City took a huge step towards progression to the Champions League quarter-final for the first time ever when they ran out 3-1 winners over Dynamo Kyiv at the Olympiyskiy National Sports Complex on Wednesday evening.
First half goals from Sergio Agüero and David Silva and a late strike from Yaya Touré sealed a richly deserved victory for Manuel Pellegrini’s side and the only disappointment from the night is that the Blues won’t be taking an even greater advantage into next month’s second leg.
Pellegrini’s decision to give 10 of the 11 players that started this match last weekend off was vindicated somewhat as his team looked refreshed and dominant in every department against a side who were playing their first competitive game in 11 weeks.
The performance was easily one of the best of the season and contained many similarities, both in terms of the tactics and the score line, to the win away at Sevilla in November. Let’s hope there’ll be plenty more like it between now and the end of the season, starting with Sunday’s trip to Wembley.
Here’s what I thought of the individual performances on the night.
1 Joe Hart – 7/10
Had to be alert to parry an early effort over the crossbar and made a smart one-handed save down to his right in the second half with the score at 2-1 but wasn’t unduly troubled otherwise (aside from picking the ball out of his net, of course). “We’ve got to believe that [City can win the Champions League], or else there is no point in turning up on Wednesday,” was what he said before the game and the rallying cry he gave to his teammates in the tunnel showed that he’s so much more to this team than just the goalkeeper. It’s going to be so, so annoying when he’s inevitably benched again on Sunday.
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) February 24, 2016
3 Bacary Sagna – 8/10
Supposedly wasn’t 100% fit going into this game but you’d never have known it from his performance. The Frenchman was strong in the tackle, distributed the ball intelligently and got forward well in support of the attackers when necessary. Sorry Zabba, but you are well and truly second choice now, mate.
After last night's appearance in Kiev Bacary Sagna has played as many European Cup games as Johan Cruyff.
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) February 25, 2016
4 Vincent Kompany – 8/10
How different this season could have been had City’s captain not been side-lined by injuries for so much of it because the contrast between the way City defend with him and without him is really quite remarkable. He’s a brilliant central defender in his own right, of course, but he also seems to get the best out of the players around him and the back four just looks so much more organised with him in it and, at times, almost indomitable. The Belgian was widely criticised for his penchant for defending on the front foot last season but it’s clearly something he’s been working on because his performance in this game was a masterclass in exactly how it should be done. I’m not a religious man but I’m praying he’ll be an ever-present in the team between now and the end of the season because his importance cannot be understated.
30 Nicolás Otamendi – 8/10
Was unfortunate to deflect Vitaliy Buyalskyi’s shot past his own goalkeeper for Dynamo’s goal because he was otherwise reliable, composed and defended proactively when the situation required it. Otamendi looks so much more comfortable with Vincent Kompany alongside him and there are many similarities in their defensive styles. Perhaps, given he cost £30 million in the summer, he shouldn’t need Kompany’s presence in order to succeed but he’s still very much bedding himself into this team and it hasn’t always been as easy as it could have been for him. Hopefully he’ll continue to benefit from Kompany’s stewardship because it’s a partnership that has the potential to really flourish.
22 Gaël Clichy – 7/10
Defended solidly and did his bit in pressing the opposition high up the pitch. Although he made the odd overlapping run down the left hand side, his attacking contribution was pretty minimal but it at least meant that Dynamo weren’t easily able to catch City on the break when they won the ball back. I don’t know about anyone else, but I always feel a lot less worried when I see Clichy’s name on the team sheet.
42 Yaya Touré – 8/10
When the team news broke an hour before the game, it seemed Pellegrini had opted to once again deploy Yaya in an attacking midfield role as he’s done unsuccessfully at various stages this season. However, Yaya actually played in a deeper, pivot role in which he was able to calmly dictate play while the two Brazilian attack dogs alongside him focused on winning the ball back. It’s fair to say the years have not been kind to Yaya’s legs but he still possesses world class vision, passing ability and technique and this sort of role seems tailor made for him and should be where he always plays from now on. He should have scored when he headed wide from close range after Raheem Sterling had put a cross on a plate for him but he wasn’t done there and his beautiful left-footed curler into the far corner gave City the cushion they deserve going into the second leg. It’s time to prove your critics wrong Yaya, starting with another Wembley goal on Sunday.
6 Fernando – 8/10
Easily one of his best games in a City shirt which is even more impressive considering he didn’t get Sunday off like the rest of his starting teammates. I can’t be the only one who often wonders what Fernando’s for but I lost count of the number of times I found myself saying “well done Fernando” during this game. He pressed the opposition, won the ball back on a number of occasions, barely wasted a pass and even got forward in support of his attackers at times. Perhaps it’s a stereotype but he is Brazilian and therefore there must be more to his game than just passing the ball sideways. Keep giving him the same amount of freedom he was given in Kyiv and he could surprise us yet.
25 Fernandinho – 8/10
Put in a monstrous midfield performance full of high energy pressing, tackling and good use of the ball. As the second half wore on and City went in search of an additional away goal, Fernandinho moved over to the right of midfield (which, I’m reliably informed, was the position he was best known for when he first moved to Shakhtar Donetsk) and caused all manner of problems to Dynamo’s left-back. There were a number of occasions in the second half where he received the ball in a good position to shoot across the goalkeeper but elected to pass instead and the chance went begging but otherwise he was fantastic, again.
7 Raheem Sterling – 9/10
A superb night’s work from, in my opinion, City’s man of the match. The 21-year-old exhibited everything City paid so much money for in the summer in this game. Every time he got the ball he ran at his opposite number, pushing them back and stretching Dynamo’s back line. He combined well with the players around him (particularly with Agüero for the second goal) and put in two excellent crosses, one of which resulted in a goal and one of which really should have resulted in a goal. At his age, we can’t yet expect this level of performance from him every time he plays but this one bodes so well both for the distant future and the two games which carry a great deal of personal significance for him in the near future. If he scores the winner on Sunday I’m going on the pitch.
21 David Silva – 8/10
His form since his return from injury in December was becoming a serious concern but after it emerged last week that he’s been playing through the pain all this time, it hardly seems surprising he hasn’t been at his best. Wednesday night wasn’t vintage Silva but contained plenty of encouraging signs that he’s beginning to emerge from the darkness again. He scored a goal and looked like he’d make something happen every time he received the ball in the space he’d so cleverly created for himself. Welcome back Dave, don’t ever leave again.
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) February 25, 2016
10 Sergio Agüero – 8/10
Took the goal that made it 1-0 with aplomb and would have had a hat-trick by half-time had someone not meddled with the sights on both of his feet. He must be a nightmare to play against when he’s in this kind of form because he’s pretty much unplayable all over the pitch and can dribble, pass and shoot with equal levels of brilliance. Pellegrini should perhaps have subbed him a little earlier than he did because he seemed a bit leggy towards the end of the match but hopefully he’ll recover quickly and come flying out of the blocks on Sunday.
72 Kelechi Iheanacho – Came on too late to mark
His Champions League debut may only have lasted a few minutes but they all count.
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Written by Dan Burke