Nasri inspires City’s great escape

Roma 0 Manchester city 2

Nasri inspires City’s great escape

For the past month it has been Sergio Aguero. Last night, in glorious style as far as Manchester City were concerned, it was Samir Nasri.

The Frenchman’s goal in the Olympic Stadium inspired qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League. It also, perhaps, saved the job of his manager, Manuel Pellegrini.

It was a goal that hid a relatively poor performance from City, but when the stakes are this high, who cares?

Pablo Zabaleta grabbed a late second but this was Nasri’s night, particularly as he laid on the goal for the Argentinian.

“The manager told us to take our time. We won our game against Bayern Munich in the last minute as well and we knew that we had to be patient,” Nasri said.

It had all seemed unlikely early on and indeed City’s problems began before the game had even started when news filtered through that they would be without arguably their three most important players.

Sergio Aguero, it had been revealed on the eve of the game, was ruled out for anywhere between four and eight weeks with a knee problem, while Yaya Toure was suspended. The final blow was that captain Vincent Kompany was unable even to make the bench due to a hamstring injury and David Silva was not fit enough to start.

Pellegrini decided to start with Samir Nasri behind Edin Dzeko rather than Stevan Jovetic, while for Roma their main selection issue was whether to start Daniele De Rossi.

The midfielder’s ex-wife was arrested last week over allegations of kidnap and torture, and questions were raised over De Rossi’s mental state after he was sent-off against Sassuolo on the weekend.

Despite that Roma were on the front foot from the off, with Gervinho to the fore. He tormented Pablo Zabaleta early on, showing a directness and end product that was rarely seen in his Arsenal days.

Twice City failed to clear his low crosses before he broke down the right, twisted Eliaquim Mangala inside and out before firing in a low drive that Joe Hart did superbly to tip round the post.

But football has a habit of making you pay if you don’t take your chances and City could have taken the lead shortly after. Jesus Navas had a quiet night but he arrived at the far post to fire home only for referee Milorad Mazic to correctly bring back play for a foul by Edin Dzeko on Holebas.

City were otherwise laboured going forward, with Dzeko looking like a man who has been injured for a month. Pellegrini had insisted pre-match that his side were not a one-man team, but you can certainly argue that Aguero has been carrying them in recent months.

Without him they struggled for ideas and inspiration, while Roma had plenty in the shape of Gervinho and the impressive Nainggolan.

It was Nainggolan’s ball that allowed the Ivorian to scamper through the middle only to fire at Hart.

City were second-best, but when they needed a moment of magic it was Nasri who stepped up and delivered.

The former Arsenal man has been delivering more consistently this season and this was genuine class, the Frenchman picking up the ball outside the Roma area before taking two strides forward and unleashing a rocket of a shot that flew past De Sanctis, hit the inside of the post and into the net.

It was utterly brilliant from Nasri. With Roma now needing two they threw caution to the wind. First, Nainggolan tested Hart from distance before the goalkeeper did superbly to tip a header from Kostas Manolas onto the post. From the resulting corner, Martin Demichelis twice stopped Manolas from equalising.

The misses took the wind out of Roma’s sails. Their belief wavered.

Then, their belief was crushed by a superb ball, Nasri playing Zabaleta in to finish smartly.

With Bayern Munich beating CSKA Moscow, City’s job was done, thanks largely to Nasri stepping up when required.

Roma: De Sanctis,Maicon (Florenzi 79), Manolas, Yanga-Mbiwa, Holebas, Ljajic (Iturbe 67),Nainggolan, Keita, Gervinho, Pjanic, Totti (Destro 70).

Man City: Hart ,Zabaleta, Demichelis, Mangala, Clichy, Jesus Navas (Silva 67), Fernandinho, Fernando, Milner, Nasri (Kolarov 88), Dzeko (Jovetic 78). Ref: Milorad Mazic (Serbia).

And then there were 16...

Group Winners: Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Monaco, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Porto.

Runners-up: Arsenal, Basle, Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus, Manchester City, Paris St-Germain, Schalke, Shakhtar Donetsk.

The draw for the knockout stages takes place on Monday.

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