Goals from Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero in a ten minute blitz at the start of the second half saw City move level at the top of the group and in doing so match their points tally for the whole of the group stage last year. It was a very smart nights work by the visitors bedecked in the equally smart new white cup shirt. Viktoria Plzen posed a number of questions largely from wide deliveries and particularly in the opening stages, but were ultimately well beaten.
Much has been made of Manuel Pellegrini’s nous and experience in the Champions League and it appeared that the Chilean decided that the best course of action would be for City to seize the initiative and attack Plzen from the outset. Minus David Silva and Gael Clichy, who have 4 days to prove their fitness ahead of Sunday’s derby match, City were largely at full strength here. The return of Vincent Kompany was a reassuring boost at the back, and Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero all returned to the starting line-up after the tepid performance at the weekend against Stoke.
By and large City dominated proceedings in the first half without being truly able to take hold of the match. The tactic was to press high up the field, both Fernandinho and Yaya were well forward in an attempt to keep the hosts encamped in their own half and the full backs as ever were tasked with joining in the attacking play. It was a tactic that largely worked, despite a slightly cagey opening, as chances started to be fashioned the longer the half drew on. Dzeko should have scored with a header when found by a beautiful delivery from Kolarov and Aguero, a menace throughout, struck the upright on a couple of occasions. As the teams withdrew for half-time there was satisfaction in the control City had demonstrated but perhaps a little anxiety also that the first nerve-settling goal had yet to arrive.
Thankfully the wait was not a long one. 3 minutes into the second half after excellent work from Aguero to shrug off what essentially amounted to a rugby tackle from his marker, Edin Dzeko coolly passed the ball into the back of the net and sparked joy amongst the travelling throng. City settled. Moments later Yaya Toure - with two outstanding free kicks already to his name this season - decided he wanted to further his personal goal of the season competition and curled an absolute peach of a shot from distance into the top corner. By that stage Plzen spirits had started to sag and it was no surprise that there was a further goal for City. Sergio Aguero span past his man in the area with ease and fired a left footed shot into the far corner, sealing the points emphatically by the 58th minute.
From there on, with one eye on the titanic clash on Sunday, City played down the clock, Navas and Toure both being given a breather by the games conclusion. Pleasing aspects of the encounter were thus – the return of the all important Captain, serenaded frequently by the travelling Blues “Here’s to you Vincent Kompany” (to the tune of Mrs Robinson); the performance of Samir Nasri operating in more central areas from his starting position on the left flank and looking all the better for it; Sergio Aguero looking fit and in form; and a clean sheet and 3 points towards the target of 10/11 points that generally secures qualification from the Group stages. The mighty Bayern Munich await in the next encounter, themselves victorious by the same margin against CSKA Moscow in the groups other fixture. Pellegrini will be pleased that City got the ball rolling here, as the club bid to make it third time lucky in reaching the knockout rounds.
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero