Hart comes to City's rescue, again
Goalkeeper's heroics paper over City's cracks
BORUSSIA MOENCHENGLADBACH 1
(Lars Stindl 54)
MAN CITY 2
(Nicolas Otamendi 65, Sergio Aguero 90-pen)
Manchester City fought tooth and nail, clawed their way back from one goal down and secured a crucial victory.
Sergio Aguero came to City's rescue with a last-minute penalty which he earned and converted.
With the 2-1 away win over German club Borussia Moenchengladbach yesterday morning (Singapore time), the Citizens grabbed their first points of the Champions League campaign.
The accolades flowed. But Aguero played second fiddle.
At Borussia Park, goalkeeper Joe Hart put up a performance so brilliant that he left no one in any doubt who the Man of the Match was.
As the City defenders took turns to invite the Moenchengladbach players to pull the trigger, Hart's presence grew with every block.
Even when the hosts earned a penalty in the 20th minute, Hart refused to be beaten, saving spectacularly from forward Raffael.
The Brazilian's nightmare had just begun, as Hart would stop two more almost-certain goals from him and another by Patrick Herrmann.
By the end of the first half, City could have been three down. That Hart kept the visitors in the game laid the foundation for what was a dramatic and somewhat fortunate win.
Lars Stindl finally broke the deadlock after the break, but City hit back with goals from Nicolas Otamendi and Aguero to help erase memories of their 2-1 home loss to Juventus two weeks ago,
"His (Hart's) performance was very important for us," said a grateful manager Manuel Pellegrini, who came under fire for City's lacklustre displays lately.
However, Hart's five-star show also underlined just how mediocre City were.
Just what does it say about a team as a whole when a goalkeeper has to save his teammates' blushes time and again, especially in Europe?
Moenchengladbach were just the latest victims of Hart's heroics.
In 2012, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund saw it for themselves.
Last season, Roma, Bayern Munich and Barcelona were among the others to have had a taste of his prowess.
But, as Hart's reputation continues to grow, City's standing moves in the opposite direction.
Regardless of how instrumental his performance was, it couldn't mask the deficiencies that continually plague Pellegrini's side in continental competition.
City's game smacked of naivety.
When the pace got frenetic in the first half, the English Premiership outfit quickly lost their tactical shape and discipline.
While they offered plenty going forward, with Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva providing plenty of attacking options, their defence offered little resistance.
The central defence partnership of Otamendi and Martin Demichelis hardly inspired confidence, as Herrmann and Raffael often sliced it apart with ease.
With midfielders Yaya Toure and Fernandinho offering little protection to the back four, City resembled sitting ducks, especially in the first half.
More than two years into the job, Pellegrini continues to struggle to find the right balance.
City have won admiration with their resolve this time, but Moenchengladbach have set off the alarm bells nevertheless.
Hart saved City's skin on this occasion.
But he can't, and shouldn't be, doing this alone all the time.
BY THE NUMBERS
2 Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart has saved his last two penalties in the Champions League
4 City have kept only four clean sheets in 30 Champions League games
15 The converted penalty was Sergio Aguero’s 15th goal in his last 15 starts with City in the Champions League
Tops in Europe, flops in Serie A
(Alvaro Morata 41, Simone Zaza 87)
It was a night for matching a Champions League club record but Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri quickly demanded his embattled side overhaul their poor league form and get back to the business of winning in Serie A.
Juventus welcomed Europa League champions Sevilla to Turin yesterday morning (Singapore time) looking to prove that the poor domestic form that has seen them slump to 15th in Serie A is simply a blip.
By the end of a completely one-sided encounter that saw the hosts emerge 2-0 winners over the listless Spaniards, thanks to goals from Alvaro Morata (above) and Simone Zaza, Juve's fans breathed a sigh of relief as the Italian champions went top of the group, three points ahead of Sevilla and Manchester City.
Less than a month after their shock 2-1 win at City's Etihad Stadium, Juventus are already well on course to qualify for the knockout stages.
All Allegri wants now is to see Juve cut a copy of yesterday morning's performance and paste it to the remainder of their Serie A games this season following a miserable start that has left the champions 10 points adrift of leaders Fiorentina.
When asked to explain their contrasting form at home and in Europe, Allegri failed to provide an explanation, saying: "The big difference is we have six points from the Champions League and five from Serie A."
Juventus face struggling Bologna this weekend in what will be their seventh league outing and Allegri added: "Tonight's game is over. Now we have to start focusing our next game, against Bologna."
The fact promoted Bologna are also in the lower reaches of the table reflects the depths to which the confidence of Juventus, who have won the Scudetto the past four years, has sunk in recent weeks.
Yet in Europe, the Bianconeri seem transformed.
Juventus broke the deadlock on 41 minutes when Morata rose above the Sevilla defence to meet Juan Cuadrado's delivery from the right byeline and beat Rico down low at his far post.
It was Morata's second goal in the competition this season after his late winner in Manchester and means he has now scored at least once in his last five Champions League games - equalling a record held by retired Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero.
Morata said: "I'm delighted to have scored but even happier about our performance and the result.
"We created a few great opportunities tonight but there's still work to be done." - AFP.