Manchester City 3 Sporting 2

Europa League Round of 16, Leg Two
Thursday 15 March 2012, 20.05 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Savic, K Toure (c), Kolarov, Y Toure, Pizarro (Dzeko 55), A Johnson (de Jong 45), Silva (Nasri 66), Aguero, Balotelli
Unused: Pantilimon, Clichy, Milner, Roman
Goals: Aguero (60, 83), Balotelli (pen 75)
Booked: Y Toure, Kolarov, Savic, Balotelli

Referee: Tom Hagen
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero

Despite the home side needing two goals to get into the next round from the kick off, it was the visitors who started the brighter. Insua headed just over from an early Sporting corner, while City struggled to get any passes together, preferring instead to look for the long ball over the top. Balotelli slipped as he was played in, before he was free on the right flank and found by Silva, but the defender got a toe to the ball before he could pull the trigger.

Fernandez looked for a penalty just before the half hour, going down in the area under a challenge from Savic, but the Serbian won the ball. A minute later, he went into the book for diving in the box, this time under pressure from Kolo Toure. But then, minutes after, he made his impact on the game: He buried a free kick from the left side of the box into the far corner; Hart got a hand on it, but couldn’t do anything to keep it out.

With just over five minutes of the half to play, City’s uphill task became a mountain. Izmailov found acres of space on the left flank and crossed the ball low for van Wolfswinkel at the back post. He couldn’t miss, smashing the ball into the roof of the net and giving the visitors their second away goal and a two-nil lead. City needed to score four or they were out of the competition, but they hadn’t looked like scoring once in the first half.

But the second half was a different story. Sporting seemed happy with their two-goal haul and sat back, while City went for broke. Though, despite beginning to dominate possession, City were struggling to fashion shooting a shooting chance. Mancini introduced Dzeko and, five minutes later, his presence in the box allowed Aguero to find space. Yaya Toure picked him out and the Argentine slotted the ball home, giving the hosts some faint hope.

Kolarov curled a free kick just wide, shortly after, before he curled a corner into the box and it was narrowly missed by both Balotelli and Dzeko, as the hosts looked for their second goal. But, with 15 minutes to play, Aguero was felled in the box and the referee pointed to the spot: Balotelli stepped up and coolly rolled the ball into the net. The game on the night was level, but City still needed two more goals to qualify for the next round.

As the visitors began to waste time, Nigel de Jong tried to hurry things up as Pereirinha went down softly by the touchline – the Dutchman tried to pick the Sporting man up and roll him over the line, so the hosts’ onslaught of Rui Patricio’s goal could continue.

With seven minutes to play, a corner into the Sporting box took a touch and found its way to Aguero. The goalkeeper was wrong-footed and City’s leading scorer volleyed the ball into the back of the net. The comeback was well and truly on, despite looking so unlikely at half time and the tie was level, though the visitors were going through thanks to their two away goals.

It was almost City’s night a minute later, as Kolarov delivered a wicked ball onto Dzeko’s head. The Bosnian, though, couldn’t climb high enough and couldn’t get over the cross. The effort was just over the bar. Balotelli then got on the end of a Kolarov cross, but his header took a deflection and dropped behind for a corner. City were knocking, but the Sporting door was just about holding firm.

With the board up for stoppage time, Aguero burst into the box and held onto the ball. His momentum took him too far wide, though, and, despite firing it low and hard, his cross was swallowed up by the visiting goalkeeper, with Balotelli trying to get on the end of it.

As the game ticked to the final 30 seconds, City won a corner and piled everybody into the box – including Joe Hart. The first ball in was cleared as far as de Jong and the second cross found the City keeper at the back post. He shrugged off the challenge and headed at goal. It was going in at the back post until the fingertips of Rui Patricio pushed the ball wide. But there was no time to take the resulting corner.

City had gone out of the Europa League, but while the second half fight back wasn’t enough, it should give the blues some inspiration for the coming league games.

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Sporting 1 Manchester City 0

Europa League Round of 16, Leg One
Thursday 8 March 2012, 18.00 KO

City: Hart, Clichy, Kompany (c) (Lescott 11), K Toure, Kolarov, Milner, de Jong, Barry (Nasri 59), Silva, Dzeko (Balotelli 71), Aguero
Unused: Pantilimon, Savic, Pizarro, A Johnson
Goals:
Booked: de Jong, Kolarov

Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo
Man of the Match: Aleksandar Kolarov

The early control of the ball came from the visitors to Portugal, but it was Sporting who had the first half chance of the game. Hart was out quickly to head the ball clear as it bounced past Kolo Toure, before an audacious attempt at a volley over the City keeper landed well wide of the goal, as he scrambled back to the line. There was a blow for City inside the first ten minutes, losing Kompany to injury.

