In the final match of Group E in the Champions League, Manchester City beat Roma 2-0 in the Stadio Olimpico to progress to the knockout stage. It was a very exciting match that both clubs needed to win to get second place in Group E behind Bayern Munich. A goal and assist to Pablo Zabaleta from Samir Nasri led the Manchester side to the crucial victory.
Early on in the match it was obvious both clubs understood the pressure on them to get victories. Roma really opened up the play early with some good chances on goal that City keeper Joe Hart had to do well with to keep out of the net. Hart’s excellent play would be a common theme the rest of the night. After the first spell of Roma attacking pressure City began to assert themselves and possess more of the ball, setting up a good chance for Milner that was saved. The save from Roma keeper Morgan De Sanctis created a counter attack that nearly set up a goal from Gervinho at the other end, but a finger tip save from Hart barely kept it out.
Gervinho was a consistent threat for Roma the entire night terrorizing Gael Clichy on the right flank and getting two very good chances, but was unable to finish. Just before half, a Gervinho chance that was saved created a City counter attack when a great feed from Jesus Navas put Milner right in front of the net, only to be stuffed by De Sanctis. The amount of counter attacking plays summarized the first half and made it very exciting even though the match did go into halftime at 0-0.
Roma came out of halftime as the much more dangerous team dictating the pace and possession of the game for long spells. The up and down play of the match continued in the second half as both teams tried relentlessly to create chances on goal. Miralem Pjanic had a great long-range effort that took another great save from Hart as Roma continued to search for the breakthrough.
Soon after the Pjanic chance Nasri opened the scoring for City with a strike that seemed to surprise the Roma defense and was pure class. The Frenchman found some open space at the top of the box and rocketed his shot to the near post and it clanged off the post into the net. The goal made the task of progressing nearly impossible for Roma as they needed to score two goals because a scoring draw would see City go through. Even with the added pressure on Roma to score to go through, they were not able to really penetrate the Manchester defense.
Manchester City was still able to control the pace of the game for the most part even with their 1-0 lead intact. Roma’s chances were few and far between and they had a hard time defending the City counter attack. Nasri again created a chance on goal but this time he was the creator as Pablo Zabaleta finished off the goal and Roma’s hopes for the knockout stages.
Even though it was a real struggle Manchester City will now move onto the knockout stages of the Champions League as the second place team in Group E. Their second place finish in the group means that they will have a tough matchup in the round of 16 because they will face one of the eight clubs that won their group. For the Manchester side, the long break between now and the round of 16 will do them good because their star striker Sergio Aguero just went down injured and could miss up to six weeks. The break will also give them more time to focus on the Premier League where they are now only three points back of league leaders Chelsea.
Manchester City will now go through to knockout stage of the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Roma in their final match of group play. Samir Nasri was the difference for the English side, scoring the opening goal and creating the second in a comprehensive victory.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius
Photo Courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald – Creativecommons License