Manchester City cruise past Porto in Europa League
MANCHESTER // If the week has been dominated by one of Manchester City's Argentine strikers, the other staked a belated claim for a place in the headlines. Belated, but rapid.
Sergio Aguero scored the second quickest goal in Europa League history as City progressed with a flourish. Carlos Tevez, meanwhile, will meet Roberto Mancini on Thursday to discuss if and when he will be integrated into the Italian’s squad.
“I accept his apology,” Mancini said. "I don’t have any problem. I will meet him for training. I think he needs maybe two or three weeks to find good form and he will be ok to play, like the other players.
"I think Carlos knows the team very well. Without him in the last six or seven months the team played very well, it is on top of the Premier League. We know Carlos very well. He is a top striker. I think he can help us to do a good job in the next two months.”
Unlike Carlos Tevez, he has had no reason to apologise. Controversy have been conspicuous by its absence in his City career.
Goals, however, have been a constant and a 20th of a prolific year came after a mere 19 seconds. He supplied Edin Dzeko for the second before David Silva and David Pizarro gave an emphatic look to the scoreline.
So, while the Europa League is routinely dismissed as a second-rate competition, this was a notable triumph.
Porto were the defending champions - indeed they were watched by the man who piloted them to glory last year, Andre Villas-Boas, now in charge of Chelsea - and an early elimination rendered it their worst season in Europe for more than a decade.
It enables City to advance to the last 16, where either Legia Warsaw or Sporting Lisbon await.
On paper, either will be a weaker opponent.
The Portuguese champions had the majority of possession, requiring City to defend with determination and organisation.
Joe Hart saved well from Silvestre Varela, Joleon Lescott made a vital last-ditch interception when Hulk slalomed his way through and Lucho Gonzalez drilled narrowly wide. In addition, James Rodriguez had a goal disallowed for offside.
Yet the tie changed before many had taken their seats.
While the suddenly sorry Tevez is back in the fold if not the team, his compatriot made the definition of an immediate impact.
Only Ismael Blanco, who struck in 13 seconds for AEK Athens against BATE Borisov in 2009, has been quicker off the mark in the competition's history than Aguero was.
Having given City the lead late in the first leg, Aguero made a second seismic contribution.
Only three City players had touched the ball by the time it entered the Porto net, but each had played a part.
Nigel de Jong intercepted Nicolas Otamendi's stray ball and sent Yaya Toure striding forward.
The Ivorian bisected Porto defence with a perceptive pass.
A typically predatory Aguero did the rest.
It meant an uphill task for Porto, who have never won a competitive game in England, became still harder.
Meanwhile, the early goal enabled City to sit deeper and counter-attack and theirs were the clearer openings.
Indeed, their ability to thread passes between the Porto back four was apparent again when Gareth Barry picked out Toure, breaking from deep.
Like Aguero before him, the midfielder opted for the sidefoot into the far corner.
This time Helton, the goalkeeper, denied him, coming out of his area to block with his legs.
His wanderlust was a theme. When Silva lofted a pass for the quicksilver Aguero, Helton, leaving his box again, was left in no-man's land as Aguero darted away from him.
The backtracking midfielder Fernando presented an obstacle, so the Argentine opted for the lob. It almost brought a glorious goal, his effort bouncing back off the bar.
So the second goal was delayed until the final 15 minutes when Aguero steered a pass into the path of Dzeko and the substitute finished calmly.
Silva struck after another replacement, Pizarro, presented him with an open goal before the Chilean opened his City account as Porto, previously so competitive, capitulated.
Their cause was not helped when the defender Rolando was dismissed for dissent for his protests about Dzeko's goal and, while Toure had collected the caution that brings him a one-match ban, it was the only blow City suffered on a terrific night.
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Published: February 23, 2012 04:00 AM