Pereira found space on the edge of the City box and had time to shoot, but his effort was well beaten away by Hart. De Jong and Kolarov then combined to complete the clearance. City’s first corner almost produced the opening goal, as Milner’s short ball to Silva was returned to the Englishman. He crossed and Kolo Toure connected, but the Sporting keeper blocked with his foot and nobody in a blue shirt could get to the rebound.

De Jong lost out mid-way into the Sporting half and it gave the hosts the chance to break with a four-on-three. Thankfully for City, though, Lescott was able to block the initial ball into the box. His clearance fell straight back to the home side, but he made amends, blocking the second cross, with Silva winning a free kick for the visitors on the corner of the box. A short corner was then well worked to Gareth Barry, but his curling effort was just wide of the post.

A deflection from Kolarov gave Hart something to think about, as it looked to be dipping under his crossbar. But the England keeper took no risks, putting the ball behind for a corner. City dealt with the initial ball in, but Dzeko gave it away in midfield and allowed the hosts to get a shot in from range. Hart, though, was able to watch it fly high and wide.

Some quick one touch football for Sporting on the edge of the City box almost fashioned a shooting chance, but first Kolarov, then Lescott and then de Jong all got in vital blocks to make sure that Hart wasn’t called into action. Fernandez tried his luck, but the Dutchman in City’s midfield wasn’t allowing the ball past him in the box. A free kick from deep by Lescott found Dzeko in the box and the Bosnian’s header fell to Aguero, but he couldn’t trouble the goalkeeper.

A low Kolarov cross into the Libson box in the second half caused the home side problems, but both Dzeko and Milner missed the ball and, via a touch from Aguero, it fell to Silva outside the box. His effort, though, was side-footed high and wide, as he tried to curl it into the top corner.

A silly free-kick conceded by de Jong, though, then cost the blues a goal. A shot from Fernandez was blocked by Hart, who was troubled by the bounce right in front of him, and Xandao pounced on the rebound. Hart saved his first effort, but the Brazilian back-heeled past the stranded City goalkeeper at the second attempt, giving the hosts the lead. Hart, though, will be disappointed not to have done better with the original shot.

Aguero tried to react immediately, but he had no support inside the Sporting area and had no option but to fire straight at the goalkeeper from a tight angle. Lescott was then needed to clear the ball over his own crossbar, after City had given the ball away in midfield: The visitors were struggling and the Portuguese were well worth their lead.

Aguero won City a free kick on the left flank just before the hour mark and, with decoys in the box, Milner looked for Kolarov on the edge. He took a touch to control and belted it at the top corner; the goalkeeper was beaten, but so was the post. Just.

A brilliant save from Hart kept the score at one, as van Wolfswinkel found space in the six-yard box, peeling off Toure as Lescott moved to close the cross. The ball found the striker and he thought he’d scored, until Hart blocked it and de Jong cleared the danger. City were hanging on.

Kolarov delivered another low ball into the box, with 20 minutes to play, and Aguero dummied it for Nasri. It threw the Sporting defence, but the Frenchman couldn’t hit it first time and his first touch took him wide, so the best he could do was win the corner. Balotelli then crossed for Silva at the near post and the Spaniard connected, but poked the ball wide.

With four minutes to play, Balotelli connected with a Silva corner at the back post. It looped over the goalkeeper and was close to dropping into the net, but it crashed back off the crossbar and into open play. Lescott, on the rebound, was then adjudged to be offside. Clichy smashed an effort from the edge of the box and it was deflected to Aguero. His touch took him though and he chipped it over the keeper, but was cleared off the line.

City need to turn it around in the second leg.

Manchester City 4 Porto 0

Europa League Round of 32, Leg Two
Wednesday 22 February 2012, 17.00 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, de Jong, Barry (Milner 58), Nasri (Dzeko 69), Y Toure, Silva, Aguero (Pizarro 82)
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Savic, Balotelli
Goals: Aguero (1), Dzeko (76), Silva (84), Pizarro (87)
Booked: Y Toure

Referee: Wolfgang Stark
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero

City couldn’t have wished for a better start to the second leg of their Europa League tie, as, within the first 23 seconds, the home side had the lead. An interception from de Jong found Yaya Toure, who, in turn, slotted the ball for Aguero to run on to. He made no mistake with his one-on-one, sliding the ball across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner of the net.

