1-0 Caicedo (8), 2-0 Wright-Phillips 30.
- Match reports
- 12 March 2009 22:00
- Posted by Peter Ferguson
Mark Hughes had to name a side without key midfielder Vincent Kompany, who has been playing through the pain barrier with a nagging toe injury that needs injections. But Robinho, identified as City's "special" danger by the Danes, returned from an ankle injury. Aalborg picked Luton Shelton, whose notorious "balloon" goal helped knock the Blues out of last season's FA Cup.
CITY'S sparkling first-half demolition of the Danes put them in the driving seat to clinch a quarter-final place next week in Aalborg thanks to a man of the match performance from bubbly Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Felipe Caicedo snapped up the early opener that the Blues craved but it was SWP, who conjured another cracking goal for his ever-expanding greatest hits album, who shook the visitors' resilience and confidence.
City treated the fans to a brilliant start to their bid for a place in the last eight and they were singing of the prospect of Istanbul only seven minutes into the tie when Caicedo fired the Blues ahead.
Robinho, lively and a real handful for the Danes, delivered the pass that found Caicedo on the edge of the box and the Ecuador striker turned and shrugged off his marker to crack the ball beyond the helpless Karim Zaza.
It was the start that Mark Hughes had demanded to give the Danes an uphill struggle, and with City looking likely to repeat that uplifting victory against Aston Villa a week earlier it was clear that would not be the only goal.
If Caicedo was a problem for Aalborg to deal with, they had to contend with Wright-Phillips in determined mood, and the little winger conjured a strike to rival his best with half an hour on the clock.
Stevie Ireland's pass found him closely marked by Patrick Kristensen, but SWP showed him the ball then breezed past the Dane before delivering a dipping nightmare of a shot for Zaz to watch as it entered his net.
The Danes had their chances but were clearly rattled by SWP's strike and Thomas Augustinussen managed to sidefoot the ball wide of the target with a yawning opportunity only a minute after City went 2-0 up.
Robinho might have put the icing on a great first half but was denied a penalty when he executed five step-overs before Michael Beauchamp tripped him as the Brazilian went past, only for the referee to ignore the foul.
Aalborg came out for the second half with a determination to make Shay Given work harder, only Caca's near-post drive which he saved with his knees having caused the Republic goalkeeper any qualms earlier.
Manager Hughes sat impassive on the sidelines, though he must have told his players to keep up the good work after a first-half performance that threatened to settle the tie before the interval energy drinks.
Nedum Onouha, the last City player to score from a corner as long ago as last season, almost ended that barren spell with a thumping header from Elano's flag kick that flew inches over the Danish bar.
There was no respite for the Danes. Ireland and Robinho essayed a smart link-up in and around the Aalborg penalty area that finished with the Brazilian's shot being saved after a backheel from ther Irishman.
SWP's trademark burst of speed took him past Kristensen once more but Zaza was alive to the threat posed by the England man and was out bravely to beat him to the ball by a split-second.
Ireland was growing bolder as the match went on, and after he tricked his way past a couple of defenders he fed Robinho only for the Brazilian's pull back to be intercepted before it reached the lurking Wright-Phillips.
Elano managed to pick up a yellow card for disputing the positioning of a free kick, just a minute after Thomas Enevoldsen was first into the referee's book for upending the irrepressible SWP.
Enevoldsen was taken off by coach Magnus Pehrsson six minutes later and the midfielder was distinctly unhappy at being picked out, shrugging off a consoling arm and storming down the tunnel to catcalls from the fans.
For City it was a night to celebrate not sulk, but it got worse for the Danes when Michael Jakobsen had to be stretchered off with an ankle injury after a collision outside the area with Pablo Zabaleta.
When SWP came off after 86 minutes to be replaced by fit-again Kelvin Etuhu, he received a predictable ovation for another effervescent performance that epitomised the City Hughes would like to see every game.