Read how City swept Steaua Bucharest aside in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League play-off round at Romania’s National Arena…
City took a step towards the group stages of the Champions League in Romania thanks to a supreme 5-0 away win over Steaua Bucharest. If there was one thing lacking from Saturday’s narrow opening day win over Sunderland, it was the creation of gilt-edged chances but there were no such problems here as the Blues carved open their hosts time and again throughout the 90. Despite two missed penalties in a bizarre, fast-paced first half, Pep Guardiola’s men took a 2-0 lead in with them at the break, thanks to goals from David Silva and Sergio Aguero before Nolito scored his first goal for the club straight after the interval and Kun got his second to make it four on 78 minutes. Aguero completed his hat-trick with two minutes remaining to round off the scoring. City’s first missed penalty came with just seven minutes on the clock after Raheem Sterling was taken out in the penalty area for the second-successive game. As he did on Saturday, Aguero took up responsibility for the spot-kick but this time goalkeeper Florin Niţă guessed right and palmed away before Nolito smacked the crossbar with his follow-up effort. However, City only had to wait four more minutes for a precious first away goal, seizing the advantage through Silva’s clinical finish which came after yet more dazzling wing play from the in-form Sterling. Incredibly, Aguero missed a second spot-kick on 20 minutes, this time catching the top of the crossbar after Aleksandar Kolarov was felled by a clumsy Gabriel Enache challenge. Both Kolarov and Sterling rattled the crossbar in the closing minutes of a first half City completely dominated but it was Kun who proved you can’t keep a good man down, doubling the Blues’ advantage with four minutes of the half to play. It was some goal too – an unerring, curling finish around the goalkeeper from the edge of the area which followed a rapier-fast, one and two touch team move and was teed up by a delightful cushioned pass from the brilliant Sterling. City’s third was another beautifully worked one as Nolito exchanged passes with Kevin De Bruyne, timing his run to perfection to beat the offside trap, before rounding the goalkeeper and tapping home to make it three. It was four with 12 minutes remaining after yet another sublime one-touch move was finished off by Aguero's measured drive and Kun capped an odd night in his career as he secured the match ball with two minutes to go - surely the first time any player has scored a hat-trick after missing two penalties! It anything, the 5-0 scoreline was harsh on City due to the sheer volume of chances they created but Guardiola will have been satisfied with this outrageous exhibition of attacking football, as well as the one-sided result.
Key Moment… City should have been 3-0 up after 28 minutes but, following two squandered penalties, the lead was just 1-0 when Willy Caballero came to his team’s rescue. The Argentine stopper stood up and made himself big as he raced out to narrow the angle before he blocked Hamroun’s goalbound effort smartly. It may have not altered the result as City were superior in every department but it may have just have dented the away team's confidence a little at a key time in the game if Steaua had scored.
Man of the Match… Nolito With a very honourable mention to Raheem Sterling, Nolito is the ManCity.com Man of the Match following an excellent performance on the left wing. Our new boy was a constant menace on the left and marked a hugely impressive showing with his first City goal three minutes after the break. The former Celta Vigo man buzzed around mischievously and linked up beautifully with the team's other creative architects, his goal coming from a typically telepathic exchange with De Bruyne. To cap off an impressive display, Nolito was the man who teed up Aguero for the outrageous fourth goal. What it means… With five away goals scored and none conceded, this emphatic victory should mean that the Blues will compete in the UEFA Champions League group stages for the sixth-successive season. The teams meet again at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday where Pep may just decide to rest some of his frontline stars with progress surely assured.
How we lined up… Pep made two changes to the Sunderland line-up for this, his second competitive game in charge, bringing in Argentine duo Nicolas Otamendi and Pablo Zabaleta for their first action of the season. Zabaleta and Kolarov were the men charged with performing the multi-purpose role Guardiola expects from his full-backs, coming inside into midfield when City were in possession, freeing Sterling and Nolito up to run riot on the flanks. Silva lined up his new deeper role and pulled the strings, while De Bruyne was given a license to roam as a kind of free no.8.
Stats and milestones… • City scored five goals in a European away game for the first time (inc qualifiers). • Sergio Aguero has scored ten times in his last nine games for Manchester City in all competitions. • Pep Guardiola took charge of his first UEFA Champions League match as City boss. • Fernandinho made his 100th appearance in European competition. • Nolito scored his first goal for the club since signing in the summer. • This is the first time Man City have played a Champions League qualifier, featuring in each season of the tournament since 2011/12. • This was City’s first-ever meeting with Steaua Bucharest.
Steaua de Bucarest (0): Nita; Enache, Tamas, Tosca, Momcilovic; Muniru (Ovidio Popescu), Achim (Bourceanu); Popa, Stanciu, Hamroun; y Golubovic (Tudore)
Manchester City (5): Caballero; Zabaleta (Sagna), Otamendi, Stones, Kolarov (Clichy); Fernandinho; Sterling, De Bruyne (Fernando), David Silva, Nolito;, Agüero