City win in vain as Sporting progress

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Manchester City were knocked out of the Europa League despite a spirited comeback that saw Roberto Mancini’s men fight back from two goals down to claim a 3-2 win against Sporting Lisbon at the Etihad Stadium.

Needing to recover from a one-goal deficit from the first leg in order to claim a place in the quarter-finals, City appeared out for the count as Matias Fernandez and Ricky van Wolfswinkel put the visitors on the cusp of qualification with a goal apiece in the first half.

However the Citizens came back strongly to protect their excellent home record through two goals from Sergio Aguero either side of a Mario Balotelli penalty, but it proved in vain as Sporting progressed on away goals.

City looked uncharacteristically sluggish at the Etihad Stadium and risked suffering a rare loss in front of their home fans.

Sporting got off to a dream start and registered just after the half hour mark thanks to a wonderstrike from Matias Fernandez.

Mario Balotelli conceded a soft free-kick as former Liverpool full-back Emiliano Insua cut inside him just outside the area, allowing Fernandez to step up and beat Joe Hart with both power and precision to put his side in the driving seat.

If Carlos Freitas’ side had arrived in Manchester hoping to cling on to their one-goal advantage from the first leg then Ricky van Wolfswinkel ensured that they would be dreaming of a Europa League quarter final spot inside 40 minutes as the Dutchman doubled his side’s lead thanks to more sloppy errors at the back from the home side.

Yaya Toure was guilty of conceding a soft free-kick which was worked well down the right to Bruno Pereirinha, who ghosted past Aleksandar Kolarov and into City’s area to cut back to Van Wolswinkel who slotted home from a few yards out.

Mancini’s side looked disjointed and uncomfortable with an unfamiliar defensive partnership of Kolo Toure and Stefan Savic at the back, with both defenders giving their manager cause for concern going in at half-time.

Nigel de Jong entered the fray at half-time in place of Adam Johnson and instantly gave City a more solid appearance, helping the home side grow into the game and dominate possession.

Soon their superiority would tell as Aguero latched on to Yaya Toure’s excellent through ball, with the Argentinan turning well and firing past Rui Patricio in the Sporting goal.

That goal seemed to hand City the boost they needed to go in search of the three more strikes they needed to progress, and with 15 minutes remaining Balotelli drew the scores level from the penalty spot after Aguero was felled in the box.

That set up a frenetic finish and while City’s pressure was rewarded with another goal as substitute Edin Dzeko flicked on a corner for Aguero to finish from close range, but there was to be no fairy tale ending as Joe Hart forced an excellent save from Rui Patricio, meaning City joined rivals Manchester United in exiting the competition at the last 16 stage.

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Manchester City
Premier League
Sergio Aguero
Mario Balotelli

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