Manchester City demolished CSKA Moscow 5-2 at the Etihad to secure their berth in the Champions League knockout phase for the first time. Although they got the win, it had been an uncomfortable night for City in the Russian capital two weeks ago, but it was anything but this time around.
City were 3-0 up and with victory all-but secured by the half-hour mark, through two goals from Sergio Aguero before one for partner Alvrao Negredo. Seydou doumbia scored twice for the visitors either side of the break, but each time Negredo responded to preserve City’s three-goal cushion and seal his first hat-trick since his summer move from Sevilla.
While there was disappointment at the loss, and the comprehensive nature of it, against Bayern Munich, Manchester City and manager Manuel Pellegrini will be delighted to progress with two games still to spare. Unquestionably Pellegrini’s major remit upon securing the job in the summer was to succeed where Roberto Mancini had failed the past two years and make a major mark on Europe’s biggest competition.
He has been helped in doing so by the continued burgeoning partnership of Aguero and Negredo. City were given the perfect start with a goal in just the third minute. Former Manchester United midfielder Zoran Tosic’s rash challenge brought down David Silva and Aguero shot confidently into the roof of the net from the spot. On 20 minutes the lead was doubled. Samir Nasri rolled an incisive pass into Aguero in the box and the Argentine turned his defender superbly before shooting right-footed into the corner. Aguero’s memorable night soon continued as he set up Negredo for a simple finish with a low cross to the far post.
CSKA provided the slightest glimmer of a comeback on the stroke of half time when Doumbia broke City’s offside trap and rounded Costel Pantilimon to score. Yet any hope of an unlikely fight back was snuffed out six minutes into the second half when Nasri helped Yaya Toure’s chipped pass over the defense across the face of goal for an even simpler finish for Negredo than his first.
Pantilimon, again starting in place of Joe Hart, was subsequently beaten for a second time by Doumbia from the spot. But on a historic night, the last word fittingly belonged to City. Substitute James Milner supplied a fine deep cross for Negredo to showcase his heading skills with an impressive finish.