1-0 Shelton (85), 2-0 Jakobsen (89).
- Match reports
- Thu 19 Mar 2009, 11:00PM
- Posted by Peter Ferguson
Pre-match: Mark Hughes sprung something of a surprise by preferring young Wales striker Ched Evans to Felipe Caicedo, who scored the opening goal in the 2-0 first-leg victory at City of Manchester Stadium. Vincent Kompany reurned after a two-game absence with a troublesome toe injury. Elano was on the bench alongside Caicedo.
City had been warned by manager Hughes they could not afford to concede an early goal with a lapse of concentration, and there was an air of anticipation in the EnergiNord Stadium on a chilly night as the Danes prepared to try to overturn their two-goal deficit from a fruitless trip to Manchester.
Aalborg fans indulged themselves in a flag-waving display as they awaited their team's assault on the Blues, while City's fans had a traditional inflatable banana to brandish back across the pitch, Hughes having already declared himself and his players proud to be flying the Union flag as Britain's last men standing in the UEFA Cup.
"Istanbul, we are coming" was the cry and City made a lively start with Stephen Ireland prominent as they tested the Danes' resolve in the early minutes then the midfielder ensured there was no early shock for his team to absorb when he darted back to clear up on the edge of his own area after Kompany slipped to give Johansson possession.
The big Belgian midfielder earned the ire of the home crowd when he upended Kasper Risgard but the French referee let him off with a warning to their obvious annoyance, and Kompany continued to disrupt Aalborg's attempts to gain some midfield superiority.
Ireland and Robinho combined to give Wayne Bridge the chance to fire in a low cross that Evans collected but could not turn to his advantage as he was crowded out despite a valiant run across Zaza's penalty area.
The Danes were getting frustrated, and Kasper Bogelund's weak centre into the waiting arms of Shay Given at the near post did no justice to some decent approach work as City reached the 20-minute mark unscathed, a psychological milestone for any away side defending a lead in Europe.
Ireland and Robinho continued to search for the link-up that would produce the third goal that would surely book their passage into the quarter-finals, their first such advance in Europe in 30 years.
When the Danes did break through, in-form Nedum Onouha came up with a brilliant clearance from his own six-yard box as Luton Shelton tried to pounce, then Johansson's driven shot spun off Richard Dunne for a corner.
Robinho's clear willingness to work hard was a timely answer to recent criticism of his efforts away from home, but Aalborg were just as determined to give him as little time and space as possible to conjure anything.
Johansson caught the Brazilian to conced a free kick and leave Robinho momentarily double up in pain, and the game was still awaiting that moment that would either confirm City's passage or renew Aalborg's hopes.
Skipper Dunne was a tower of strength at the back, marshalling his men and rising to the occasion when the ball was lofted towards Given's goal, and the home crowd were becoming less enchanted by the minute.
Pablo Zabaleta's challenge left Anders Due in need of treatment but the referee once more upset the home fans by delivering a stern talking-to rather than the yellow card they were caling for.
Zabaleta fancied finishing the first half with a goal but his curling shot, after a well-worked corner routine between Ireland and Robinho gave him an opportunity, went a couple of feet wide of the post.
Due did not re-appear for the second half, being replaced by Siyabonga Nomvethe as City prepared to repel their best efforts and ensure their place in the last-eight draw scheduled for Switzerland tomorrow lunchtime.
Evans had a glorious chance to sew the tie up for City after 50 minutes when Ireland and the irrepressible Shaun Wright-Phillips carved him an opening but the ball bobbled as he shot and the ball flew over the low-slung stand behind Zaza's goal to unknowing hoots of derision.
Kompany became the first name in the book for another no-nonsense challenge, much to the crowd's approval, but they were disappoonted when a rare Aalborg chance fell to Caca but he skewed wide with Given covering his post.
Robinho's next surge through midfield came to nothing despite his pass finding SWP, who had no room to manouever, but City had a narrow escape when Javier Garrido, on for Wayne Bridge after 54 minutes, appeared to bring down Johansson but the furious penalty appeals were waved away as another Dane fell at Given's feet.
Kasper Risgard was booked after the furore died down, but City had to get their defensive heads on as angry Aalborg poured forward in search of the goal that would breath life into their fading hopes.
Too many Danes seemed to have problems keeping their feet when they got into Given's penalty area, and the French referee showed a yellow card to Michael Beauchamp when the raiding defender went down in theatrical fashion.
Aalborg were in danger of losing their cool, and stewards moved into the home end behind Given's goal as they erupted in fury over Ireland going down injured to interrupt the Danish side's mini-barrage.
Substitute Nomvethe was the next Aalborg player to take a tumble in the box and Dunne waved away his proferred hand as they trotted back upfield, knowing - as did the ref - that his challenge had taken the ball cleanly.
Dunne and his doughty defenders stood firm as the match went into the last 15 minutes with Aalborg seemingly on course to become City's third Danish victims of an arduous but rewarding UEFA Cup adventure.
Risgard was not happy to be taken off in the 77th minute, and the frustrations of the home side were almost increased when SWP went close to forcing his way through for the goal that would finish them off.
Instead Shelton, largely ineffective all night, forced Given into a near-post save that reminded the Blues, and the 10,735 crowd, that it was not quite over.
Zaza had to palm away a mishit Evans shot from Ireland's pass with time ebbing away for the Danes, but striker Shelton - the man who hit the infamous "balloon goal" in the FA Cup at Sheffield United - snatched a lifeline after 84 minutes.
It was the first real chance he had found but the Jamaica centre forward squeezed his shot between Given's dive and the goalkeeper's right-hand post to set up a frenetic finish as Aalborg took fresh inspiration.
And there was disaster lurking for stunned City when Evans handled the ball defending another pressure corner and Michael Jakobsen blasted the spot kick into the roof of the net to condemn the Blues to extra time.
With the aggregate scores level, the momentum had swung Aalborg's way with alarming speed in a few bewilderingh minutes for the Blues when they shoul have been cruising towards the last eight.
Instead a nail-biting half-hour of extra time, and the possibility of a penalty shoot-out, was suddenly staring City in the face as Hughes took off Robinho and sent on the fresh legs of eager striker Caicedo.
The Danes sensed a famous victory was there for the taking, but SWP dodged between two tackles to set up Ireland for a shot that was charged down but showed that the Blues had not allowed their heads to drop.
It was Aalborg's turn to defend as Garrido launched two free kicks deep into their penalty area, but with the tie now on a knife edge it was do or die for both defences as the game crept towards the last tense quarter of an hour.
Elano restored the Brazilian presence to the Blues when he came on after 106 minutes for Kompany, who would not have wanted more than 90 minutes' duty with his painful toe to contend with.
It had taken Aalborg an age to rediscover their Champions League pedigree, but now their slick passing and movement threatened City as the minutes ticked towards the spot-kick lottery that neither side wanted.
City tried to patiently create one last opening that would spare them that last slice of drama, but as the 120 minute sign went up on the scoreboard the Danish fans cheered in anticipation of a chance they thought had gone.
Jakobsen put the first kick away, Evans did likewise for City then Johansson made it 2-1 by sending Give the wrong way. Elano kept his nerve to level at 2-2 despite the racket from home fans.
Thomas Augustinussen watched in agony as Given guessed right to save, and SWP made no mistake - putting City 3-2 ahead - before Nomvethe dinked a cheeky one that left the goalkeeper helpless.
But Dunne kept his nerve to fire City back ahead 4-3, and when Shelton had his effort saved by Republic keeper Given the Blues fans behind that goal went wild - perhaps with relief as much as anything. What a scare.