But, if the home fans were hoping that that goal would open the floodgates early on, they would have been disappointed. Porto tried to get themselves back into the game, but were struggling to create a shooting chance, against a City side that – with an aggregate 3-1 lead – were happy to concede possession on the halfway line. Rolando was booked for a pull back on Aguero and Yaya Toure had a shot saved, with Nasri missing the rebound.

Moutinho whipped a free kick over Hart’s crossbar, before Aguero rounded Helton on the edge of the box and tried to chip the covering defender. He looked to have perfected it, with both the Porto players beaten, but the ball crashed back off the crossbar and away to safety. City could have doubled their lead straight after, as Aguero found Toure on the break, but the ball across took him too wide and Porto were off the hook.

Early in the second half, the visitors had the ball in the net, but they were thwarted by the linesman’s flag, before they lost Otamendi to a nasty eye injury – after he was caught in the face by his own man Maicon at a City corner.

Porto were in control of the ball for large spells of the match, but they weren’t creating much to worry Hart. While it felt like backs against the walls time for City, in truth, the visitors seemed a little toothless – summed up in City adding their second of the night and fourth of the tie. Aguero broke with the ball down the left and squared for Dzeko, who nutmegged Helton and sealed the victory. In the aftermatch, Rolando saw his second yellow card and was dismissed to round off a miserable night in the rain for the visitors.

As the game entered its last ten minutes, the visitors capitulated. Pizarro fought well down the right wing to win the ball back and keep City on the front foot. He took back from Dzeko, squared for Silva and, faced with an open goal, the Spaniard couldn’t miss.

And it got better for the home fans: Dzeko laid the ball off the Pizarro on the edge of the box, but there wasn’t room for the loan signing to shoot. Instead, he chipped the ball over the challenged and bundled his way through into the box, before coolly sliding his one-on-one past Helton to make it four.

It was a big victory and a good European performance over two legs for City.

Porto 1 Manchester City 2

Europa League Round of 32, Leg One
Thursday 16 February 2012, 20.05 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Barry, de Jong, Silva (Kolarov 83), Y Toure, Nasri (Zabaleta 88), Balotelli (Aguero 78)
Unused: Pantilimon, Savic, Pizarro, Dzeko
Goals: Pereira (OG 55), Aguero (85)
Booked: Y Toure, Kompany, de Jong, Barry, Nasri, Richards

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir
Man of the Match: Joleon Lescott

It was a typically slow start to the first leg of a European tie, with Porto seeing more of the ball in the attacking third than City, but neither side able to test the opposition’s goalkeeper. Yaya Toure burst into the box, but his cross was blocked, before Hulk couldn’t grow enough to beat Richards in the air at the back post. Rolando almost opened the scoring on 15 minutes, but Clichy was there to nod the effort over the bar, as the hosts stepped up the pressure.

Toure was brought down in the middle of the Porto half as he broke, winning City a free kick. Nasri chipped it into the box towards Balotelli, who missed it. But the goalkeeper spilled it and the Italian was almost able to connect with the rebound, but couldn’t quite readjust. Richards smashed the clearance at goal and forced a good save from Helton, before Nasri should have opened the scoring with a one-on-one shot from the edge of the box.

With 27 minutes played, the hosts got themselves in front, just as it had looked like City had ridden the storm. Hulk smashed the ball across the box and Clichy couldn’t get there ahead of Varela and the striker stabbed it into the net. Hart was unlucky after getting a leg on the ball, but it wasn’t against the run of play.

Immediately, Balotelli should have levelled the game. He was clean through on goal after a delightful ball from Nasri, but his turn and volley was well pushed away by Helton. With the amount of time and space the Italian had, it should have been City’s equaliser. Clichy put a great ball into the box for Balotelli with just under five minutes of the first half to play, but first he then the goalkeeper missed it and Silva was inches from making it even.

A neat flowing move from City as the first action of the second period saw Barry find Silva, who, in turn, found Richards on the overlap. The full back powered into the box and smashed the ball at goal. It beat Helton, but it didn’t beat the post, as it ricocheted away to safety. Balotelli was then almost slipped in by Nasri, but he couldn’t quite take it in his stride.

Ten minutes into the second half, City pulled level. Pereira flicked the ball past his own goalkeeper under a challenge from Balotelli, after Nasri had played a ball over the top towards the Italian’s run. Helton had come for the ball, but got nowhere near it and the ball trickled into the empty net off the full-back’s shoulder. Hart was then in action to deny Hulk from a free kick.

