CSKA MOSCOW 1 MAN CITY 2 – City’s green shoots in Russian winter

Manchester City emerged from CSKA Moscow’s notorious Khimki Arena with three precious Champions League points having enjoyed the rub of the green after a less than glossy performance.

The 2-1 win, achieved courtesy of Sergio Aguero’s second brace within 96 hours, puts Manuel Pellegrini’s men in pole position to progress to the last 16 of the competition – provided they don’t misfire in the return fixture on Bonfire Night.

Moving on up - City prepare to progress In the UCL in Moscow

Moving on up – City prepare to progress In the UCL in Moscow

City were hot favourites going into the match on a cold uninviting Muscovite night, but they made heavy weather of the victory on a cow patch of a pitch, bizarrely painted green just hours before kick-off by their Russian hosts.

Pellegrini swapped both the full backs from City’s Saturday night triumph at West Ham, with Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksander Kolarov replacing Micah Richards and Gael Clichy.

The continued absence of skipper Vincent Kompany and the still not match-fit, Martin Demichelis, saw Matija Nastasic and Javi Garcia retained in central defence – a centre back pairing that gives many City fans palpitations and opposition strikers goal-scoring aspirations.

Nasty night - Matija Nastasic & his City team mates came through a tough trip to Russia

Nasty night – Matija Nastasic & his City team mates came through a tough trip to Russia

It was disjointed defending that allowed CSKA’s livewire striker Zoran Tosic to put the hosts ahead with a shock 31st minute lead.  An uncouth ‘route one’ Moscow attack was aided and abetted by City’s inept backline, as the Serbian attacker lobbed Joe Hart from close range.

A long clearance up field was nodded into Tosic’s path by Keisuke Honda when the smooth running midfielder out-jumped makeshift centre back Garcia. The goal – against the run of play – served to emphasise the vulnerability of City’s defence.

City seemed comfortable enough without posing any real threat in the first half hour, but thankfully the ever-alert Aguero was on hand to level matters just two minutes after CSKA gained the advantage.

Super Sergio - City's talisman striker grabbed his second brace of goals in 4 days

Super Sergio – City’s talisman striker grabbed his second brace of goals in 4 days

The Argentine striker’s telepathic-like understanding with playmaker David Silva was, once again rewarded, when he darted in front of his Moscow marker to finish off the Spaniard’s low whipped-in cross.

The rowdy Russian crowd – sections of which were later to disgrace themselves with racist ‘monkey chants’ directed at Yaya Toure – were stung silent.

With half-time approaching it was once again left to City’s tastier than tiramisu tantalising triumvirate of Silva, Negredo and Aguero, to sweeten proceedings.

Silva’s contribution in the last three consecutive wins has been immense and so it was again, as he weaved his magic in the CSKA box, before laying the ball off to Negredo.

Surrounded by defenders, The Beast somehow managed to turn a full 360 degrees, switching the ball to his weaker left side, before crafting a breathtaking pass with the outside curvature of his foot.

Celebrations - Sergio's goals in Moscow broke Francis Lee's longstanding European record

Celebrations – Sergio’s goals in Moscow broke Francis Lee’s longstanding European record

Football beauty personified, it was met with bravery and purpose as Sergio swooped in, head low, risking a clattering to his cranium from keeper Akinfeev’s flailing boot as he dispatched the ball into the CSKA net.  

The goal – Aguero’s 10th for the club in European competition – gave City a crucial lead they would not relinquish. It also secured Sergio a place in City’s record books, surpassing Francis Lee’s scoring accomplishments in continental cup contests.

Franny was quick to congratulate Sergio on twitter, tweeting ‘Well done on beating my European City scoring record…hope there are many more to come!’

Hail the hero - Sergio Aguero is one of the finest players in City's history

Hail the hero – Sergio Aguero is one of the finest players in City’s history

Negredo could have added to City’s tally had it not been for the vigilance of one of UEFA’s goal line officials who spotted the Spaniard’s inadvertent handling of the ball as Navas fired in a bullet of a cross. The Beast was subsequently, somewhat harshly, booked.

