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Manchester City effectively secure Champions League place

Published 15/05/2016

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero shoots for goal in the 1-1 draw at Swansea, which secured the club a place in next season's Champions League.
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero shoots for goal in the 1-1 draw at Swansea, which secured the club a place in next season's Champions League.

Manuel Pellegrini has all-but delivered Champions League football in his final game as Manchester City manager with a 1-1 draw at Swansea.

Only a massive swing in goal difference in Manchester United's favour in their rearranged fixture against Bournemouth can now deny City and their incoming manager Pep Guardiola fourth place and with it a berth in the qualifiers for Europe's premier club competition.

As news that United's game had been delayed and subsequently abandoned after a suspect package was found inside Old Trafford filtered down to south Wales before kick-off, City just had to focus on their own job.

They are now all-but certain of achieving their objective after Kelechi Iheanacho's early strike, which was cancelled out on the stroke of half-time by Andre Ayew's deflected free-kick.

However, City's failings this season - they were touted as favourites for the Premier League title before a ball was kicked last August - were summed up in 90 frustrating minutes when they somehow failed to put Swansea to the sword.

It was the Swans' first game since Francesco Guidolin signed a two-year deal and they were in good form at home with four successive wins, their best run in five seasons of Premier League football.

But United's hope for some assistance was not helped by Swansea resting their four Euro 2016 players ahead of next month's tournament, and midfielder Ki Sung-yeung having returned to his native South Korea for four weeks of military service.

City had the perfect start after five minutes through Iheanacho's 14th goal of the season, even if there was an element of confusion about it.

Stand-in Swansea goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt pushed out Sergio Aguero's shot and Iheanacho appeared to be in an offside position when he pocketed the rebound.

But referee Mike Dean overruled his flagging assistant as Angel Rangel was still on the field of play to the right of the goal after his attempt to stop the initial cross.

Swansea were not so fortunate five minutes later when Dean adjudged that Jefferson Montero pushed Bacary Sagna at the far post before squirting the ball past Joe Hart.

It was a debatable decision, and one which City should have benefited from to build on their advantage.

But Nordfeldt saved from Kevin De Bruyne and Aguero and Swansea escaped again when Montero's misplaced back-pass presented Iheanacho with a shooting opportunity he wasted.

Jesus Navas was also guilty of spurning a speedy counter-attack and City were punished for their profligacy on the stroke of half-time when Nicolas Otamendi brought down Leon Britton 25 yards out.

Ayew took over free-kick duties in the absence of usual taker Gylfi Sigurdsson and his effort struck the head of Fernando to change the direction of the ball and leave Hart stranded.

The second half started much as the first had been conducted with City on top but lacking a ruthless edge to their game.

Iheanacho was unable to control the ball with the goal at his mercy, and Aguero fired badly wide as he failed to draw level in the race for the Golden Boot with Tottenham's Harry Kane.

Federico Fernandez headed wide from a corner, but Swansea were not to threaten again and City's race with United was effectively won.

TWEET OF THE MATCH

"Thank you, Manuel. #mcfc #thischarmingman" - Manchester City's Twitter account (@MCFC) pay tribute to the work of Manuel Pellegrini after he managed his final game with the club.

PLAYER RATINGS

Swansea

Kristoffer Nordfeldt: 6 (out of 10)

Angel Rangel: 8

Federico Fernandez: 7

Jordi Amat: 7

Stephen Kingsley: 7

Leon Britton: 7

Jack Cork: 7

Leroy Fer: 6

Wayne Routledge: 6

Jefferson Montero: 6

Andre Ayew: 7

Substitutes

Modou Barrow (on for Routledge 58mins): 6

Bafetimbi Gomis (on for Montero 82 mins): 6

Man City

Joe Hart: 7

Bacary Sagna: 6

Nicolas Otamendi: 7

Eliaquim Mangala: 6

Gael Clichy: 7

Fernando: 7

Fernandinho: 7

Jesus Navas: 6

Kevin De Bruyne: 7

Kelechi Iheanacho: 7

Sergio Aguero: 6

Substitutes

Samir Nasri (on for Iheanacho 72mins): 6

Yaya Toure (on for Aguero 90+1mins): 6

STAR MAN

ANGEL RANGEL: The Spanish veteran just keeps on going after nine years at Swansea. Written off by many, he has won his place back in the second half of the season and done well. Put in a good defensive shift and broke forward whenever he could, setting up Montero for a far post effort which was disallowed.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

The final whistle as far as City supporters were concerned, with a place in next season's Champions League all-but confirmed after an inconsistent campaign. Swansea's equaliser raised the roof, but manager Francesco Guidolin would have enjoyed the early moments when the Liberty Stadium crowd sung his name with gusto for the first time.

VIEW FROM THE BENCH

Swansea boss Guidolin can feel satisfied after signing a two-year deal in midweek. He sent out a side missing influential players ahead of next month's European Championship, but they dug in after a difficult opening 40 minutes to collect a point. Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini bowed out after three years in the job and the performance perhaps summed up much of the season. Decent in patches, but eventually falling short due to some dreadful finishing. Incoming manager Pep Guardiola will demand better.

MOAN OF THE MATCH

Mike Dean. Accused of being a 'celebrity referee' by some, Dean's performance did nothing to dispel those comments. There was confusion over the award of City's goal, albeit the right decision was made, and some of Dean's preening was right out of the comedy top drawer. A man with more hand signals than a policeman on a Rome roundabout.

After the match, Pellegrini hinted that the announcement of his departure in February contributed towards Manchester City's end-of-season struggles.

Guardiola's arrival as the Chilean's successor next season was confirmed on February 1 and, since then, City have won just six Premier League games in 15 outings.

The 62-year-old leaves the Etihad having won one league title and two Capital One Cups and reflected on his time in Manchester positively.

He told Sky Sports: "It was a special day, without a doubt. It's not easy to finish the cycle, especially after three happy years working here.

"Everything in life must finish, it's finished today. The important thing was to finish well and qualify for the next Champions League."

He added: "In February a lot of things happened, we lost two games at home against Leicester and Tottenham. At the same moment, everyone announced what was to happen next year.

"So if you add all those things, I think it's a good season, not a very good season, but a good season."

City goalkeeper Hart admitted the players had let the club, and outgoing manager Pellegrini, down with a stuttering end to the campaign.

The England international said: "It's hard to be too positive but we got the job done. If you class the job as finishing fourth then we have, but we know we have let ourselves down this season in the league.

"We were in a really good position with just a couple of months to go and we've not finished well. We've got the Champions League place, we've won (the Capital One Cup) and we've made the semi-finals of the Champions League, so we've got to take the positives and go into next season."

Iheanacho added: "I think when we got the goal we were comfortable. We got so many chances in the first half, we just couldn't convert them.

"We are happy that we are through to the Champions League, it was a hard game but we concentrated and defended well."

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