winners.

"They are a special team," said the Spaniard. "They have fantastic football awareness and are wonderful to watch.

"Silva, Aguero, Tevez, that's something special, but the biggest compliment you can pay them, and their manager, Roberto Mancini, is that they play as a team," he said.

Aguero, City's showpiece £35m summer buy from Atletico Madrid, doubled his season's tally to a hugely impressive six goals, each put away with the aplomb of a matador.

No net-bulging blasts from the stockily built striker, just the cold-eyed touch of a natural-born goalscorer.

Take his opener, in the 13th minute, sweetly constructed and devastatingly dispatched in the new City manner. Tevez, starting for the first time this season, made inroads from the left, laying the ball across for David Silva, who turned to assess his options before finding Aguero, who opted for placement ahead of power, curling the ball beyond Ali Al Habsi in the Wigan goal.

Aguero made the game safe for City in the 63rd minute, rolling the ball calmly home after some mercurially creative work by substitute Samir Nasri, who had been on the pitch all of 120 seconds.

Wigan were still reeling when, seven minutes later, Silva shredded the visitors' rearguard and Aguero, again faced with Al Habsi, supplied another imperious finish.

Yet how many goals could City have had? Joleon Lescott inadvertently diverted Vincent Kompany's goal-bound header over the Wigan bar after 10 minutes, and Tevez had an 18th-minute penalty saved by Al Habsi.

Micah Richards, put through by Tevez's deft chip, was stunned to see his shot glance the underside of the crossbar and bounce back into play, Al Habsi made an astounding save from another Kompany header and Tevez, again the supplier, fed James Milner only for the England midfielder to scuff his finish. And all that before the interval.

City failed to create chances in such abundance in the second half and Wigan even had a moment when, perhaps, they could have seriously shaken the home side's serenity. Just before the hour mark, Hugo Rodallega's snap shot from the edge of the area was pushed away for a corner by Joe Hart, the under-employed goalkeeper, but four minutes later, Aguero put it all beyond doubt before being withdrawn moments later, to a standing ovation.

Mancini refused to get carried away with it all.

"We had 15 chances in the first half and we scored only one goal -- this is a problem because the game can change any moment," he said.

"Next time it's better if we close out the game in the first half. We need to improve because we have started the season very well but the season will be long. If we want to arrive at the end of the season still at the top we need to improve."

Mancini said he was pleased with Tevez's performance despite the Argentinian, who had seemed odds on to leave City in the summer, not being fully fit.

"Carlo is not 100 per cent at the moment, but I am happy for him because for me he played very well with Sergio, he missed a penalty but this can happen -- usually he scores," said Mancini.

"It was important for him to start, to play and to play well and maybe in two or three games he will be 100 per cent."

If Aguero was man of the match it was Silva who pulled on the strings, but Mancini refused to pick out any of his players for special mention.

"Silva is a top, top player but so is Aguero, so is Yaya Toure, so is Nasri -- for them it is easy to play football."

Mancini is hopeful that Gareth Barry will be fit to return for City's Champions League debut on Wednesday -- and that the rest of this players have recovered from international duty.

"I hope we will have Gareth back for Wednesday, we have no other injury problems but they are so tired as they all played two games for their national teams and we need to recover in the next three days."

Martinez, whose side slipped to their first league defeat of the season, added: "When you come to a place like this, you have to be perfect and we were far, far from it. I was disappointed with our performance, our mentality, we never thought we would get a result today. We gave them too much respect."

Wigan will not be the last Premier League team to be helpless in the face of Mancini's side's multi-faceted attacking prowess, but for now City's vaulting ambitions are turning to their midweek Champions League bow.

Europe beware.


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