Champions League: Manchester City conquer Roma to make last 16
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 11/12/14 12:19pm
Manchester City progressed to the last 16 of the Champions League after beating Roma 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday night.
Second-half goals from Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta secured a win which, coupled with Bayern Munich’s 3-0 home victory against CSKA Moscow, means that Manuel Pellegrini’s side qualified as runners-up behind the Bavarians in Group E.
The visitors made the breakthrough thanks to Nasri’s long-range strike on the hour mark, before a late goal by right-back Zabaleta confirmed the result.
However, the Premier League champions still needed captain Joe Hart to produce a number of word-class saves before their victory was sealed.
The result means City finish Group E on eight points and are in the hat for Monday's draw, where the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid could be lying in wait.
It was the home team who started the brighter of the two sides, and none more so that their pacy forward Gervinho, with the former Arsenal player causing Zabaleta all kinds of problems down the left wing.
After one neat move early on involving both Gervinho and Roma skipper Totti, the ball was fed through for Jose Holebas to have a clear sight of Hart’s goal, only for the England goalkeeper to do well to come quickly off his line and smother the Greek's close-range shot.
City were not without their own moments of promise in the opening period though, with James Milner in particular testing Roma goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis with one effort from the edge of the area.
Meanwhile, the England international was then unlucky not to put the visitors ahead six minutes before the interval, only for the Giallorossi shot stopper to keep his shot out at the near post after good approach play by the lively Jesus Navas.
However, after Milner had been denied by De Sanctis, Gervinho immediately broke broke clear of the City back line, with Hart again needing to produce a brilliant fingertip save to stop his low shot from finding the bottom corner of the net.
The second period mainly belonged to the English side with City’s nerves - already calmed by news of Bayern having taken the lead against the Russian champions at the Allianz Arena - soothed even more by Nasri’s brilliant opener.
Picking up possession of the ball some 20 yards out on the left-hand edge of Roma’s penalty area, the mercurial Frenchman decided to try his luck from distance with few other alternatives to aim for in the box.
And it proved to be the right decision, with the midfielder’s powerful drive leaving De Sanctis with no chance in the Roma goal as the ball flew into the back of the 'keeper’s net off the inside of the post for what was his first goal of the season.
City, though, still needed to rely on both Bayern holding firm in Bavaria and their own goalkeeper to seal their place in the knockout phase of Europe’s premier club competition, with the latter’s contribution absolutely vital to their victory.
The England No 1 firstly turned aside Miralem Pjanic's shot from the edge of the area, then kept out Rajda Nainggolan’s long-range piledriver after 65 minutes, before the City skipper did even better to get his fingertips on to Konstantinos Manolas’s header, with the post also helping keep the effort out.
And from the resulting corner, much-maligned centre-back Martin Demichelis was in the right place at the right time to block substitute Mattia Destro’s close-range effort on the goal line as Roma’s hopes began to fade.
In fact, the hosts' hopes were extinguished with just four minutes to go when Nasri played in the marauding Zabaleta on the right-hand channel of the area before the Argentinian kept his cool to fire City into the knockout phase.
Jamie Carragher's verdict
"It was a proper European performance that we’ve been looking for from City not just this year, but in years gone by. It doesn’t mean they played free-flowing football or they were fantastic on the eye – they weren’t.
"After the first 15 minutes they came through the scares and grew into the game. At times it wasn’t pretty to watch and it wasn’t great football. But they made it difficult for Roma and grew into the game. It comes off the back of a lot of big players missing, like Kompany and Aguero."
Roma: De Sanctis (7), Maicon (7), Manolas (7), Yanga-Mbiwa (6), Holebas (7), Ljajic (7), Nainggolan (7), Keita (6), Gervinho (8), Pjanic (7), Totti (7)
Subs: Iturbe (6), Destro (6), Florenzi (6)
Manchester City: Hart (9), Zabaleta (8), Demichelis (8), Mangala (7), Clichy (7), Navas (7), Fernandinho (7), Fernando (8), Milner (7), Nasri (8), Dzeko (6)
Subs: Kolarov (6), Silva (6), Jovetic (6)
Man of the match: Joe Hart