Man City breakthrough shows Pellegrini still punching
14 April 2016, 13:46
Manchester - Manchester City's Champions League
quarter-final success over Paris Saint-Germain demonstrated that reports of the
team's demise under Manuel Pellegrini have been greatly exaggerated.
Pellegrini has been cast as a dead man walking ever since
the announcement on February 1 that Pep Guardiola will succeed him as manager
at the season's end and City's dwindling league form of three wins in eight
games was held up as proof that his players had downed tools.
Instead they pulled off the most eye-catching European
result since the club's acquisition by super-rich Emirati owner Sheikh Mansour
in 2008, giving Pellegrini a moment of sweet personal vindication.
"I came to City because I had good performances in
Europe, so to leave this club without taking them to a new state would have
been a bad thing for me," said the Chilean, who succeeded Roberto Mancini
"It is very important to me to be in the semi-finals
because that is my job."
It is the third time Pellegrini, 62, has broken new ground
for a club in the Champions League, having led Villarreal to the semi-finals in
2006 and steered Malaga to the last eight in 2013.
An urbane, understated figure, Pellegrini has already
brought one Premier League title and two League Cups to the Etihad Stadium, but
although it took the might of Barcelona to oust City from the Champions League
in his first two seasons, he has been seen as something of a tactical ingenu.
Pellegrini, it was said, was too closely wedded to attacking
football to achieve success in Europe, but the manner of the triumph over PSG
showed that City could play on the front foot in the Champions League, and
City were sloppily defensively in the first leg, but scored
opportunistic away goals through Kevin De Bruyne and Fernandinho, and their
reward for refusing to sit on their advantage in Tuesday's return leg was the
76th-minute De Bruyne strike that sealed a 3-2 aggregate win.
That PSG were their last-eight victims was rich in symbolism
-- the other club buoyed by vast Middle Eastern wealth, already French
champions and supposedly several developmental stages ahead of City, sent back
to Paris with their tails between their legs.
Also read: Pellegrini warns misfiring City to pick up the pace
- Kompany, Toure not missed -
In passing, City's victory served to debunk several commonly
held truths about their side.
City, supposedly, were a one-man team, but Sergio Aguero
fluffed his lines by missing a first-half penalty and it was left to De Bruyne
to apply the coup de grace with his 15th goal of an impressive debut season.
City were said to be too dependent on a spine that has been
largely unchanged since 2011, but injured captain Vincent Kompany was, for once,
not missed and nor was midfield colossus Yaya Toure, who Pellegrini left on the
bench despite his return to fitness after a knee problem.
Centre-backs Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala have both
been described as expensive failures, but even without Kompany's steadying
influence they left Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani feeding on scraps.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart, meanwhile, produced a faultless
display, which included an alert late stop that prevented Cavani from giving
"We criticised the back four, but they were solid, as
were Fernandinho and Fernando," said former England winger Chris Waddle,
who was analysing the second leg for BBC radio.
"The Champions League suits Nicolas Otamendi and
Eliaquim Mangala. The Premier League is a hard league, it is end-to-end and
tough. They played a European game (against PSG) and ground out a result."
Friday's semi-final draw will be the latest staging post in
a journey that has seen City emerge from the shadow of cross-town rivals
Manchester United to become a major European player.
The strength of the opposition is formidable, but whatever
comes to pass in the next round, Pellegrini will walk away at the end of the
season knowing that he has done his bit.For
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