Sport Soccer

Friday 23 February 2018

'Beast' Negredo devours CSKA as City secure last-16 place

Man city 5 CSKA Moscow 2

Tim Rich

Ever since Malcolm Allison declared his club would now hurl themselves on "the cowards of Europe" and promptly got himself knocked out in the first round by Fenerbahce, the European Cup has cast a shadow over Manchester City.

Here, however, they stepped out into a kind of sunlight, qualifying for the knockout phase of the Champions League for the first time with Sergio Aguero overtaking Francis Lee as City's leading scorer in European football.

This is precisely what Manuel Pellegrini had been hired for.

Manchester City can test Jurgen Klopp's theory that once into the knockout rounds they can beat any team in Europe. Elsewhere, Roberto Mancini's latest club, Galatasaray lost to Copenhagen. For him, the Champions League remains a prison.

It was a night when City delivered a ruthless response to the abuse they had endured in Moscow. Even with the game palpably won, James Milner still drove forward to deliver the cross that gave Alvaro Negredo his hat-trick. This was not just a win, it was a warning.

In the three games since the defeat at Stamford Bridge that did for Joe Hart, Silva has dazzled. Part of the reason City relinquished their title so tamely last season was that the boy from Gran Canaria seemed to lose his appetite for the game. Lately, he has been ravenous.

When Zoran Tosic brought him down, the game was two minutes and six seconds old and just two CSKA Moscow players had actually touched the ball. Dancing on the edge of the area, he cut inside and Tosic clattered into him from behind just about where the six-yard box meets the byline. It would have been hard to find a more blatant penalty. Aguero converted.

Samir Nasri then dazzled, first by holding off Kirill Nababkin and Tosic and setting Silva loose, and then finding Aguero in space.

Silva's shot struck the side-netting. Aguero's was better. With a single back-flick he took the ball past Aleksei Berezutski and drove it into the corner of the net in front of the CSKA Moscow supporters.

The third goal was not long delayed. CSKA's defending was sometimes on a par with that displayed by Norwich on Saturday. Now Aguero took out three defenders with a diagonal pass and Negredo finished from close range.

If that was simple, the fourth and Negredo's second was a training-ground exercise: a chip from Touré, flicked on by Nasri without a defender in sight and put away by the 'Beast of Vallecas'.

For Costel Pantilimon, playing his first European game since turning out for Poli Timisoara against Manchester City, it looked as simple an exercise as it had been against Norwich. It should be pointed out that, in Moscow, Hart had delivered one of his better performances of a difficult season,.

Pantilimon did not exactly convince and just before half-time he was beaten. However, the fault lay with Martin Demichelis, who attempted to play Seydou Doumbia offside and failed spectacularly.

City's defending has sometimes not impressed under Pellegrini and now it stuttered again as Gael Clichy hauled down Doumbia. The Ivorian took the penalty himself and ran up to the ball as if he were in the long jump. It finished, like so many last night, in the back of the net. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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