City snatch Champions League spot

Kelechi Iheanacho putting Man City 1-0 up in their Premier League game against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. But there was no winning end to Manuel Pellegrini's reign as the hosts equalised.
Kelechi Iheanacho putting Man City 1-0 up in their Premier League game against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. But there was no winning end to Manuel Pellegrini's reign as the hosts equalised.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • So Pep Guardiola need not worry about acquainting himself with the Europa League at the start of next season.

Manchester City secured the point yesterday, following a 1-1 draw at Swansea City, that guarantees them fourth spot and a shot at the Champions League group stage providing they can negotiate a play-off in the middle of August.

It is not the way that City envisage gaining entry to Europe's premier club competition and the celebrations among the travelling supporters at the final whistle were probably a mixture of relief and joy at their neighbours' expense as much as anything else.

Manchester United will be absent guests when the Champions League gets under way next season, as they need an unlikely win over Bournemouth by a 19-goal margin.

Needing only a draw to be sure of finishing fourth, Manuel Pellegrini's side took the lead through Kelechi Iheanacho's ninth league goal of the season and had plenty of opportunities to put some daylight between themselves and Swansea.

Instead they were pegged back by Andre Ayew's deflected free kick on the stroke of half-time and unable to score the second-half goal that would have given them some breathing space and allowed Pellegrini to sign off his three-year reign with a win.

City opened the scoring in slightly odd circumstances and for a moment it appeared as though Mike Dean had ruled the goal out for offside.

Eventually, however, the referee made it clear that Iheanacho's close-range finish, after Kristoffer Nordfeldt had repelled Sergio Aguero's initial attempt to turn in Kevin de Bruyne's cross, was going to stand. It was the right call and only Dean knows why he made such a song and dance out of a routine decision.

Ayew's left-footed shot deflected off the head of Fernando, in the wall, and flew into the opposite top corner for the equaliser.

City approached the second half with much greater urgency and intensity, but a goal was not forthcoming. Swansea, in truth, never came close to snatching a winner at the other end.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2016, with the headline 'City snatch Champions League spot'. Print Edition | Subscribe