Manchester City FC
Porto 1-2 Manchester City: Substitute Sergio Aguero nets late winner to earn vital first leg victory for visitors
Mancini's men were unfortunate to enter the break a goal down but turned the game on its head thanks to an own goal from Alvaro Pereira and a late strike from the Argentinian
By Ross Jackson
The visitors saw much of the ball in the first half yet were unable to create any clear-cut chances and were punished on the stroke of half time by Silvestre Varela from close range.
City enjoyed a much better second half and were gifted an away goal thanks to the unfortunate Alvara Pereira’s own goal. Porto pressed from then on but were unable to break down the impressive City rearguard and were ultimately punished on the break by Sergio Aguero.
The home side made just the two changes to the side which cruised to a 4-0 win over U. D. Leiria at the weekend. Eliaquim Mangala and Marc Janko made way for James Rodriguez and Rolando.
The visitors made five changes to the team which took all three points from Villa Park on Sunday. Yaya Toure was drafted straight into the team following his arrival home from the African Cup of Nations as James Milner dropped to the bench.
Meanwhile, Gael Clichy and Micah Richards replaced Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov in the full-back positions, Samir Nasri replaced Adam Johnson, and Mario Balotelli was chosen to lead the City line ahead of Aguero.
The Portuguese giants started the better of the two sides, yet the City defence did well to stifle any openings, with the only chance of note coming via a Rolando header which Clichy did well to head over the crossbar.
The close shave sparked City in to life as they began to settle and had a flurry of opportunities to grab a crucial away goal.
First, Balotelli was thwarted by Helton in the Porto goal after he flicked on a Nasri free-kick, Richards then fired a half-volley at goal which was smartly saved at the front post before the French midfielder was denied by the Brazilian shot-stopper.
City were left to rue those missed opportunities as the home side took the lead just minutes later.
Following good work down the left hand side from Hulk, the Brazilian cut an inviting ball across goal, where Valera did well to steal a march on Clichy before slotting past the helpless Joe Hart.
Mancini’s men responded immediately and really should have restored parity.
Nasri clipped an intelligently lofted ball through to Balotelli and, with the Porto defence non-existent, the Italian had all the time in the world to measure a shot at goal but was again denied by the fantastic Helton.
Both sides exchanged blows with Hulk and Silva both coming close, but it was the home side that entered the break ahead.
City emerged for the second-half with renewed vigour and were a width of the post away from an equaliser.
Silva slipped a beautifully weighted ball through to the marauding Richards who sent his acute effort crashing against the Porto woodwork.
However, Mancini’s men didn’t have to wait long for their second half dominance to pay.
Toure launched a hopeful ball forward towards the isolated Balotelli and with Helton rushing from his line, defender Pereira decided to take charge of the situation. Under pressure from Balotelli, the Uruguayan inadvertently nudged the ball with his shoulder past the onrushing ‘keeper.
Balotelli was reluctant to celebrate his part in the goal as the inquest began between defender and goalkeeper.
The goal sparked the home side in to life as they sensed the need to take a lead to Eastlands next week.
However, the City backline was holding strong, reducing the home side to speculative long-range efforts from Hulk and Rodriguez.
With the first leg nearing its conclusion, City struck a massive blow to Porto’s Europa League chances.
Toure picked up the ball and drove at the Porto defence. With Pereira backing off, the Ivorian advanced into the box before squaring for the unmarked Aguero to hand his side a crucial away win ahead of the second leg next Wednesday.
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