A series of Porto free kicks came to nothing, after the referee got a bit card happy, penalising nothing challenges with bookings. Richards was just offside as he tried to latch on to a Nasri through ball, before Valera skied an effort from the edge of the box. A brilliant tackle from de Jong then denied Hulk the chance to collect a return pass inside the area.

With five minutes of the game to play, City took the lead with their second away goal. Yaya Toure was played through into the area and drew the goalkeeper. He squared the ball for Aguero, who was faced with an open goal and couldn’t miss. He didn’t, rolling the ball over the line to give City the advantage. It was enough to give City a lead after the first leg.

Manchester City 1 Dynamo Kyiv 0

Europa League Round of 16, Leg Two
Thursday 17 March 2011, 18.00 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Lescott, Kompany, Kolarov (Milner 89), de Jong, Barry (A Johnson 71), Y Touré, Silva (Dzeko 76), Balotelli, Tevez (c)
Unused: Taylor, Boyata, Vieira, Wright-Phillips
Goals: Kolarov (41)
Booked: Tevez, Kompany, Silva, de Jong, Y Touré
Sent Off: Balotelli

Referee: Cüneyt Çakir
Man of the Match: Nigel de Jong

Needing two goals without reply to just force extra time, City were up against it from the off. And they were out of the traps quickly, as an early goal would have gone a long way to help with the confidence and the mountain ahead. Tevez had a run at the Kyiv defence, but couldn’t find a way through, before Balotelli, somehow, missed an open goal from two yards, skying a Richards cross.

It was almost trouble for City, though, after just five minutes, but Joe Hart was down smartly to his right hand side to stop the visitors killing the tie off with an away goal. Balotelli then headed over from a Kolarov corner, as City pressed for a way back into the fixture.

As the half settled down, City began to keep possession in the Kyiv half and the visitors were looking to attack on the break, keeping the game stop-start and not allowing the home side to play. It worked, but when City could get moves going, they looked dangerous – as Balotelli accidentally blocked a Silva shot that would have worried the goalkeeper.

But then, as City were looking for a way back into the game, their task got a lot harder. Balotelli was shown a straight red card with ten minutes of the first half to play, seemingly for a karate-kick style challenge onto Popov’s chest, as he tried to clear the ball. City’s mountain had become even steeper.

Though City gave themselves a helping hand soon after. A free kick on the edge of the box was tapped to Kolarov and, after taking a touch to get the ball out of his feet, the left back thundered a shot through the penalty area and into the net. The keeper should have done better, but City weren’t complaining.

And City produced the move of the match so far with some neat interplay between Kolarov, Tevez and Silva right on the stroke of half time, but after the Spaniard had laid it off to Touré, the Ivorian couldn’t get his shot on target, skewing it more towards the corner flag.

Kyiv were then lucky to keep eleven men on the pitch after a high challenge on Tevez on the edge of the box. From the resulting free kick, Richards launched himself at the cross, but his header cleared the crossbar. Yarmolenko then fired in Kyiv’s best effort from 30 yards, but it was comfortable for Joe Hart.

Silva then broke into the box and won a corner with a deflected shot, when he should have perhaps found Tevez on the edge of the box, before Lescott saved City from needing to score even more by heading a corner off the line, as Hart was beaten.

City began to pour forward looking for their equaliser, but that left them open to the counter attack and it needed de Jong to take a yellow card for the team to prevent a three-on-two in the visitors’ favour. Kolarov then won a corner as his drilled cross was almost headed in for an own goal, before Kompany had to rescue a deep ball into the box, but Dzeko couldn’t get the ball back into the mix.

With five minutes to play, Hart had to get down to give away a corner and keep City in the tie, as an away goal at this point would definitely kill off the home side. As the board went up for added time, Dzeko turned and drilled a fierce shot at goal, but the goalkeeper was across well to make the save.

As a final roll of the dice, City had a free kick on the edge of the box: Yaya Touré drilled the ball in and Tevez was millimetres away from getting a touch past the goalkeeper, but he couldn’t and the keeper was able to take the shot with ease. And with that, City’s hopes of a European trophy were over, the damage being done in the first leg.

