Saturday 18 November 2017

Kompany blow as City stroll through

Captain's new injury fear takes gloss off reaching quarter-finals for first time

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (R) goes past Dynamo Kiev's Derlis Gonzalez (Getty Images)
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (R) goes past Dynamo Kiev's Derlis Gonzalez (Getty Images)
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (L) in action (Getty Images)
Manchester City's Argentinian defender Pablo Zabaleta (L) lunges to block a cross from Dynamo Kiev's Ukrainian midfielder Oleksander Yakovenko (Getty Images)

Mark Ogden

So Manchester City can finally look forward to the serious business of winning the Champions League, but they are likely to have to do so without captain Vincent Kompany.

Manchester City 0 Dynamo Kiev 0

For the first time in the club's history, City will compete in the quarter-finals of Europe's premier competition after completing a 3-1 aggregate round of 16 victory against Dynamo Kiev with a mind-numbing stalemate at the Etihad Stadium.

Entertainment value was thin on the ground, but progressing to the last eight is genuine progress for the club and another bridge crossed, but it came at a heavy price with both Kompany and defensive partner Nicolas Otamendi limping off.

With Manchester United due at the Etihad on Sunday, Otamendi faces a battle to be fit after suffering a dead leg, but Kompany's injury appears so serious that it may end his season, never mind his hopes of facing City's neighbours.

And without Kompany at the heart of their defence, Manuel Pellegrini's team are unlikely to worry the likes of Barcelona or Bayern Munich if they are to meet on the way to the final in Milan in May.

They are in Friday's draw for the quarter-finals, but they will have to raise their game significantly if they are to have any hope of going further.

City arrived at this second leg not only having built a formidable first-leg lead, winning 3-1 in the Olympic Stadium three weeks ago, but also producing the cavalier performance which showcased the very best of Pellegrini's team.

Too often City have blown cold but, for 90 minutes in Kiev, they blew as hot as they have all season, with the possible exception of the group stage victory in Sevilla.

The ease of City's win the Ukrainian capital perhaps took the edge off this game, despite the prize of a first appearance in the Champions League quarter-finals awaiting the home side.

The Etihad Stadium was not full, with large swathes of empty seats for an occasion which gave City the platform to stride into virgin territory, and the apathy in the stands - the UEFA anthem was booed once again - appeared to seep on to the pitch during an uneventful first half which was noteworthy only for the injuries.

Otamendi's could not be avoided, with the Argentinian colliding heavily with Vitaliy Buyalskiy and then limping off in obvious discomfort.

But the manner of Kompany's latest setback will be another cause of concern for Pellegrini and City's medical staff. It may also furrow the brow of Pep Guardiola, the man who will not want an injury-prone centre-half at the heart of his back four when he takes charge of City next season.

There were just five minutes on the clock when the Belgian turned to chase the ball before pulling up. Could Kompany really have warmed up sufficiently?

A man with such a chequered fitness record - this was the 14th time since his arrival at City in 2008 that Kompany had been struck down by a calf problem - should surely not succumb to a muscle injury so early into a game if his pre-match warm-up had been as rigorous as required?

Still, as Kompany walked off the pitch mouthing "calf"to Pellegrini, his limp was so heavy that speculating over his participation against United at the weekend would have been to seriously underplay the likely severity of the injury.

With just two months of the season left, it would be no surprise if Kompany did not appear in a City shirt again this campaign.

And with this being only his 18th appearance of a season when City were playing their 46th game in all competitions, that kind of record may prompt Guardiola to think long and hard about the club captain's future when he begins drawing up plans for his new assignment.

City were fortunate that they were facing an opponent in Kiev who lacked the quality to exploit their defensive problems.

Sergei Rebrov's team produced nice touches and moved the City back four and midfield around at ease, but they had no cutting edge and the game descended into a poor imitation of a testimonial long before the interval.

Perhaps City had one eye on this weekend's derby against United, subconsciously attempting to conserve their energies ahead of a game which could prove decisive for the Champions League qualification aspirations of both clubs, because their work-rate in this fixture was no more than minimal.

Kiev could not create enough to worry Joe Hart in the City goal, yet Pellegrni's players simply strolled through the game until a burst forward by Sergio Aguero resulted in a free-kick after the striker was fouled on the edge of the penalty area.

Yaya Touré stepped up to take the set-piece but, in keeping with the game, the midfielder's effort sailed over.

Touré at least looked as though he was in the mood to make something happen, however. Sixty seconds later, the Ivorian teed up Aguero, only to see the Argentine flash a right-foot strike across the face of the Kiev goal.

It was brief period of cut-and-thrust by the home side, with Jesus Navas striking the post on 61 minutes, but the excitement evaporated as quickly as it came.

The game needed a Kiev goal to bring it to life, but aside from an Andriy Yarmolenko shot after he turned Eliaquim Mangala - Hart saved easily - the visitors struggled to land a blow.

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