Manchester City all but seal Champions League spot

Manchester United will need to win by 19 goals to take final Champions League spot

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini waves to fans at the end of his last match in charge. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini waves to fans at the end of his last match in charge. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

 

Swansea 1 Manchester City 1

So Pep Guardiola need not worry about acquainting himself with the Europa League at the start of next season. Manchester City secured the point that guarantees them fourth spot and a shot at the Champions League group stage providing they can negotiate a qualifier in the middle of August.

It is not the way that City envisage gaining entry to Europe’s premier club competition and the celebrations among the travelling supporters at the final whistle were probably a mixture of relief and joy at their neighbour’s expense as much as anything else. Manchester United will be absent guests when the Champions League gets underway next season.

Needing only a draw to be sure of finishing fourth, Manuel Pellegrini’s side took the lead through Kelechi Iheanacho’s ninth league goal of the season and had plenty of opportunities to put some daylight between themselves and Swansea.

Instead they were pegged back by André Ayew’s deflected free-kick on the stroke of half-time and unable to score the second-half goal that would have given them some breathing space and allowed Pellegrini to sign off his three-year reign with a win.

City opened the scoring in slightly odd circumstances and for a moment it appeared as though Mike Dean had ruled the goal out for offside.

Eventually, however, the referee made it clear that Iheanacho’s close-range finish, after Kristoffer Nordfeldt had repelled Sergio Agüero’s initial attempt to turn in Kevin De Bruyne’s cross, was going to stand. It was the right call and only Dean knows why he made such a song and dance out of a routine decision.

Second Captains

The visitors could, and should, have added to that lead in the first half as they carved Swansea open to create several excellent chances. Agüero, only six yards out, never made a clean enough contact with Fernandinho’s centre and Nordfeldt, making his first Premier League appearance, was able to stick out a leg and save.

Three minutes later Iheanacho raced through the middle after seizing on a misplaced pass from the erratic Jefferson Montero only to lift his shot over the bar.

Swansea were producing some nice football but the absence of an out-and-out striker – Ayew was dropping deep and playing almost like a false nine – meant that too many neat passages of play came to nothing. They did, however, have the ball in the net only a few minutes after Iheanacho scored but Dean penalised Montero, darting in at the far post, for pushing Bacary Sagna.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of that decision, good fortune was not smiling on Pellegrini’s team at the end of the first half. After a couple of free-kick routines that went horribly wrong and looked like they had been planned on the back of a fag packet, Swansea equalised from a set piece in first-half injury time.

Ayew’s left-footed shot deflected off the head of Fernando, who was stood in the wall, and flew into the opposite top corner.

All of a sudden it was game on and City approached the second half with much greater urgency and intensity.

Eliaquim Mangala profligately headed De Bruyne’s cross over the bar and five minutes later the ball broke kindly to Iheanacho after Nordfeldt blocked Jesús Navas’s near-post centre.

Iheanacho seemed to be taken by surprise, the ball got stuck between his feet and the chance was gone.

Agüero was next up, snatching at the sort of chance he would normally dispatch as a bouncing ball was dragged well wide. Swansea, in truth, never came close to snatching a winner at the other end.

Only a massive swing in goal difference in Manchester United’s favour in their rearranged fixture against Bournemouth can now deny Manmchester City.

Guardian services

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