Talking Points: City fly the flag in Europe
- 25 February 2016 10:27
- Posted by @markbooth_mcfc
Dissecting another memorable night in the UEFA Champions League…
@markbooth_mcfc picks out eight conclusions from our 3-1 win Round of 16 first leg win over Dynamo Kyiv.
Flying the flag…
It’s been four years since an English team has won the first leg of a knockout game in Europe’s premier club competition and so this victory could turn out to be good news for England's coefficient rating.
With the Premier League anxiously looking over its shoulders at Italy’s Serie A, it was a timely win for a footballing nation looking to keep hold of its maximum complement of four UEFA Champions League berths.
This was no fluke either – it’s often said that the freewheeling, attacking nature of the Premier League serves as a disadvantage to English teams on this stage but City’s winning margin could have been even wider following a 90 minute European away masterclass.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side were in control from the outset and, to put their achievements into further context, this was the first time an English team had scored three away goals in a European away tie for six years.
Storming the fortress…
Dynamo Kyiv had been unbeaten in their last five home European games against English sides until this game – a record spanning nine years.
It was a typically intimidating atmosphere generated by the home supporters in Kyiv’s Olimpiyskiy NSC but there was a glacial, calm, authoritative air to City on Wednesday night which demonstrated just how far we have come in this competition.
Raheem Sterling has now had a hand in five goals in his last four Champions League games (three goals, two assists).
Manuel Pellegrini spoke of needing a UEFA Champions League “crack” in an enlightening interview at the back end of last season – a phrase with a Spanish derivation which roughly translates as “a difference-maker”.
The England winger certainly seems to be fulfilling that brief on the continent’s biggest stage, consistently finding the perfect final pass or the goal which sends his team on their way to victory.
Following on from being the only English representative in UEFA’s official Team of the Group Stages, Raheem turned in a sublime performance in Ukraine, winning our CityMatchday app users’ Man of the Match award in the process.
A reminder: He’s still just 21-years old.
Best of the season?
Have City produced their best form on the European stage this season? Many fans on social media were putting this win at least on a par with the victory away at Sevilla in the group stages.
There were plenty of similarities in the way the away side went about this game, pressing high, making the pitch wide and having a solid base the three core pillars on which City’s dominance was founded.
It would be easy to forget the role of a defensive midfielder in a team which scored three away goals in the Champions League and looked razor sharp going forward but Fernando’s contribution should not be forgotten.
The Brazilian had one of his best games in a City shirt since joining the club in summer 2014, putting out fires all over the field and providing a platform for Pellegrini’s men to launch attacks from.
He also completed 100 per cent of his 45 passes which, at this stage of the competition, is frankly ridiculous by anyone’s standards.
Aguero’s UCL hot streak…
16 goals in 17 UEFA Champions League starts now for Sergio Aguero and this was another superbly taken strike.
Kun’s early volley, a goal which showcased his nerveless predatory instincts, was scored at the perfect time, easing nerves and allowing City to settle into the tie with the cushion of an away goal.
That’s nine goals in his last ten in all competitions – a record that’s all the more impressive when you look at our recent run of results.
Fernandinho on the wing…
Brows were furrowed and confused looks were exchanged when City lined up at the start of this Last 16 tie.
Many had assumed from Pellegrini’s team selection that it would be a three-man City midfield of Toure, Fernando and Fernandinho, with Silva on the right and Sterling on the left, but the City boss tossed in a curve ball which worked a treat.
Fernandinho instead lined up as the right winger – a role he used to play with some distinction back in his Shakhtar Donetsk days – and the 32-year old rolled back the years, providing lung-busting coverage of the flank, dropping into the centre when needed to support the two holders, as well as putting in a number of inviting balls across the face of goal.
Next stop: Wembley
Now, the inevitable question: can City reproduce this sublime form in the Capital One Cup final on Sunday and secure the season’s first available piece of silverware in the process?
In a week where recovery time between games is the hot topic, this time the Blues have an extra day on their Merseyside rivals, as Liverpool take on Augsburg at home in the Europa League on Thursday night.
Travel time back from Kyiv probably wipes out any trace advantage there but at least the Blues should be on an even keel with Jurgen Klopp’s side ahead of a mouthwatering clash.
We can’t wait!