Champions League: Potent Man City

Manchester City secured a place in the latter stages of the Champions League for the first time in their history yesterday morning (Singapore time), and they did it in style.

CSKA Moscow were beaten 5-2 at the Etihad, effectively wiped out in a vibrant and devastating first 30 minutes.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini was hired specifically for his record in this competition. His reputation was well-earned.

It must be said that in a group like this, his predecessor Roberto Mancini would probably have qualified too.

Bayern Munich are excellent, but Viktoria Plzen are limited and while CSKA boast a number of good players, they are a mediocre team at best.

Nevertheless, this was a proud night for the man from Chile.

Two goals from Seydou Doumbia took the gloss off the result and further highlighted City’s vulnerability in the absence of Vincent Kompany, but don’t expect that to quell the celebrations.

Not only did City reaffirm the view that they have one of the most potent attacks on the continent, but also with two games still to play, City are the first English side to reach the last 16.

After their first clash in Russia last month, there is bad blood between these two teams.

CSKA will have to face Bayern on Nov 27 with one end of the Arena Khim-ki empty after their supporters racially abused Yaya Toure.

With searing predictability, the Russian side flatly denied any wrong-doing and, prior to kick-off, manager Leonid Slutsky described the Uefa action as “an over-reaction”.

Some Russian newspapers even claimed that City’s complaints were motivated by lingering bitterness over the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia.

As if a club owned by the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, managed by Spaniards and coached by a Chilean, would take that sort of thing to heart.

The pleasure derived from this thrashing will not be felt exclusively by City fans, wasted little time in defending Toure’s honour.

POTSHOT

Anti-racism chants rocked the stadium from the start and a potshot was taken at Russia’s record on human rights when a “Free Pussy Riot” banner was unfurled, in reference to the Russian punk rock band, members of which were detained by the government.

For reasons known only to themselves, the City stewards quickly confiscated it.

But the supporters needn’t have worried.

The players were determined to humiliate their opponents as well.

City have been an odd team this sea-son, attacking with great intensity one game, and then with inexplicable lethargy the next.

This was a performance from the former category.

There were just two minutes and two seconds on the clock when David Silva was felled by Zoran Tosic, once of Manchester United.

Sergio Aguero made no mistake from the spot. The Argentinian striker added another with a divine turn-and-finish inside the box and then turned creator to present Alvaro Negredo with a tap-in from close range.

This was City at their best. Negredo added the fourth after half-time and completed his hat-trick with almost the last touch of the game.

City played out the game in such comfort that their supporters will rarely have enjoyed a more pleasant night.

It might even have been a performance to please Joe Hart, left out of the starting line-up for a second game in a row.

As was the case last Saturday against Norwich, Costel Pantilimon had a quiet game, attracting attention only in the first half when he failed to claim a high ball and fell over.

With no opportunities for heroics and a moment of obvious fallibility, Hart should reclaim his place away at Sunderland this weekend.

When Sheikh Mansour bought this club in 2008, he wanted to turn them from underachievers to European giants.

He has presided over one FA Cup win, one Premier League title and now one successful Champions League group stage.

Only one target remains. For that, City will have to sharpen up at the back.

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