Manuel Pellegrini began his Champions League mission with Manchester City by winning 3-0 at Viktoria Plzen. Peter Fraser examines the Opta data to take a deeper look at the key factors
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF
Last Updated: 18/09/13 6:12am
Manuel Pellegrini's nickname of The Engineer suggests he is the ideal man to rebuild Manchester City for success in the UEFA Champions League and, although it is too early to judge the long-term impact, he has made an efficient start.
City's 3-0 win at Czech Republic minnows Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday night gave the English club only their fourth win in 13 Champions League games as goals from Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero secured the three points on Matchday 1 in Group D and set themselves up for their next meeting with holders Bayern Munich.
The victory was not spectacular against modest opponents, particularly in an unconvincing first half, but it is a successful opening for Pellegrini as he sets about his mission of improving City's previous record of going out in the group stages in the past two seasons.
City captain Vincent Kompany returned after a three-game absence and played the whole game in a big boost before next weekend's Manchester derby. The influential defender, who suffered a groin injury in the first match of the domestic season, returned to partner Matija Nastasic at the back.
Aguero and Dzeko were restored up front as manager Pellegrini brought back his star names, with midfielder Fernandinho also returning after sitting out last weekend's Premier League draw at Stoke City. Both Manchester City and Plzen started in the 4-2-3-1 formation which is currently the trend.
Where the game was won and lost
As Pellegrini stood on the edge of his technical area with a scowl, it was easy to understand his frustration at the manner in which City started the game in the opening 15 minutes. Although dominating 60 per cent possession in the first quarter-of-an-hour, their attacks lacked creativity and, when they did get in range of the goal, their shooting was inaccurate.
Dzeko was especially wasteful, with the striker making a mess of three headers inside 25 minutes, including tamely nodding straight at goalkeeper Matus Kozacik from point-blank range. Aguero did at least hit a post but City were lacking composure and only hit the target with four of their 10 first-half shots.
5 - Five of Edin Dzeko's six Champions League goals have come away from home. Trip.- OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 17, 2013
Pavel Vrba's Plzen, who were looking to become the first Czech side to beat English opposition in the Champions League, would have been happy with their opening 45 minutes. They were busy in midfield and looked to hit City, who - Sky Sports pundit Ray Wilkins correctly said at half-time - were "over-elaborating in the build-up", on the counter-attack but they could only produce two shots, of which one was on target.
Indeed, the standout performer before the interval was Plzen's player of undisputed class, 38-year-old captain Pavel Horvath, who touched the ball 40 times in the first half - 12 more occasions than his next best team-mate - and made 28 passes - almost double any other Plzen player.
Inevitably, though, City would begin to take their chances and Dzeko took just three minutes of the second half to find his shooting boots when putting City in front. The goal owed much to the tenacity of Aguero in the build-up as the Argentine held off Lukas Hejda before squaring for his team-mate to finish.
City, likely with a stern half-time word in their ears from Pellegrini - who has the Champions League experience of a semi-final and quarter-final with former clubs Villarreal and Malaga, clearly improved after the interval and Toure sensationally made it 2-0 in the 53rd minute with a stunning, curling right-footer from long range. It was a reflection of City's ability to step up in class when required.
Aguero made it 3-0 shortly before the hour in what was a blistering 10-minute spell for City. It was fine reward for the Argentine, who up to that point had not only assisted Dzeko's goal but had also hit the target with three of his four shots in comparison with his wayward team-mate's record of two on target from seven attempts.
The performance of Aguero was a plus for City, who had lost five of their six away games in the Champions League before kick-off and did not win a single match last season, and the clinical nature of his finishing is something Pellegrini could well consider as a building block for the future campaign.
However, the manner in which his players responded after half-time should be the main encouragement for Pellegrini. They saw less of the possession - 67.3% in the first half and 53.8% in the second half, which underlines Wilkins' point about over-elaborating before the break.
But, in contrast to the first half, they hit the target with five shots from 10 attempts. That was an improved accuracy of just one shot but the important element of that was in scoring, of course, with three of those efforts.
Another major plus for City was in the assured relationship between Kompany and Nastasic ahead of the Manchester derby on Sunday. Plzen were allowed just one shot on target in the entire match and that came in the first half.
Throughout the game, Kompany gained possession nine times, produced four interceptions, and three clearances. He also had a pass completion rate of 100 per cent. Nastasic, meanwhile, won the ball six times, also made four interceptions, and nine clearances.
"In the first half we had a good match. We have three or four clear chances to score but I think in the second half we played really well. We made some movements so we could create space, which is needed - as with 10 players behind the ball it is very difficult to try and score so we had to get more from our game and we got three goals."
"It is a really good tonic for the dressing room - not just the manager but the players as well. They will feel good about life, they go in to a huge game against Manchester United at the weekend and they have buried a Champions League ghost in many respects. They have gone and got a great performance on the first night, can concentrate one weekend, and know the Bayern Munich game is all the more attractive."
Aguero's goal and overall performance meant he was the star man but Toure was also excellent. Samir Nasri should also not be ignored after the inconsistent Frenchman produced one of his better performances. The former Arsenal man touched the ball 88 times - the most by any City player - and had a pass completion rate of 91.2% from 68 attempts.