Against all the odds, the reigning Premier League Champions did it.
Manchester City beat AS Roma 2-0 in the final game of Group E of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, sealing their passage in the last 16 of the tournament in the process.
Samir Nasri’s unstoppable second half strike was added to by Pablo Zabaleta’s late on, as City knocked out Roma and advanced to the knockout rounds for the second-straight season and just the second time in club history.
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Their qualification was made all the more impressive given the fact that City failed to win any of their opening four matches in Group E, however wins against Bayern Munich and Roma in their last two matches proved to be enough.
Without the likes of Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure for their biggest game of the season, Manuel Pellegrini rotated his squad masterfully as the Citizens recorded their sixth-straight win in all competitions to silence the partisan home crowd and seal their route into the last 16.
Early on Roma pinned City back as Jose Holebas was denied by Joe Hart and his defense held firm under intense pressure. City had a few surges forward as James Milner had an effort well-saved and City’s attackers looked to feed Edin Dzeko whenever possible.
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However Gervinho slammed just wide of Hart’s far post midway through the half. Jesus Navas and Nasri combined to set up Dzeko but his shot went over and Navas then slotted through an inch-perfect ball for James Milner but the Englishman could not beat De Sanctis, as the teams went in level at the break with a spot in the last 16 still on the line.
As the game went on City began to grow in confidence, but missing Aguero and Kompany through injury and without the suspended Toure, it was always going to be a tall order to get a positive result in Rome.
But that did not deter them, as the Citizens went ahead in the 60th minute as Nasri smashed in an unstoppable drive off the post and into the net as City’s players rushed to celebrate with their fans. 1-0 to City. Roma tried to get back into the game as Ljajic fired over and then Manolas hit the post with a header as the Italian giants cranked up the pressure. Martin Demichelis then scrambled an effort off the line for City, as Roma chucked everything they had at the English champions.
Despite all of that pressure City added a second late on through Zabaleta, as Pellegrini’s side celebrated with their huge band of away fans who will party long into the night in Rome. City are through to the last 16 of the UCL for just the second time in club history.
Roma: De Sanctis, Yanga-Mbiwa, Nainggolan, Ljajic (Iturbe, 67′), Totti (Destro, 70′), Maicon (Florenzi, 79′), Pjanic, Keita, Holebas, Gervinho, Manolas
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Mangala, Clichy, Fernandinho, Fernando, Navas (Silva, 67′), Nasri (Kolarov, 89′), Milner, Dzeko (Jovetic, 78′)
Goals: Nasri (60′), Zabaleta (85′)