City had multiple chances to increase their lead; Silva was wrong-footed as a Kolarov cross came at him in front of goal, Akinfeev tipped a dipping 20 yard Yaya shot over the bar, while substitute Dzeko missed a couple of good opportunities from close range.

CSKA had sensed they could grab at least a draw and came close to equalising on several occasions. Joe Hart produced an acrobatic save from a Doumbia header, but the real drama came in the 8oth minute when Musa struck a 20-yard pile driver with Hart well beaten.

Battling Edin - Dzeko came close but missed two late chances for City

Battling Edin – Dzeko came close but missed two late chances for City

The ‘goal’ was disallowed after the referee ruled Yaya had been kicked in the face while attempting a headed clearance.

City’s band of travelling supporters breathed a sigh of relief, as did the many tens of thousands glued to their TV’s over an early evening ‘tea’.

Honda – the engine of most of CSKA’s attacking play (sorry, couldn’t resist) – produced a heart-stopping, Hart stopping, moment just 30 seconds from the end when, left unmarked, he seemed certain to score from six yards out.

The England keeper’s legs deflected the Japanese star’s shot to safety and secured the win. The recently much maligned (often unfairly) City goalie, was mobbed by his team mates at the final whistle – they knew Joe had just made qualification from Group D a whole lot less difficult.

A second CL away win means City should go beyond the group stage for the first time if they can earn a repeat win over CSKA in Manchester on November 5th.

It would be a massive bonus for Pellegrini and City if they can secure safe passage with two games (Plzen at home and Bayern Munich away) still to play.

It would ease any selection dilemmas and enable more focus on tough Premier League encounters with Spurs and Swansea, Southampton & Arsenal, either side of the remaining CL fixtures.

And with Chelsea and the spectre of the man who succeeded him as Real Madrid boss, Jose Mourinho, looming on Sunday, Pellegrini will be up for a tremendous triple if he can score his third win away from the Etihad in a week.

It’s a big ask, nonetheless it is achievable. 

Chelsea of old used to sing ‘Blue is the Colour’ but, on the basis of painted pitches in Russia and consecutive away wins, it may well be ‘Green for Go’ for Manuel and his team of travellers.



By David Walker



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  1. October 24, 2013  1:24 pm by Nev Artingstall Reply

    Thought the poor pitch put paid to any hopes of a classic. Plus points were Silva, Aguero, Negredo, Joe (should shut the doubters up for a while) and Fernandinho again, looking every penny what we paid for him. My only gripe was Garcia. After my positive comments on here after the West Ham game, he was found wanting again last night. I only hope the reports are right about Vinny being back at the weekend. Great read again David. I'm trusting our MP more and more every week.


    • October 24, 2013  4:42 pm by David Walker Reply

      Cheers Nev - much appreciated. I agree on Garcia but I do feel sorry for him that he IS being played out of position. I would have thought Micah or Boyata could have done the job if MP wanted a left foot right-foot pairing. If , IF, we can go and win at Stamford Bridge, City really will be on a roll.

  2. October 24, 2013  2:31 pm by Mole Rocks Reply

    Perplexed by the selection of Garcia over Lescott, but the win proves MP right, well, lucky at least.

    Was a tense game, but Silva, Negredo and Aguero proved the vital difference.

    Hart deserves a special mention for the vital save at the end.

    Chelsea will be a much harder proposition, we will need Kompany at the centre of defence if we are to get anything out of the game.

    Just going to keep on trusting MP to do his thing.

    • October 24, 2013  4:44 pm by David Walker Reply

      Yes, I think every City fan prays for the return of Captain Kompany asap.

  3. October 24, 2013  2:44 pm by Graham Ward Reply

    I had to miss the match yesterday, and so I've only had brief highlights to watch so far. Two poachers goals by Aguero, the second of them, as you write, David, a brave effort. The partnership up front is becoming more set in stone and solid as the weeks pass. Dzeko has had his chance, and, for me, not really taken it.
    Jovetic has been unlucky with injury, but his time will come. A vital save by Hart, our chances of progress in Europe look so much better because of it!

    • October 24, 2013  4:49 pm by David Walker Reply

      Good old Joe and Sergio. If we can wrap up qualification for the last 16 and still have two games left to play it would be AWESOME.

