Steaua Bucharest 0 Manchester City 5 - exhilarating display puts Blues on brink of qualification

By Ric Turner, Wed 17 August 2016 09:57

Steaua Bucharest 0 Manchester City 5 - exhilarating display puts Blues on brink of qualificationAguero nets hat-trick, despite missing two penalties

UEFA Champions League Play-Off, First Leg
Tuesday 16 August 2016, 19.45 KO

City: Caballero, Zabaleta (Sagna 70), Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov (Clichy 75), Fernandinho, Silva, De Bruyne (Fernando 79), Nolito, Sterling, Aguero
Unused: Hart, Delph, Navas, Iheanacho
Goals: Silva (13), Aguero (41, 78, 89), Nolito (49)

Referee: Daniele Orsato (ITA)

Man of the match: Sterling

City all but secured qualification to the group stages of the Champions League for a sixth successive season with a scintillating performance in the Arena Na?ionala. Pep Guardiola made few changes from the team that had beaten Sunderland on the opening day of the season, opting only to rotate his full-backs with Pablo Zabaleta and Nicolas Otamendi replacing Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy, allowing Aleksandar Kolarov to return to a more familiar left-back slot.

The hosts had started the season in fine form, with four wins and a draw in their opening five games, but were left red faced here in more ways than one. A pre-match display was sabotaged by rival Dinamo Bucharest fans, much to the consternation of owner Gigi Becali, and on the pitch Steaua were unable to cope with the passing and movement of Guardiola's side. City could easily have notched up double figures on the night, but their five goal lead makes the return leg in Manchester next week a formality.

Sergio Aguero could even afford to miss two penalties, and still end the evening in possession of the match ball, after notching his eighth hat-trick for the club. When asked afterwards if Aguero would continue with penalty duties, Guardiola replied “I’m confident if he’s confident”. The first penalty came after just seven minutes, when the resurgent Raheem Sterling was brought down in the area. Aguero's weak penalty was comfortably saved by Nita, although it subsequently emerged that the striker had been targeted by laser pens from the crowd whilst taking the spot kick. It scarcely mattered, as six minutes later City took the lead following more good work from Sterling. The England winger caught fullback Tosca in possession, and picked out David Silva to open the scoring.

Sterling also played a part in City's second goal, laying the ball into the path of Sergio Aguero who finished neatly from the edge of the box. By this time, Aguero had missed his second penalty of the evening, clipping the top of the crossbar after a crude challenge on Kolarov.

City extended their lead further just four minutes after the restart, with the impressive Nolito notching his first for the club following an exquisite through ball from Kevin De Bruyne. The Spanish internation then linked up with Aguero on the edge of the box, and the striker finished off a stunning move that brought warm applause from the home crowd. There was still time for Aguero to complete his hatrick, wit ha shot that went in off the post in the final minute

Whilst Steaua were perhaps generous opponents on the evening, there was much to be admired about this exhilarating City performance and the Blues will head into the group stages in confident mood.