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Super Sergio is City saviour

Red-hot Aguero's late, late show downs Germans but Etihad giants' destiny is out of their hands

By Sam Wallace

Where there is Sergio Aguero there is hope, and so it was from the dying embers of what was potentially the most humiliating episode yet in their indifferent Champions League lives, Manchester City snatched victory.

Aguero 3, Bayern 2. He is, undoubtedly, a brilliant individual and it was his hat-trick against a masterful Bayern team, who led until the 85th minute with just 10 men, meant that Manuel Pellegrini's side secured their first victory of the group stages.

It came with almost the last kick of the game, with City having at times looked like they could be given a lesson by Pep Guardiola's team that would never be forgotten.

Aguero's mastery was hailed by captain Vincent Kompany afterwards. The Belgian ace said: "If you want to succeed at anything, you need a special player in a special form, otherwise you just don't win anything.

"He's our special player and when he's in that form he makes things achievable that otherwise wouldn't be."

City are alive, although their Champions League destiny is not within their own hands. They need a scoring draw against Roma in their final group game on December 10 and hope that Bayern, already qualified as the winners of Group E, are not beaten at home by CSKA Moscow.

Wins for both City and CSKA will mean that both finish on eight points and the Russians, who snatched a last-minute equaliser at home to Roma last night, progress on the head-to-head record between the teams.

City went into the game knowing that even a defeat would not mean the end of their involvement, but at one stage of the game the scale of control asserted over them by Bayern - who lost Mehdi Benatia to a red card with 20 minutes played - threatened to overwhelm the home side.

Aguero completed his hat-trick in the final five minutes of the game, with two superbly executed runs on goal and finishes. Before then, they had taken the lead with Aguero's penalty following Benatia's dismissal.

But after that Munich had passed them to death and the goals from Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandowski in the first half were a reflection of the Germans' superiority.

It was a pity for the imperious Alonso that it was his mistake that led to Aguero's second goal. Jerome Boateng's lapse in concentration was critical in providing the third, but what was most memorable was the manner in which Bayern played with 10 men.

Even with Benatia off the field, you needed to remind yourself at times that it was Bayern, and not City, who had had a man sent off.

What a good team they are, with a manager who coolly reorganised his side after Aguero gave City the lead from the spot.

The Bayern system shifts continually, starting with a formation that could be described as 4-1-2-2-1 but even with a man down and the Brazilian Dante on for Sebastian Rode, they lost no composure.

They were led by Alonso, that master playmaker, who brings all parts of the team together and scored the equaliser. Really, Bayern should have been ahead in the ninth minute when Arjen Robben clipped the ball into the area from the left and Rode had his shot saved at point-blank range by Joe Hart.

City never really got beyond them in the first half, aside from the penalty incident.

It was Frank Lampard who sent the ball through to Aguero and once he had managed to get a shoulder in front of Benatia you sensed calamity for the Moroccan defender.

He would have been better off, given Bayern's control, letting Aguero shoot but he tried to play the hero, lunged in and the Argentine went down.

It was an easy decision and from the penalty spot Aguero scored his 15th goal of the season. It was Bayern, however, who seemed to grow with a midfield that did not seem the slightest bit diminished by having one fewer player.

Their equaliser was a brilliant bit of thinking by Alonso. Fernandinho conceded a dangerous free-kick with a foul on Lewandowski just outside the area. With Hart ready to fling himself at one of the two top corners, Alonso used the proximity of the ball to roll it gently into the corner.

Five minutes later City were a goal behind. This time Lewandowski got lucky with a header that came off his shoulder and looped over Hart. But there was nothing fortuitous about his run between Kompany and Bacary Sagna.

It was brutal for City, whose uncertainty at times was matched by their opposition's sheer mastery. They had only really worked Neuer once, a right-footed shot five minutes after the break from Jesus Navas which was easily saved.

Pellegrini brought on Stevan Jovetic came on for James Milner, unlucky as Navas had made less of an impression.

Pellegrini appeared to have given up trying to disrupt the passing rhythm of the 10 men of Bayern, instead he seemed to be hoping that their defence could be overwhelmed - and he was proved right.

Then came the fightback. Alonso's misplaced pass in midfield was intercepted by Jovetic and Aguero ran through to score. With five minutes left there was hope.

In the final minute of normal time, Aguero scored after Boateng failed to clear a cross from the right and suddenly the picture changed.

They went out with 10 points in 2011. This time, the bar has been set much lower.

Belfast Telegraph


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