Man City dazzle in 5-0 rout

Man City's new signing Nolito going round Steaua Bucharest goalkeeper Florin Nita to score their third goal in their 5-0 Champions League rout.
Man City's new signing Nolito going round Steaua Bucharest goalkeeper Florin Nita to score their third goal in their 5-0 Champions League rout.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

They can afford 2 missed penalties by Aguero to near qualification for Champions League

LONDON • By the end, the only possible disappointment for Manchester City was that they might have to look for a new penalty-taker as well as a goalkeeper.

Ultimately, Pep Guardiola's team were so superior, so fluent in possession and brilliant on the eye, it turned out that Sergio Aguero could miss twice from the spot and it was worthy of only a place in the small print.

City overwhelmed Steaua Bucharest 5-0 in their Champions League play-off first leg, putting in the kind of performance that made it clear why they were so obsessed with the idea of bringing Guardiola to the Etihad Stadium.

They could have scored many more and the night was summed up by the standing ovation that swept round Romania's national stadium after Aguero's third goal had completed the scoring. David Silva and new signing Nolito were the other scorers of the night.

City had outclassed the home side in every department and Aguero had turned a possible ordeal into a hat-trick performance and the crowd wanted to show their appreciation.

"We are almost in the Champions League. That was our target," Guardiola said.

"It was a great performance, great attitudes. The result is amazing. I am so satisfied with the way we played - a big compliment to these fantastic players."

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  • Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero's penalty misses in European competition

Guardiola's team certainly succeeded in switching the emphasis away from goalkeeper Joe Hart, left out again in favour of Willy Caballero, and reminding their audience it is usually a good policy to trust this manager.

In the process, they made the return leg next Wednesday feel like a formality that even Hart might finally get a game.

Aguero has however missed four out of his past five penalties in European games and, though he converted one against Sunderland at the weekend, it will be intriguing to see whether he continues in the role.

"I'm confident if he's confident," Guardiola said, indicating he would leave it to Aguero to decide.

What can be said with certainty, however, is that it was a brilliant reaction from this expert finisher. Another striker might have let those misses fester, but Aguero simply shook his head clear and responded with three goals.

"We played a really good game. It could have been eight or nine," said forward Kevin de Bruyne.

"In the end Sergio scored three goals. If you do that, nobody will complain about the two missed penalties."

There was certainly plenty to admire about the way Guardiola's team passed the ball and, again, encouraging signs of Raheem Sterling's renascent form.

The Englishman was a key contributor to the first two City goals. First was his brilliantly alert play, in the 13th minute, to dispossess Alin Tosca, sprint clear and then pick out Silva for the opening goal.

Then it was a neat lay-off for Aguero's first goal in the 41st minute. Sterling's speed and trickery also led to Miniru Sulley giving away the first penalty in the eighth minute.

Overall, the link-up play between de Bruyne, Silva and Aguero was wonderful at times and the night was tarnished only by Fernandinho, whose robust challenge on Bojan Golubovic left the Bosnian with a suspected broken cheek.

At the end of the night, though, the crowd stood to acclaim what they had seen and City's fans must have been exhilarated by what it promises for the future.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'Man City dazzle in 5-0 rout'. Print Edition | Subscribe