  4. October 24, 2013  3:14 pm by Philip Entwistle Reply

    Dave, the overall performance was fantastic, albeit with the usual 'heart stopping' moments thrown in as we now come to expect from City.
    The game obviously panned out as our MP had hoped, but again raises the question of our back line without Vincenti to guide them through. The forthcoming January window will be possibly the most vital in a long time for City, we are only a couple of signings away from being 'the' force in the Premiership and realistic contenders in Europe.
    As we City fans can testify over the previous 4 decades, (yes Dave I am that old) we give our players time to show what they are capable off but I'm afraid to say that both Garcia and Kolarovi are neither Mid-Fielders or Defenders and is time to say goodbye and thanks but no thanks. Our MP is showing more and more aptitude for both the Premiership and the Champions League but needs in January a Centre Half and Left Full Back to take us to the zenith of European football.
    Keep up the good work Dave, a least you have 2 votes now, me and Deborah!

    • October 24, 2013  4:51 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Phil - does Mollie Zaba the cockapoo count...that's 3 votes #landslide

  5. October 24, 2013  7:14 pm by carol main Reply

    it wasn't pretty Davy but a win is a win. By the way the Honda pun was unforgivable!

    • October 24, 2013  8:44 pm by David Walker Reply

      What's that saying 'Absence helps the fart grow Honda?' And you thought the original pun was unforgivable

  6. October 24, 2013  8:20 pm by Tidds1 Reply

    We'll in control an a cabbage patch,I think city are now ready to push on they showed in last 2 games they are playing for the badge and each other bring on cfc it,s the right time mp can outwit jm. Great blog again dw . The chanting was gross I hope the t###s get it big style . Chin up YA YA

    • October 25, 2013  10:53 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Tidds - it'd be great on a personal level if MP can beat Jose. Need to do my research and look at his La Liga record against the not-so Special One. Hope it's better than against Guardiola - not a single win!

  7. October 24, 2013  10:25 pm by Glyn Rathbone Reply

    Last night was a good performance but a great win. Playing in them places is a case of hit in get job done & get out ASAP. I also feel sorry for Garcia, he's not a centre half but I still don't understand why he puts Micah there which would still give him balance. I can't see he would have lost out for that header. Once again the three Latino's come up trumps again with their link up for both goals. As always enjoyed the read. Thanks

    • October 25, 2013  10:56 am by David Walker Reply

      Agree - why not Micah if you insist on a left foot-right foot combination? Who knows, Garcia might be a fine player - when played in his preferred role but it looks as if we have alternatives preferred in front of him. Might be better to sell him in January or next summer. Folk mock me when I say we should be able to get £10m+ for him - especially from teams on the continent where his style of play is obviously better suited.

  8. October 25, 2013  1:37 pm by pete lynch Reply

    Great stuff as usual David. Garcia obviously not a centre back but doing a job asked of him so respect. Thought Fernando starting to adjust and our front play is just breathtaking at times.

    • October 26, 2013  4:25 am by David Walker Reply

      Yes, I feel some sympathy for Garcia as he is being played out of position when it seems that there are other players more suited to the role e.g. Richards, Boyata, Lescott - depending on Pellegrini's requirements for a right foot-left foot central defensive combination. MP must see something in training sessions that we don't...unless Garcia is up against Dzeko in sessions at Carrington?

  9. October 25, 2013  10:15 pm by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    It was a good win but the defence loooked very suspect. I feel sorry for Garcia he is being played out of postion either put Micah in or even Boyata. Really think MP needs to address the c/b in the Jan window.

    • October 26, 2013  4:27 am by David Walker Reply

      100% agree - I understand City wanted the young French CB - Mangala from FC Porto in the summer and may well go back for him in January. He looks like a class act and very fleet of foot.

  10. October 25, 2013  10:18 pm by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    By the way Dave a good write up as always but the Honda pun o David that was poor.

    • October 26, 2013  4:28 am by David Walker Reply

      I know, but sometimes one has to indulge in stating the blindingly obvious just to ensure the reader is paying attention!

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