Late strikes keep City in hunt for top spot

Substitute Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko kept Manchester City’s hopes of topping Champions League Group D alive by securing a 4-2 win over Viktoria Plzen.

With a place in the last 16 already secured, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri both put Manuel Pellegrini’s men ahead but Tomas Horava and Stanislav Tecl responded, before Negredo and Dzeko finally clinched victory in the last 12 minutes.

Pellegrini had made seven changes — including restoring England goalkeeper Joe Hart — but it needed the late introduction of Negredo to secure the win.

Dzeko put the game beyond doubt in the last minute, setting up a potential group decider with Bayern Munich next month.

City started brightly, and Javi Garcia stabbed City’s first chance wide after five minutes when he was picked out by Samir Nasri from a set-piece.

Nasri, in fine form of late, then hit the bar for a second successive game with a thunderous effort from 25 yards. The Frenchman was presented with an easier opportunity when Aguero deftly floated a cross to the far post but he sidefooted a volley wide.

Hart’s quick thinking almost led to the opening goal as he immediately released the ball and Aguero raced through to fire home, only to be pulled up for a foul. That decision seemed harsh but the hosts were fortunate to be awarded a penalty just after the half hour when Aguero’s cross struck Frantisek Rajtoral’s hand. Aguero confidently dispatched the spot-kick for his 15th goal in his last 12 appearances.

For the remainder of the first half, Plzen started to take the game to the hosts.

The visitors enjoyed good possession and a deserved equaliser came two minutes before the interval as Horava unleashed a fierce shot from distance that gave Hart no chance.

City wasted no time on the restart and signalled their intent when Kolarov shot wide from a free-kick after Nasri was fouled and Fernandinho forced Matus Kozacik to tip over with a powerful header.

That proved the Brazilian’s final act as he was withdrawn and Yaya Toure replaced him soon after, and City reclaimed the lead just after the hour when Nasri volleyed in from a Navas cross.

Again, Plzen fought back, and after Hart denied a long-range Daniel Kolar strike, the Czechs equalised after Kolar set up Tecl to score from close range.

It might have got worse for City when Martin Demichelis brought down Kolar on the edge of the area but Pavel Horvarth shot over.

City sent on their other in-form striker, Negredo, for Nasri with five minutes remaining and he soon made an impact. Navas’ cross was diverted his way by Dzeko and Negrodo had an easy task to score.

Dzeko got his goal in the dying moments when he nodded in a cross from a James Milner cross.

MAN CITY: Hart, Richards, Demichelis, Lescott, Kolarov, Milner, Javi Garcia, Fernandinho (Toure 64), Nasri (Negredo 75), Aguero (Jesus Navas 46), Dzeko.

PLZEN: Kozacik, Rajtoral, Cisovsky, Prochazka, Hubnik, Petrzela (Kovarik 73), Horava, Horvath, Duris (Wagner 89), Kolar (Bakos 85),Tecl.

Referee: Firat Aydinus (Turkey).


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