City beats Plzen 4-2 in Champions League
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City’s prolific strike force bailed out its vulnerable defense in a 4-2 win over Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday that kept alive the English team’s hopes of topping Group D in the Champions League.
Fielding a depleted team having already qualified for the last 16, City was twice pegged back by the plucky Czech champions at Etihad Stadium before goals by Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko in the final 12 minutes sealed victory.
“We can attack and we can score four goals without giving (away) so many chances that we did today,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. “One of the most important things to be an attacking team is to know how to defend well. Today we did very, very bad.”
England goalkeeper Joe Hart might have been expecting a comfortable night on his return to City’s first team after being dropped for the last five matches, but he was kept busy throughout on an anxious night for the home side despite the final scoreline.
Sergio Aguero’s 33rd-minute penalty — his 12th goal in his last nine games — put City ahead but Tomas Horava’s brilliant strike in the 43rd deservedly put Plzen level at halftime. Samir Nasri regained the lead for City with a 65th-minute volley, only for Hart to be exposed once again as Stanislav Tecl slotted home four minutes later.
“I think Joe Hart played very well. I didn’t expect that he would have to work so much during the game,” said Pellegrini, who wouldn’t state whether Hart had done enough to retain the jersey for Sunday’s Premier League match against Swansea.
The result kept City three points behind Bayern Munich ahead of their meeting in Germany in two weeks. Having already lost 3-1 at home to the reigning champions, Pellegrini’s men will need to win 3-0 or by a two-goal margin if they score four or more times to finish first and probably secure an easier last-16 match.
It shows just how prolific City has become under Pellegrini that a weakened team featuring seven changes from the 6-0 thrashing of Tottenham on Sunday could still create so many chances and look so threatening going forward.
City has now scored 22 goals in its last four home matches — and 41 in 10 games at the Etihad so far this season. Pellegrini’s side wasn’t even at its fluent best, either.
Nasri rattled the bar with a long-range shot, but Plzen was having just as much joy at the other end early on before Aguero converted a penalty after Frantisel Rajtoral handled the Argentina striker’s cross.
City’s defensive play was sloppy, though, and Horava was given time and space to fire a rising shot from just outside the area into the top corner. Hart had no chance.
Aguero, one of the few City first-teamers to start, was substituted at halftime — Pellegrini said it was always his intention to play him for 45 minutes — but that didn’t stop the home side from gradually taking charge after the break.
Yaya Toure came off the bench on the hour and within minutes had helped create City’s second. After a foray into the box, the Ivory Coast midfielder laid the ball back to fellow substitute Jesus Navas, whose cross was volleyed in adroitly by Nasri using his left foot.
With its first real chance of the second half, Plzen hit back within four minutes when Daniel Kolar beat City’s sleepy defense to a cross in from the left and Tecl slotted home.
Negredo, tapping in Navas’ low cross, and Dzeko, heading in Milner’s center, had the final say, though.
“I am satisfied because we won the game 4-2 but I think we didn’t play well, we didn’t play with the intensity and the pace we are playing here at home.”
Plzen remains without a point but can still finish third in the group and qualify for the Europa League by beating CSKA Moscow on Dec. 10.