A thoroughly professional performance, at times featuring some exquisite football, was more than enough to see the Blues advance to the last sixteen stage of the Europa League. The current holders were demolished 4-0 on the night, a scoreline which perhaps flattered us, but victory over the course of both legs was nothing more than we deserved. A 6-1 scoreline (one which holds fond memories!) on aggregate surely sends out a message to others about how seriously we are taking this competition and we are among the favourites to lift the trophy in Bucharest.
A quartet of goals sealed the win on the night, although it was Sergio Aguero’s finish late on in Porto which effectively secured the victory. His winner last Thursday meant that the Portuguese side travelled to the Etihad Stadium knowing they had to attack and it forced them to leave more space than they would have liked. As the game became stretched in the closing moments, we took full advantage and comfortably strolled home.
Talking of Aguero, his performance really caught the eye last night as he looked sharper than he has done recently. His goal within the first twenty seconds would have given him confidence and he then proceeded to threaten Porto’s backline on every occasion. His movement was exemplary, dragging the opposition defence out of position and then using his pace to exploit the gaps and he arguably deserved more than just one goal.
Supporting him was David Silva, whose majestic close control was a joy to watch. Surrounded regularly by two or three burly defenders, his skill, trickery and perseverance enabled him to break free from the shackles and to cause problems throughout. He capped off his night with a simple finish and his performances from now until the end of the campaign will be absolutely key. Should he remain fit and on form, his creativity could guide us to the title such is his control over the way we play.
One element of our play yesterday which impressed me greatly as a team was our pressing. It wasn’t just one individual who harried the opposition, but it was a collective effort to chase the ball higher up. That forced Porto into making a number of mistakes, such was our determination to retrieve the ball on any occasion it was lost. The fitness levels needed to carry out such a tactic are high so generally it can’t be done for a whole game, but by scoring early (as a result of applying pressure in numbers), it enabled us to be that touch more circumspect and punish Porto on the counter attack.
Opposition View: There was plenty of pretty football from the visitors and they impressed at times with the fluidity of their movement. Aesthetically speaking, they were pleasant to watch but they most definitely lacked a cutting edge up top. Hulk, for all his trickery and physical presence, produced little end product and grew visibly more frustrated as the match wore on. His diving was pathetic, as was Porto’s reaction after the game to the City fans’ ditty, ‘You’re Not Incredible’. What we shouldn’t forget is that Porto are a very good team, a side who compete in the Champions League every year, yet we made them look ordinary.
City’s focus now returns to domestic matters as Blackburn travel to Manchester at the weekend. A win then is imperative and should we perform on Saturday as we did last night, it should be attainable.