By William Wood | In Match Reports - Home Games
Manchester City fought back valiantly from two goals down to emerge 3-2 victors in the second-leg of their Europa League clash with Sporting Lisbon, but they were eliminated on away goals via a 3-3 aggregate score.
Roberto Mancini’s men had been accused of failing to turn up in the first leg, and in the early exchanges at the City of Manchester stadium it was the visitors that looked more dangerous, not least when Xandao headed just wide.
The tempo of the game became increasingly frenetic as both sides went in search of the all important opener, and it was Sporting who found it through a terrific goal by Matias Fernandez as he curled the ball round various City bodies and beyond Joe Hart’s fingertips to make it 1-0 on the night and 2-0 on aggregate.
Mancini was bemused on the touchline with his side searching for three goals to progress, and he was to be further disappointed as the away side grabbed their second of the night. Aleksander Kolarov was caught napping on the left and Ricky van Wolfswinkel – the highly rated young talent – was on hand to tap home and leave City needing four goals to continue their Europa League campaign.
Early in the second half Micah saw a header deflected over from a corner, but they eventually pulled a goal back of their own. Nice interchange in the centre of the park eventually saw Yaya Toure picked out Sergio Aguero, who turned and fired home to make it 2-1.
The hosts continued to toil as Mancini rung his final changes, and they rewarded for their efforts when they won a penalty, Aguero being bundled to the ground and Mario Balotelli subsequently stepping up to convert the spot-kick and make it 2-2 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.
The home faithful were suddenly in full voice and the most unlikely of comebacks was well and truly on when Aguero added his second and City’s third on the night, volleying in at the back post to make it 3-3 overall.
City required one more goal to go through due to away goals, and they almost had it as Balotelli glanced a header inches wide from Kolarov’s delivery. With time ticking away, Hart raced forward and almost grabbed a fairytale winner as he headed on goal only for the effort to flash wide.
The final whistle went and City were knocked out, but their spirited second-half comeback will have been a major lift to Mancini who would surely have been questioning his side’s ability to win the Premier League on the first-half showing.
Man City: Hart, Richards, Savic, K Toure, Kolarov, Pizarro, Y Toure, Johnson, Silva, Aguero, Balotelli. Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Roman, Milner, Nasri, De Jong, Dzeko.
Sporting: Patricio, Carrico, Polga, Xandao, Insua, Izmailov, Schaars, Fernandez, Capel, Pereirinha, Van Wolfswinkel. Subs: Marcelo, Evaldo, Santos, Neto, Jeffren, Carrillo, Rubio.