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Dynamo Kyiv 2 Manchester City 0

Europa League Round of 16, Leg One
Thursday 10 March 2011, 20.05 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Lescott, Kompany, Zabaleta, Barry (c), Y Touré, Kolarov (Wright-Phillips 82), Silva, Dzeko, Balotelli (Tevez 57)
Unused: Taylor, Boateng, Boyata, de Jong, Vieira
Goals:
Booked: Balotelli, Tevez

Referee: Florian Meyer
Man of the Match: David Silva

With Dynamo Kyiv having won their last Europa League tie by a large aggregate scoreline, City knew that this first leg would be a tough game. Temperatures were low and the pitch was rock solid, but it was the visitors who had the first chance, as Balotelli volleyed over from a deep corner.

Kyiv responded with some pressure on City’s goal, but Milevskiy dragged his shot well wide of Hart’s goal. Kolarov’s low ball into the Kyiv box almost caused a mix-up between goalkeeper and defenders, but the home side just about cleared.

Some more pressure from the home side was decisively ended by Lescott and Kompany, before the English centre-back carried the ball forward. After a quick one-two with Dzeko, he found Silva, who looked to slip Richards in behind the defence, but the goalkeeper was off his line quickly to snatch the ball.

With nearly 20 minutes on the clock, City were given a shooting opportunity in the Kyiv half as David Silva was fouled, but from the resulting free kick Kolarov could only find the arms of Shovkovskiy. Kolarov then had another effort from the edge of the box, this time from open play, after Dzeko had done well to keep it and Zabaleta had done well to touch it on.

But, with City having the better chances, it was Kyiv who took the lead. A shot from the edge of the box flicked off Kompany and prevented from going behind for a corner by Richards. That allowed the ball to be fired back into the City box and neither Hart nor Kolarov could get there first and Shevchenko knocked it into the net.

City tried to respond immediately with a free kick from Balotelli, but he scuffed it straight to the Kyiv defence. Yaya Touré then delivered a left wing free kick into the box, but it was well cleared. Two City corners almost allowed Kyiv to break, but each time the quick attack was snuffed out.

Kyiv wanted a penalty for a foul on Milevskiy, but there was nothing doing from the referee. Shevchenko then stayed on his feet to win a corner for Kyiv and could have done more damage to City, but he volleyed over as the visitors failed to clear their lines.

A quick free kick was then worked to David Silva on the edge of the box, via Barry and Dzeko and he crossed for Richards at the back post, but the right back’s jump was just too soon and the ball was just too high and he couldn’t connect. A poor delivery from a Kolarov free kick then allowed Kyiv to break and it could have been another shooting chance for the home side, save for some good defending from Zabaleta.

Milevskiy then found a shooting chance on the edge of the box after Barry couldn’t intercept Varmolenko’s low cross, but he couldn’t trouble Joe Hart and City got into the break without further damage.

The first talking point of the second half concerned Mario Balotelli… City kicked off with ten men, while Balotelli was late arriving to the pitch. From there, Shevchenko shot over from the edge of the box and Zabaleta was lucky to escape a yellow card for a rash challenge in the Kyiv half.

Kolarov then turned in onto his right foot from the left wing and unleashed a shot on his weaker foot that needed flicking over the bar. Balotelli’s corner then came to nothing, as the keeper caught it at the second attempt. Balotelli then ended a mazy run with a foul and City lost possession.

A nice ball from Tevez then almost sent Richards through in the area, but Yussuf read his intentions and got a foot in, before Tevez then found Silva on the edge of the box. He lost his shooting opportunity, but it found its way to Touré, who forced a good save from Shovkovskiy.

Milevskiy then nutmegged Richards with a slide-rule shot, but it wasn’t fooling Hart and the City keeper got hold of the ball. Dzeko then tried to slip Tevez in at the other end, but his pass was just too long for the Argentinean and he couldn’t get there before the goalkeeper.

Hart then needed to be off his line quickly to deny Shevchenko a shooting chance, after some neat interplay from Kyiv set them free down the right wing. Dzeko then couldn’t find room for the shot inside the home team’s box.

A City corner was then nodded as far clear as Kolarov. The Serbian put the ball back into the box and Lescott nodded it towards Tevez, before receiving the return on the edge of the box and striking it at goal. The keeper, though, saw it all the way and was able to hold on, but it was a good effort from the centre-back and City looked to be getting nearer.

Tevez then tried to slip Silva in, but the Kyiv defence blocked the pass. It bounced back to Tevez and he tried again, but Silva wasn’t expecting it and it was cleared as far as Zabaleta. His scuffed effort nearly fell for Silva, but he couldn’t readjust his body in time to put the ball in the net.

