Cometh the hour cometh the man or, in the case of Manchester City’s Argentine super striker, cometh the added time cometh those unbelievable ‘AGUERRRRROOOOO’ moments!
On the count of ein, zwei, drei, Sergio Aguero bagged a stunning Champions League hat-trick to complete City’s version of the Great Escape and an improbable victory over German oppressors.
Classy Bayern Munich were dispatched in added time as Aguero inspired City to a 3-2 come from behind win in this crucial Group E clash.
The parallels with May 13th 2012 were plain to see as City, at 2-1 down, were drifting to disaster and an embarrassingly early exit from the competition, one in which they are so desperate to leave their mark.
Rather like the re-workings of Band Aid, the chorus of ‘We’ll Fight Till the End’ gets an airing in times of need, and sure enough the Blue Mooners finally drowned out the tunes of the well drilled timpani tapping Teutonic masses from Bavaria.
It’s a triumph that gives Manuel Pellegrini’s side real hope as they hit the road to Rome next month for a potential winner takes all showdown with AS Roma.
Level on just five points from five games with the Romans and CSKA Moscow, City can scramble through to the last 16 knockout stages if they beat the Italians or manage a score draw, provided they better the result of CSKA who take on Bayern in Munich.
There’s no doubting the size of the challenge at the Stadio Olimpico on December 10th, but City can take huge heart and encouragement from beating Germany’s finest without the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, Edin Dzeko and Aleksander Kolarov.
City detractors will point to the fact Bayern were reduced to 10 men when Benatia was sent off after bundling Sergio over in the Munich penalty box, setting up Aguero’s converted 21st minute spot kick.
It’s a measure of Munich’s pedigree that the Moroccan international’s red card did little to disrupt Pep Guardiola’s team, who continued their sharp, incisive and penetrating version of Tiki-taka football.
Xabi Alonso’s free kick equaliser in the 40th minute was a tame affair where Joe Hart was culpable in poor positioning and a slow reaction, as the low shot meandered into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
Worse was to follow on the stroke of half-time as the hugely talented, but equally irritating Robert Lewandowski, shouldered a long midfield punt from Jerome Boateng punt past Hart.
Kompany and Sagna failed to react to the danger and the Pole looked to have polished off City’s hopes of progression.
Oozing arrogance from the likes of Ribery, Robben, Alonso and ex-City defender Boateng, Bayern proved masters of possession and must have thought they were home and hosed…until they proved as sloppy as overcooked sauerkraut.
Normally the epitomy of professionalism, Alonso played an uncharacteristically loose ball for livewire sub Stevan Jovetic to intercept and lay into Aguero’s path. Surging upfield, Sergio went one-on-one with the best goalkeeper in the world and fired past Manuel Neuer.
2-2 – City were back in the game and back in Champions League contention.
The ultra-efficient Germans with the educated palate for sumptuous play, suddenly found the evening as distasteful as a rancid Müncher Weiβwurst.
Pleasingly it was Boateng – scorer of the last gasp winner as City went down 1-0 in the Allianz Arena in September – who coughed the ball up to a predatory Aguero, still keen to feed his ravenous appetite for goals, goals and more goals.
For the third time he went ‘mano a mano’ with Manuel the ‘Sweeper Keeper’… with the same outcome each time – magnifico Sergio!
Rapidly establishing himself as the finest player to ever wear a City shirt – rivalled only by David Silva – Aguero has now scored 92 goals in 140 appearances, an astonishingly prolific rate.
In the eyes of the jaundiced jerks in the media this make Manuel Pellegrini’s side a one-man team, incurring disdain and ridicule from the City haters.
Funny how Barcelona (Messi), Real Madrid (Ronaldo) and closer to home, Chelsea (Costa), aren’t detrimentally labelled as one man affairs.
God help the likes of that chump lump Chiles and his Ginger Minger sidekick scrote Scholes on ITV Football, if City triumphed in Rome and reached the knockout stages. They’d drown in their own pool of vile bile…with any luck.
Pellegrini had sprung some surprises with is team selection and, instead of going with Zabaleta and Demichelis, City’s trusted MP drafted in Sagna and Mangala.
Jovetic – eventually a 66th minute sub for the industrious Milner, and finishing the game with two assists – was sacrificed as the Chilean boss opted for a 4-5-1 formation with Milner, Nasri, Fernando, Navas and Lampard in midfield.
Bayern dominate possession and played a more electrifying ‘pressing’ game when City had the ball, but the men in sky blue stuck to their task to capitalise on any Bayern botch ups.
Hart who had won wave reviews and Man of the Match honours in Munich in September, and who had previously defied Borussia Dortmund almost single handed in a previous CL campaign, had an off night by his standards. Being leaden-footed on both Bayern goals.
In contrast Mangala gave a pleasingly efficient display and Sagna looked solid at right back, albeit lacking Zabaleta’s flair for overlapping and posing an attacking threat.
Zaba’s introduction, two minutes after Jovetic, saw the pair inject much needed options and pace pushing forward.
Lampard lasted the full 90 minutes, his football brain and experience compensating for legs that can’t do what Super Frankie used to do three or four years ago.
The 36-year winner of the Champions League more than played his part. His looping through ball to Aguero was the catalyst for the penalty, and his rasping 20-yard second half drive – forcing Neuer to show why he is the best keeper on the planet – fired up the 44,502 crowd.
Considering the Etihad capacity is presently restricted to the 45,000 mark due to the expansion of the South Stand, can pathetic punters like the pudgy adolescent Chiles, stop taking pops at City about empty seats.
The proverb about empty vessels making the most noise seems somewhat apt at this juncture.
Wide on the right, Navas was his normal busy bee self, trying to make things happen for Sergio. It’s impossible to criticise his intensity – if only his decision-making and final pass were of the same calibre.
Nasri was strangely subdued on a stage set for him to shine in Silva’s absence, while the Frenchman’s corners, well five of the six he took, were as threatening as a vanilla blancmange.
Time after time the set pieces wobbled into oblivion. Bayern didn’t muster a single corner kick all night and those non-existent corners were more threatening than City’s half dozen – SORT IT OUT MANUEL FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!
Talking of savours, the Etihad faithful had watched on in disbelief and incredulity as that man, Aguero had once again answered their prayers and come to City’s rescue.
He is a football phenomenon and City are truly blessed to have him in their ranks.
City pride themselves on fighting till the end. This report is dedicated to another of life’s fighters, a brave and selfless lady who has battled, and thus far overcome, the biggest challenge to her health & well-being. Happy Birthday Sally Ann Janes…you so deserve to enjoy it x
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu