Manchester City 1 Steaua Bucharest 0 - Delph goal secures qualification for group stage

By Ric Turner, Thu 25 August 2016 16:24

Manchester City 1 Steaua Bucharest 0 - Delph goal secures qualification for group stageJoe Hart captains side on possibly last appearance for the club

UEFA Champions League Play-Off, Second Leg
Wednesday 24 August 2016, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Maffeo, Stones (Adarabioyo 60), Kolarov, Clichy, Fernando, Delph, Toure, Navas, Nolito (Angelino 60), Iheanacho (Fernandinho 83)
Unused: Gunn, Silva, Aguero, Sterling
Goals: Delph (56)

Referee: Pawel Gil (POL)

Man of the match: Kolarov

With City leading 5-0 from the first leg, there was always a danger that the home tie against Steaua Bucharest could be something of a damp squib, and so it proved on a warm night at The Etihad. Pep Guardiola rung the changes, with only three of the starting XI that defeated Stoke at the weekend retaining their places. Joe Hart was recalled in place of Willy Cballero, and was awarded the captaincy on what may prove to be his last appearance for the club.

It was an emotional occasion for the England goalkeeper, with the home crowd cheering his every touch and making clear their displeasure at the decision to replace Hart with Claudio Bravo. Guardiola acknowledged the fans' feelings after the game, but will proceed with a move for Bravo regardless.

Hart was rarely troubled by a Steaua side who were aware of the futility of the task facing them. Manager Laurentiu Reghecampf also opted to rotate his squad, and as a result the game lacked any real fluency or quality. Pablo Maffeo made an assured European debut for City, whilst John Stones and Aleksandar Kolarov impressed once again at the centre of defence, but few others seized the opportunity to impress their new manager.

There were few chances of note in the first half. Kelechi Iheanacho saw a tame shot from outside the box saved, whilst a Yaya Toure free-kick drifted aimlessly wide of the near post. City took the lead, thus maintaining Guardiola's 100% start to the season, after ten minutes of the second half, when Fabian Delph glanced in a cross from the otherwise ineffective Jesus Navas.

There was concern late on, when Iheanacho pulled up and appeared to briefly lose consciousness, but the Nigerian striker confirmed after the game that the injury wasn't serious despite being stretchered off. Fernandinho replaced the young forward, and the game petered out to its natural conclusion.

After the game, Guardiola said: "We are ready for the Champions League. These players and club deserve it.

"It was not easy with 10 players behind the ball but in the second half we adjusted and attacked much better. The spirit was amazing. Now is a day to celebrate our qualification for the Champions League."