Friday 19 January 2018

Toure's cracker rounds off easy night for City

Sergio Aguero finds the net with a volley to open the scoring for Manchester City: Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
Sergio Aguero finds the net with a volley to open the scoring for Manchester City: Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City are closer than they have ever been to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, so it would be churlish to point out that they should be even closer than that.

City's 3-1 away win at Dynamo Kiev means that it would take a catastrophe at the Etihad in three weeks' time for Manuel Pellegrini's side not to reach the last eight. Only an extreme pessimist would complain that the second leg will not be quite the non-event that it should have been.

City produced an almost perfect first half in the Olympic Stadium, catching the hosts off guard with some precise incisive football. They scored twice and only some careless finishing from Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero meant that they did not score six.

This time last year City were 2-0 down to Barcelona after 45 minutes and already out of the competition. This felt like the complete opposite.

And yet City risked paying the price for not killing the game when Dynamo Kiev came back into the second half. The hosts got their crowd back onside and pulled one goal back when Vitaliy Buyalskiy's shot deflected off Nicolas Otamendi and into the net. Joe Hart had to save well from Buyalskiy with 10 minutes left and City looked like hanging on until Toure rose to meet the occasion with a wonderful curled finish in the last minute of normal time.

With their two-goal cushion restored, City could embark on the long flight back to Manchester with a strong sense of a job well done. Their big players have been conspicuous in their anonymity recently but last night they gave a performance to match the stakes. Kompany was perfect at centre-back, winning every one-on-one.

Silva was back to his old clever best, and scored the second goal. Toure worked hard and killed the game with a moment of class. Aguero did not give Kiev a second of rest.

This could have been an intimidating night for Manchester City. They are still relative novices at this stage, and the Olympic Stadium is an imposing, echoing place, especially when full of enthusiastic, patriotic locals. City came here after three consecutive defeats, with both Manuel Pellegrini and the senior players castigated for their discarding of the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon.

But City looked to blow all of those concerns to pieces with a controlling, authoritative first-half performance. Pellegrini brought all of his first-team players back into the team and, facing a Dynamo side still waking up from a long winter break, they looked far sharper and faster all over the pitch.

Fernandinho, tucked in on the right wing, gave an extra outlet to a midfield that has often lacked legs. Fernando, the only player to keep his place from Sunday, provided the defensive presence Yaya Toure has always needed.

After 15 minutes of slow, sedate football - Joe Hart had to tip over from Andriy Yarmolenko, but that was it - City took the lead with a goal that was far too simple to score. David Silva curled in a corner from the left, Toure nodded it down at the far post and Sergio Aguero, reacting fastest, controlled the ball and smacked it into the net before any Dynamo defender realised what had happened.

That goal silenced the stadium and from then on City looked like scoring every time they broke forward. Fernando won one ball in midfield and found Silva, who slid in Aguero but he dragged a shot wide from his favourite position. The next time Fernando won a loose ball Aguero played in Toure, who could not beat the 'keeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy from the same place.

Any worries about missing those chances were soon assuaged when, five minutes before the break, City added another. Aguero held the ball up on the left-hand side, waited and then found the overlapping Raheem Sterling. His cross proved perfect and up popped Silva at the far post to convert.

Every time City won the ball they threatened in behind and Aguero should have had another, two minutes later, snatching left-footed at a chance created by the industry and vision of Fernandinho out on the right.

When the two teams went in at the break, City looked pleased enough with their 2-0 lead, but might well have wondered how they were not five goals clear already.

The second half was never going to be as easy as the first, and Dynamo came back into the contest with some spirit and purpose. They moved the ball forward quicker to Yarmolenko, their best player, who cut in from the right and drove a left-footed shot just wide of Hart's far post.

City had to see out the spell of pressure but they dropped further back, surrendering control of a game they had at their mercy, and paid the price. Nicolas Otamendi headed a cross away from goal and there was far too much space for Vitaly Buyalskiy on the edge of the box. His 20-yard shot deflected off the recovering Otamendi, beyond Hart and into the bottom corner.

Suddenly City's first half looked like profligacy and they desperately implored referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz for penalties when first Sterling and then Silva appeared to be tripped in the box, by Yevhen Khacheridi and Aleksandar Dragovic respectively.

Dynamo made their third enforced change of the night while City waited, nervously hoping to see out the last 20 minutes. When Dynamo broke down the left, releasing Miguel Veloso on the right, City were fortunate that he scuffed his effort wide.

City continued to push for the third goal they needed to allow them to relax. Aguero and Fernandinho could not quite get on the end of whipped crosses form the right. Toure should have headed in Sterling's cross, and when Hart had to save well from Bukalskiy, City were on edge.

But Toure, after missing two easier chances, decided to end the game in the last minute. He picked the ball up 20 yards out, shuffled past two tackles and curled the ball into the far corner. City could fly home happy.

Dynamo Kiev 1

Manchester City 3

Irish Independent

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