Home » Champ League, Latest » CL Match Report: Viktoria Plzen 0 Man City 3

So Manchester City did not follow their usual Champions League script after all.

In the birthplace of Skoda, for so long the butt of jokes about unreliable motors, Manuel Pellegrini’s team avoided another stalled start to a European campaign by cruising to victory against Viktoria Plzen.

In truth, England’s great Champions League pretenders spent the first half spluttering into life before ruthlessly finishing off the Czech champions with three goals in 10 minutes after the restart.

However, after two years of performing like a high-powered engine running on the wrong fuel in Europe, goals from Edin Dzeko, Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero secured City’s first away victory in this competition since an equally emphatic success against Villarreal in November 2011.

With captain Vincent Kompany emerging unscathed following his first 90 minutes since sustaining a groin injury last month, the trip to Plzen could not have gone much better for Pellegrini, the day after his 60th birthday, and his players.

“It is very important to start by winning away,” Pellegrini said. “It was not an easy match because Plzen are a good team, so winning 3-0 means we can be very happy.

“In the first half we had three clear chances to score, but in the second half, we gave more speed to our play because it was important to create space as playing against teams with ten behind the ball is quite difficult. In the second half, we finished what we started in the first half.”

For all of Plzen’s fine form in the Gambrinus Liga, where the reigning champions have made an unbeaten start to the defence of their crown, the 11,500-capacity Doosan Arena could have been Scunthorpe United’s Glanford Park in terms of intensity but for the pre-match airing of the Cham­pions League anthem.

Twelve months ago, City began their fruitless group campaign with a 3-2 defeat against Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabéu, but this quiet corner of the Czech Republic was a wholly different challenge and Pelle­grini’s players should have made more of their welcoming ­surroundings in the early stages.

City were sluggish in the first half and their build-up play too slow to punish Pavel Vrba’s team. Too often, City had chances to take the lead but, after missing them, they failed to sustain the pressure to keep Plzen penned into their defensive third and the Czechs were able to clear the danger with quick counter-attacks.

Milan Petrzela was a threat down the Plzen right, with the midfielder exposing Aleksandar Kolarov’s defensive weaknesses, while the veteran captain Pavel Horvath and Daniel Kolar were given too much space to dictate play in the middle of the pitch.

City had enough chances to win the game before half-time, however, and they were denied by a combination of bad luck and poor finishing. Agüero was certainly unfortunate not to score when his low shot from 20 yards hit the post on 26 minutes, but Dzeko and Touré were both guilty of awful misses with close-range headers.

Dzeko, supposedly one of Europe’s most clinical finishers with his head, somehow directed his effort from Kolarov’s cross straight into the hands of goalkeeper Matus Kozacik from two yards when it seemed easier to score.

Plzen, who troubled City goalkeeper Joe Hart with pinpoint deliveries from set pieces, grew in confidence as the half wore on and the visitors’ list of missed chances grew.

City’s laboured build-up during the first half was as though they had their foot on the brake, but they approached the second half in a more determined fashion and the reward for their adventure came when Dzeko opened the scoring on 48 minutes.

Although the Bosnian deserves credit for his calm finish after being teed up by Agüero’s square ball outside the penalty area, the Argentine forward made the goal with his persistence and honesty.

With Plzen defender Lukas Hejda doing his best to haul Agüero to the ground, the striker stayed on his feet and escaped the centre-half before releasing Dzeko, who overcame his earlier misses with a decisive strike.

From that point on City were in cruise control and they had the win secured by the hour with Touré and Agüero extending their lead.

Touré, who had been off the pace in the first half, is often at his best when playing in the advanced role behind the forwards and, after being caught between that position and a holding role alongside Fernandinho, the Ivorian delivered emphatic evidence of his attacking qualities by curling the ball into the net from 25 yards.

At 2-0, the self-doubt and tension of the last two campaigns appeared to lift and Agüero made it 3-0 on 58 minutes with another spectacular effort from distance.

The challenge for City now is to prove that they can be as destructive and ruthless against the very best, rather than the minnows of the Champions League. They will not have long to wait before they can measure themselves against the best of the lot, with Bayern Munich due at the Etihad Stadium in two weeks’ time.

First, they must overcome Manchester United this weekend, but Pellegrini insists this victory, and the return of Kompany, will lift confidence. “This win will give the players a lot of confidence, especially with the derby coming,” he said.

“David Silva could play in the derby, from the reports I have had today, but we will see when we get back to Manchester. I think it is more difficult for [Gaël] Clichy to play, but we are still trying.”

Source: Telegraph

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