Crucial victory in Moscow as Agüero stars yet again for gutsy City
By Jack Mumford
City battled to a 2-1 victory over a struggling CSKA Moscow side thanks to another two goals from Sergio Agüero on Wednesday evening. CSKA weren’t City’s only obstacle to the three points as the Arena Khimki pitch certainly didn’t lend itself to the passing brand of football City currently play.
However Agüero, who is going through a purple patch of eight goals in his last six games, replied to CSKA’s opener quickly to guide City to a victory that is the perfect response to their recent crushing defeat against Bayern Munich.
Manuel Pellegrini chose to keep the same 4-4-2 formation that worked so well at West Ham on Saturday but rotated his fullbacks as Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov came in for Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta respectively. The only other change to the line-up was Samir Nasri dropping to the bench as Jesús Navas filled his right sided midfielder role.
Large periods of the first 30 minutes were cagey as both defences played a high line meaning the game was predominantly played out in midfield. City however had the majority of possession and did manage to create a few chances despite the difficult conditions.
An early corner was flicked on by Agüero and Yaya Touré seemed unable to judge the bounce as he missed the ball and therefore an open net. Shortly after, a flowing move between Touré and Zabaleta found Agüero unmarked but he simply didn’t put enough angle on his shot to send it goalwards.
City didn’t have it all their own way as CSKA striker Seydou Doumbia had a few chances to run at the City defence that appeared to be lacking organisation or leadership but Matija Nastasić handled the dangerous Doumbia brilliantly.
City were punished shortly after the 30 minute mark however as Keisuke Honda, CSKA’s answer to David Silva, out jumped makeshift centre back Javi Garcia and Zoran Tošić's run was left untracked by Nastasić or Zabaleta, leaving the Serbian ex-United winger to chip the ball over a powerless Joe Hart. CSKA were clearly delighted to have actually scored a goal after a run of five games without finding the net in the Russian Premier League.
This seemed to give City a new found determination and almost immediately they broke and Silva, in his 150th game for City, found himself just inside the CSKA 18 yard box to cross to the penalty spot where Agüero worried Sergei Ignashevich into a mistake and the Argentinian found the corner of the net.
City dominated the rest of the first half and their new lethal strike partnership linked up for the second goal as Álvaro Negredo seemed to have a wall of defenders in front of him but somehow dug out a cross which City’s leading scorer Sergio Agüero reacted to first and as we all would expect with the form he is currently in, found the corner of the net.
For City fans the second half was a very nervy one. The Russian champions came out in resolute fashion as they searched for a way back into the game. Despite a big gap between midfield and defence and the not necessarily first choice personnel in defence due to the injuries to leader and captain Vincent Kompany and experienced new signing Martín Demichelis, England’s Number 1 Joe Hart remained untested for the first 20 minutes of the second half.
From then the game remained remarkably open. Both teams had several attacks and City fans everywhere may have been calling for the game to be tightened up. However, Pellegrini stuck to his philosophy of seeking goals at every opportunity. There were a few big scares for City but the biggest of them was in the final few moments as Honda controlled the ball unmarked at the back post but by the time he shot Hart had narrowed the angle by rushing out superbly and made the block to give City the victory.
There have now been reports of racist chanting from a section of the CSKA Moscow fans directed at Yaya Touré which Touré himself described as “disappointing.”
City are now perfectly positioned to go through Group D in second place and reach the knockout stage, with games against CSKA and Viktoria Plzeň approaching at the Etihad.
Below are highlights from the 2-1 victory.
Below are highlights from the 2-1 victory.
City CSKA Moscow
59% Possession 41%
20 (9) Shots (on target) 9 (5)
7 Corners 3
14 Fouls 14