City don’t lack Hart but defence makes hard work of Plzen

Joe Hart shows his dejection after Manchester City conceded a goal to make it 1-1 during the    Uefa Champions League Group D soccer match against FC Viktoria Plzen in Manchester. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

Joe Hart shows his dejection after Manchester City conceded a goal to make it 1-1 during the Uefa Champions League Group D soccer match against FC Viktoria Plzen in Manchester. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

Wed, Nov 27, 2013, 23:00

MANCHESTER CITY 4 (Aguero 33 pen, Nasri 65, Negredo 78, Dzeko 89)
VIKTORIA PLZEN 2
(Horava 43,Tecl 69)
Joe Hart made a blemish-free first appearance for a month and Manchester City can still win Group D, though this will be difficult given the final game is at Bayern Munich.

However, until Alvaro Negredo tapped home 12 minutes from time and Edin Dzeko’s late header confirmed the win, Viktoria Plzen were heading for a first group point.

Hart had been given the nod by Pellegrini in an XI containing only three A-listers – Fernandinho, Sergio Agüero and Samir Nasri.

There was an early potential test of handling skills for Hart when Plzen captain Pavel Horvarth, swung in a free-kick from the right. But it went straight at the goalkeeper, who collected calmly.

That was the sum of all the questions posed to Hart until the 24th minute, when another aerial delivery was taken smoothly.

From that effort Hart released Agüero with a quick, precise punt downfield, from which the striker might have given City the lead. Instead Firat Aydinus, the referee, wrongly whistled for an infringement on the edge of the visitor’s penalty area.

Unchallenged
Frantisek Rajtoral should have opened the scoring for Plzen when he slipped unchallenged into th
Joe Hart made a blemish-free first appearance for a month and Manchester City can still win Group D, though this will be difficult given the final game is at Bayern Munich.

e penalty area, but rolled the ball harmlessly wide.

There was an even clearer chance for the visitors when Daniel Kolar left Joleon Lescott behind and squared the ball to Michal Duris but his glancing effort was misdirected.

Moments later at the other end Rajtoral was adjudged to have handled in the area and Agüero, who stood on 15 strikes in 15 appearances this season, duly maintained his goal-a-game ratio, leaving Matus Kozacik no chance from the spot after 33 minutes.

Half-time was beckoning when Plzen shocked City. There was scant resistance from the midfield as Tomas Horava took possession outside the area and beat Hart with a pile-driver to his right.

After a half of few chances a 1-1 scoreline at the break felt about right. As Bayern Munich had beaten CSKA Moscow in the group’s earlier kick-off, City knew the regulation win expected of them against the bottom side would keep alive their faint hope of topping the standings.

Before this tie Pellegrini accepted said: “It’s very important [but] it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is to qualify. But I think it’s important to be at the top.”

Dressing down
But as they walked off at half-time the manager was probably preparing a dressing down that would have featured the need for his men to wake up quickly against a side that arrived pointless and with a goal difference of minus 10.

A more material matter was the removal of Agüero for Jesús Navas at half-time which, if a precaution – rather than enforced by injury – was a smart move by Pellegrini, with qualification already ensured.

Navas, who scored twice in City’s 6-0 shellacking of Tottenham Hotspur here on Sunday, made an immediate impact. First he raced down his right and zipped a ball across the face of the Plzen goal that no colleague could stab home.

Then he worried Kozacik with an attempt on the angle , though his effort was too high.

Nasri now showed the Spaniard how it was done, finishing from close range for a third of the season. But a mix-up in the area that was reminiscent of the away form that has handed City four defeats in six league outings allowed Stanislav Tecl to score Plzen’s second. –
Guardian Service

MAN CITY: Hart, Richards, Demichelis, Lescott, Kolarov, Milner, Javi Garcia, Fernandinho (Toure 64), Nasri (Negredo 75), Aguero (Jesus Navas 46), Dzeko. Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Boyata, Huws. Booked: Milner, Demichelis, Toure .
PLZEN: Kozacik, Rajtoral, Cisovsky, Prochazka, Hubnik, Petrzela (Kovarik 73), Horava, Horvath, Duris (Wagner 89), Kolar (Bakos 85), Tecl. Subs Not Used: Bolek, Hejda, Reznik, Pospisil. Booked: Cisovsky.
Referee: Firat Aydinus (Turkey)