• Champions League

Second-half blitz eases City past Plzen

ESPN staff
September 17, 2013
Dzeko celebrates opening the scoring three minutes into the second half © AP

Goals from Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero in quick succession at the beginning of the second half eased Manchester City to a 3-0 win over Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic.

It gave Manuel Pellegrini the perfect start to his first Champions League campaign as City manager, with Group D rivals and holders Bayern Munich also easing to a 3-0 win against CSKA Moscow in Germany. The result will also lift spirits after a mixed start to the campaign ahead of Sunday's derby against Manchester United.

CSKA matches will swing City's fate

  • The first 45 minutes of Manchester City's Champions League campaign felt eerily similar to the entirety of their previous two campaigns - plenty of toil, not a lot to show for it. But Manuel Pellegrini's side emerge from the night in a very strong position in Group D.
  • Not only did they do the necessary in the Czech Republic, the emphatic nature of Bayern Munich's victory over CSKA Moscow in Germany has already split the group in two. The Champions League holders visit the Etihad Stadium next up, but the truth is that those matches will have very little impact on City's fate.
  • If they are to reach the knockout phase for the first time, they simply must win both of their back-to-back matches against CSKA and set up the easiest of tasks in their final match at home to Plzen. It's a far cry from the past two seasons, and the ruthlessness shown in the second half against the Czechs is a welcome sign for City aspirations.
Pellegrini's previous record in the Champions League, having taken Villarreal to the semi-finals and Malaga to the last eight, was one of City's prime reasons for appointing him in the summer. A day after his 60th birthday, he got what he hopes will be another prolonged run up and running with an ultimately convincing win.

Bayern Munich will doubtless provide a sterner test in their next fixture but City's challenge is already looking better than last season's, when they failed to win a match.

City also looked stronger for the return of captain Vincent Kompany, who had missed the previous three games with a groin injury.

It took City time to make their mark against a Plzen side unbeaten in 14 games this season but once the deadlock was broken the result was never in doubt. City started brightly with Navas forcing Plzen goalkeeper Matus Kozacik to tip over a powerful shot from the edge of the area. It was the first of a number of good saves from Kozacik but he was caught out at the resulting corner as Toure headed over.

Dzeko headed another chance over before Jan Koravik missed Plzen's first serious chance. City had not got into their stride when Aleksandar Kolarov was needlessly booked for handball and Joe Hart had an uneasy moment when he ineffectively punched a free-kick.

Dzeko should have given City the lead after 22 minutes when Kolarov burst down the left and picked him out in the six-yard box but Kozacik saved the Bosnian's header at point-blank range.

Aguero went even closer with a firm low drive which struck the foot of the upright and Kolarov hit the rebound straight at Kozacik. Navas created another opportunity but his shot took a deflection and the wrong-footed Aguero stumbled and punched the ball. At the other end Tomas Horava attempted a spectacular volley from a Frantisek Rajtoral cross but shot well wide.

City were far from convincing in the first half but continued to create opportunities and Aguero stabbed against the post again, although the whistle had gone for a foul on Kozacik. Much to Dzeko's frustration, Aguero shot at Kozacik just before the interval.

But the Argentinian was anything but selfish as he set up City's opener three minutes into the second half, muscling his way past Lukas Hejda and racing clear to square for Dzeko. The striker, under pressure for his place from Alvaro Negredo, made no mistake with a firm low finish from the edge of the area.

Pablo Zabaleta blocked a shot from Kovarik as Plzen tried to respond but City's goal gave them the impetus they needed and two more followed in quick succession. Toure doubled the advantage with a sublime effort in the 53rd minute, taking a touch outside the area and then curling a shot into the top corner. It was his third great finish from distance this season after free-kicks against Newcastle and Hull.

Plzen's resolve was broken and they conceded again from long range as Aguero took a pass from Navas and turned just inside the area to drive into the bottom corner. Navas threatened similar from an Aguero pass soon after but his effort was blocked in a crowded penalty area.

City were then content to play out the rest of the game but Aguero might have had a second when he broke through after 86 minutes but Kozacik saved. Negredo came off the bench to create another chance for Aguero in the last minute but he shot over.

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