Aguero treble downs 10-man Bayern to keep Man City’s CL hopes alive
Sergio Aguero may just have saved Manchester City’s season. Eight adrift of Chelsea in their bid to defend the Premier League title, they had a pathetic two points from four Champions League group games before a home battle with familiar adversaries Bayern Munich.
A treble from Argentine attacker Aguero stunned the German giants, who were down to 10 men and, for the record, had already qualified for the knockout phase of Europe’s elite club competition as pool winners.
Champions League Group E will be a complex affair, following the other sides, CSKA Moscow and Roma, drawing in the early kick-off. The Russian heavyweights and Eternal City outfit now join City on five points with one match left, and only one can advance alongside Bayern.
This topsy turvy Etihad evening began with Joe Hart making a start stop from Sebastian Rode, given a berth in a depleted Munich midfield by Pep Guardiola. City summer signing Eliaquim Mangala put in an impressive first 30 minutes, during which time the visitors lost a man.
Morocco defender Mehdi Benatia felled Aguero in the box; a clear professional foul on the City talisman when he was in on goal. Manuel Neuer went the right way, but the Argentina international placed his penalty precisely into the corner.
Going a man down forced Guardiola to withdraw Rode for Dante to shore up defence. An unlikely turnaround followed, with Bayern leading at the break thanks to a fabulous five-minute spell.
Robert Lewandowski won a cheap free kick from Mangala, Dante pulled off the end of the wall and birthday boy Xabi Alonso simply passed this deal ball past Joe Hart. Embarrassing stuff or ingenuously inventive? City had tried a training ground set piece routine of their own earlier in the contest, but Frank Lampard’s radar was off.
Poland poacher Lewandowski then popped up between full back Bacary Sagna and Etihad skipper Vincent Kompany to get on the end Jerome Boateng’s ball in, using his shoulder to loop it beyond Hart.
Neuer saved from Jesus Navas and Lampard in the second half, but City’s man advantage finally told when Munich made uncharacteristic mistakes. Five minutes from time, Aguero pounced on an aberration from Basque pass-master Alonso to level things at 2-2.
Former Etihad defender Boateng then dithered when dealing with sub Stevan Jovetic’s glancing touch to a long punt during stoppage time, and once again the lethal Argentine nipped in to snatch victory.
Not to be a downer on a memorable European night for City, but even this victory may be insufficient to take them through. When in Rome, Pellegrini must win and Bayern beat or draw with Moscow, as head-to-head records count before goal difference in the Champions League.
A set of shared spoils in both fixtures will only end in disappointment. CSKA picked up four points from their clashes with City, meaning if the three teams finish all square on six apiece, they’ll be bottom. Moscow took four points off Pellegrini’s men, but so in turn did Roma off the Russians.
Such permutations mean the Eternal City outfit would be runners-up and CSKA third. Win and hope Munich oblige in the other encounter is what everyone at the Etihad wants.