But, just as it looked like City were getting themselves back into the game, they were pegged further behind. A flicked header from Kompany inside the area unluckily fell to Gusev. Richards couldn’t react and Gusev smashed it past Hart for Kyiv’s second goal of the night and City were now desperate for an away goal.

Tevez tried to respond immediately, but couldn’t win a corner and was booked for arguing the point, before his shot took a deflection and bounced straight into the arms of Shovkovskiy.

Wright-Phillips almost had an instant impact as he tried to slide the ball through to Richards – who was playing as a makeshift centre-forward – but it was just over hit and City were getting desperate. Gusev then had a deflected effort well held by Hart.

With just over a minute before stoppage time, Hart got in to block a three-on-one breakaway and keep City in the tie. Dzeko then got up well in the box and nodded it down to Silva, who had more time than he realised and tried to head it at goal, but it was an easy take for the goalkeeper.

City have it all to do in the return leg.

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Manchester City 3 Aris Salonika 0

Europa League Round of 32, Leg Two
Thursday 24 February 2011, 20.05 KO

City: Hart, Boateng, Kolarov, Lescott, Kompany (Zabaleta 36), Barry, Y Touré, Silva (Wright-Phillips 81), Balotelli, Tevez (c) (Vieira 81), Dzeko
Unused: Taylor, K Touré, Wabara, Jo
Goals: Dzeko (9, 12), Y Touré (75)
Booked: Kolarov

Referee: Pavel Kralovec
Man of the Match: Edin Dzeko

With the vocal away support, City knew that their opponents would be up for the game and, after a goalless draw in Greece, all it would take was a single goal for them at Eastlands and it could be a difficult task for the home side. But City weren’t going to let the visitors get that good start: Kolarov whipped a first-minute free kick over the bar, before Dzeko got his angles wrong from a corner and sidefooted well wide.

Kolarov tried another free kick shortly after from the right wing, but that too was over the bar, as City tried to make their early possession and pressure pay. And, soon enough, it did: Lazaridis couldn’t deal with a ball over the top, allowed Dzeko to steal in and fire across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner with a fine finish.

Tevez and Balotelli both had a shot from the edge of the box, but both times they couldn’t generate enough power in their efforts and the goalkeeper was able to hold on to them both without too much difficulty.

But then it got better. A City breakaway down the left flank was quickly switched to the right, via Silva and then Tevez, and Dzeko switched the ball from his right foot to his left, cutting inside, and he fired it into the same corner as he scored his first to double City’s lead.

Balotelli was showing off the skills on 15 minutes, backheeling for Tevez to shoot, but it bobbled behind for a corner, before Balotelli had a go himself from a free kick from a long way out. The goalkeeper couldn’t hold it, but nobody in blue could latch on to the rebound before he dived on the loose ball.

Aris threatened the City goal for the first time midway into the first half, but Hart’s dive was just to cover his post as Vangeli shot wide. City then lost Kompany to injury, after he appeared to take a knock in going for a header.

Just before the break, a Tevez shot took a deflection that beat Sifakis, but luck was with the visitors as it bobbled just wide of his post for a corner. Zabaleta got in on the shooting action from the edge of the box, but his left footed drive was wide.

With a minute of the half to play, Dzeko should have had his first City hat trick, as he was sent clean through on goal by Tevez. The big Bosnian tried rounding the goalkeeper, but a combination of him and his defenders got enough on the ball to ensure Dzeko didn’t get his and City’s third goal.

Aris came out for the second half quicker than the home side, with a plea for a penalty for a foul by Barry, but the referee turned it down. Dzeko then shot straight at Sifakis, before Bobadilla had an effort from range, but it wasn’t troubling Joe Hart as it flew over the bar.

As the game appeared to be meandering to an end – City were keeping hold of possession and Aris were pressing, but unable to create too many clear cut chances – Balotelli almost put the tie beyond doubt. Breaking down the right, he skipped into the box and fired a low shot across goal. But it hit the post and bounced out, with Dzeko unable to re-adjust to the rebound.

Kolarov almost laid a goal on a plate for Balotelli, but Sifakis got his fingertips to the Serbian’s cross before it reached the Italian, and then Yaya Touré added City’s third of the night. A corner was cleared to him on the edge of the box and he took a touch to control before firing it back and, with the aid of a deflection, he found the bottom corner.

With just minutes to play, Dzeko could have had his hat trick, but the ball skipped off the surface and ran away from him from a Balotelli flick on. Nevertheless, City were safely through to the last sixteen and face a tie with Dynamo Kiev in the next round.

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