Sergio Aguero continued his scintillating form and fired City to a 3-2 win over Group E soon-to-be winners Bayern Munich. His hat trick dragged City to all 3 points in what was another less than convincing performance, but we'll take it.
City began the match on the front foot as urgency was evidently the message from Manuel Pellegrini to his players this evening. Bayern defended well, however, and crafted out a few chances of their own on the other end of the pitch. Joe Hart was forced into another wonderful stop to keep things scoreless after Sebastian Rode crept through the City defense.
Minutes later, City found their opener. Frank Lampard sent a perfectly weighted ball over the top for Aguero, who can beat Mehdi Benatia in a foot race any day of the week. Aguero slowed down upon entering the box, which coincided with Benatia sliding in recklessly from behind and a straight red card. It wasn't a vicious foul, but a silly one which couldn't have drawn many complaints. The Argentine coolly dispatched the spot kick past a diving Neuer and City were on the board and a man up.
Things should go well from here, right? Wrong. This is Manchester City, folks. We do things the hard way. And we didn't have to wait long for the twist. After Lewandowski was brought down on the edge of the box, Xabi Alonso slotted his free kick in at the far corner to equalize for the Bavarians. Questions can be asked about Joe Hart's positioning and concentration as he didn't dive.
Minutes later, Bayern added to their score through a fortunate goal from Lewandowski. Former City man Jerome Boateng launched a cross into the box which was met by the Pole, although he made less than smooth contact and ultimately scored off of his shoulder. 2-1 Bayern at the half.
The second half was similar to the first in that City couldn't do much in the final third of the pitch. The numerical advantage meant that Bayern weren't as much of a force in their attacking third, but were always a threat for magic whenever they broke down the pitch. City had a couple decent efforts at net but nothing good enough to truly test Neuer.
So, Bayern helped us out with that. Around the 85th minute, Xabi Alonso inexplicably played a very poor pass along the backline which was immediately nicked away by Stevan Jovetic. The ball fell to a sprinting Aguero, who beat Neuer across the face of goal to bring the Blues even.
A draw would have helped City, but an unlikely win was always an even better option. And Jerome Boateng was next in line to help us out. With just minutes to play, Boateng was slow with the ball at his feet and lost out to Aguero, who beat Neuer 1 on 1 again and stole the match for City. It was a brilliant performance from our little talisman and I have no idea where this club would be without him. We may be witnessing the prime form in the career of arguably the best striker in the world today.
All in all, it was a less than stellar team performance but we'll be happy to have some of our key missing players back for next match at Roma, which suddenly becomes one of the biggest games we've had in a while. At this point, it's not even about deserving to go through; if that were the case, then a lot of results in the history of the sport would have to be changed as well.
As it stands, here is the current situation in the group:
1. Bayern, 12 pts, +9
2. Roma, 5 pts, -4
3. CSKA, 5 pts, -4
4. City, 5 pts, -1
Yep, UEFA's silly tiebreaker rules mean we are still in last, despite having a significantly better goal difference than both CSKA and Roma. For a breakdown of the tiebreakers:
The teams are ranked according to points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss). If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following criteria are applied to determine the rankings:
1. higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question;
2. superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question;
3. higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question;
4. higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question;
5. If, after applying criteria 1 to 4 to several teams, two teams still have an equal ranking, criteria 1 to 4 are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the two teams in question to determine their final rankings. If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria 6 to 8 apply;
6. superior goal difference from all group matches played;
7. higher number of goals scored from all group matches played;
8. higher number of coefficient points accumulated by the club in question, as well as its association, over the previous five seasons.
Yes, it's all very complex and silly but there you have it. Our best case scenario is a win against Roma and a CSKA loss. But we can discuss the permutations more in the comments.
A wild end to a wild day of footy.