Friday 20 April 2018

Shevchenko proves he still has goal touch to leave City facing exit

Dynamo Kiev 2
Manchester City 0

Andriy Shevchenko (C) scores against goalkeeper Joe Hart. Photo: Getty Images
Andriy Shevchenko (C) scores against goalkeeper Joe Hart. Photo: Getty Images

Rob Stewart

The Europa League should represent Manchester City's most promising route to the club's first silverware since 1976 -- but the way Andrei Shevchenko rolled back the years in the Ukrainian capital left their hopes of success in this competition hanging by the thinnest of threads.

Shevchenko might well be in the twilight of his career, but he showed he still has what it takes to outwit Premier League defences with a first-half goal before Oleg Gusev doubled the lead late on as City's hopes of making it into the Europa League quarter-finals faded.

The former Chelsea striker provided the inspiration against opponents who proved to be a soft touch. Ahead of his club's first match on Ukrainian turf, City manager Roberto Mancini identified the Valeriy Lobanovskiy Stadium pitch as a "problem" due to the freezing temperatures that dipped to -6C at kick-off.

Despite the chilly conditions, Mancini's players warmed to the task in this exposed roofless bowl where the hosts have not lost in six European games since a Champions League defeat by Barcelona in December 2009.


City were first to threaten when David Silva slid a pass through to the marauding Micah Richards, but goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy just beat the defender to the ball before he comfortably gathered Alexsandar Kolarov's 20-yarder.

Dynamo looked to Shevchenko for inspiration. He had been handed a free role in attack and their strategy paid off when the 34-year-old put his side in front. The former AC Milan striker took advantage of weak goalkeeping by a hesitant Joe Hart to put his team in control when he was first to react to Andrei Yarmolenko's near-post cross and poked home.

It was enough to send Mexican waves around the stadium and the locals were pleading for a penalty shortly after when striker Artem Milevskiy went downunder Vincent Kompany's challenge, but their appeals were rightly ignored.

Shevchenko was an invigorated soul and he threatened to extend his team's lead when City failed to clear a corner but shot over.

Half-time came and went but Shevchenko continually created space to threaten Hart's goal.

The ineffective Mario Balotelli epitomising City's frustration with a foolish challenge that earned the Italian a booking before he was replaced by Carlos Tevez.

City improved, but Dynamo looked more dangerous in attack and Milevskiy, who proved to be a key ally for Shevchenko, should have put clear water between the sides but toe-poked the ball straight at Hart from six yards before Joleon Lescott had a 22-yard shot saved as Mancini's men raised their game.

David Silva missed a sitter for City as the tension rose and a frustrated Mancini had to be ushered back to his dug-out after remonstrating with the referee.

Mancini's side entertain Reading in an FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday. The way this tie went, the domestic competition has started to look more auspicious than their continental adventure.

City's ambitions suffered a major blow in the 77th minute when Kompany's header looped up into the air and as Richards hesitated, Gusev thumped a half-volley past Hart. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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