Pellegrini gets the perfect start as City power home in the end
Plzen’s fight ended by three second-half goals
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal against Viktoria Plzen during their Champions League match at the Doosan Arena. Photograph: Petr Josek/Reuters
Viktoria Plzen 0 Manchester City 3: Manchester City finally produced the flying start to a Champions League campaign they had been seeking. After drawing against Napoli and losing to Real Madrid in their two previous opening group games in the competition, Manuel Pellegrini’s team departed the home of the Czech Republic champions with a convincing victory and all three points.
There is still work to be done for the new manager as he seeks to plot a path through the group stage, a feat never managed by his predecessor Roberto Mancini.
On this occasion, City were sluggish for passages, again lacking the spark that was missing for most of last season. The sight of Jesús Navas being withdrawn in the second half following an ineffective display summed this up, though Pellegrini will hardly grumble at the outcome of a contest in which the result was all important.
While the Chilean maintains the Premier League has equal status for the club, Pellegrini’s pedigree in this competition was a principal factor in his appointment as manager, the hope being he could right a wrong the €1 billion-plus investment has so far failed to address. He will hope his side can grow into a season that had so far stuttered as they did into this match.
As the half hour passed the tale had been of a laboured City going the closer of the two teams to opening the scoring with only the odd scare around Joe Hart’s goal. Vincent Kompany provided one of these with a back-pass from near halfway that forced Hart into a sliding clearance as Marek Bakos bore down, threatening to intercept.
Before this City should have taken the lead as they created a series of chances of which at least one should have been converted.
Navas, lining up on the right of a fluid 4-1-3-2, had a shot from the right that was tipped over for the first corner by Plzen’s goalkeeper Matus Kozacik. Samir Nasri delivered the dead-ball on to Dzeko’s head and his flick-on demanded to be finished by Yaya Touré. Instead, the Ivorian’s header found only the roof of the Plzen net.
The best of the visitor’s chances came in quick succession. Sergio Agüero skated through the home midfield and, as a gap opened up, the forward’s low strike skimmed across the turf, beyond Kozacik, only to rebound off his right post. Aleksandar Kolarov, playing for the injured Gaël Clichy, took aim with his left foot but hit the ball into Kozacik’s hands.
Kolarov also created a prime opening for Dzeko with a cross from his flank that found the No 10 at point-blank range from the Pilzen goalkeeper, but his header went straight at Kozacik who beat the ball away.