MAN CITY 4, VIKTORIA PLZEN 2
Manchester City made hard work of beating Czech whipping boys Viktoria Plzen to keep alive their slender hopes of finishing top of Champions League Group D.
On a night when under-fire Joe Hart returned in goal and manager Manuel Pellegrini rang the changes, City laboured to beat opponents they had defeated 3-0 in the Czech Republic.
Pellegrini needed to summon big hitters Jesus Navas, Yaya Toure and Alvaro Negredo from the bench in the second half to help see off the spirited Czech side.
Goals from Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, Negredo and Edin Dzeko helped City win making their trip to Bayern Munich next month a group decider.
Pellegrini was happy with the win, but not City’s performance.
He said: “I am satisfied because we won the game, but we didn’t play well and with the intensity we have been doing.
“We can attack and score four goals without giving away so many chances. Good attacking teams know how to defend and we defended badly.
“I am not talking about individuals and the whole team must know how to do it. We didn’t have the pace and intensity to do it today.”
Pellegrini was happy with the performance of Hart saying he didn’t expect him to have so much work to do, more than in a Premier League match.
He would not be drawn, however, on whether Hart has done enough to reclaim his spot from Costel Pantilimon for Sunday’s league game against Swansea City.
City made seven changes from the side which hit Spurs for six on Sunday.
Nasri, Aguero, Fernandinho and Martin Demichelis were the four survivors as there were recalls for the likes of Hart and Dzeko.
City started on the front foot and Nasri had two great early chances to break the deadlock as he struck the crossbar with a drive from 25 yards and then shot narrowly wide at the far post from a cut back from Aguero.
They were almost made to pay for those misses as Plzen almost snatched a 27th minute lead when Vaclav Prochazka burst into the box and fired just wide when he ought to have hit the target.
There was another let off when Daniel Kolar cut the ball back from the right and Michal Duris shot wide when he, too, also ought to have found the net.
The breakthrough came in the 32nd minute when City were awarded a penalty for handball against Frantisek Rajtoral and Aguero scored from the spot, his 16the goal in that number of games for City.
Plzen were rewarded for their efforts with a 43rd minute equaliser when Kolar laid off the ball to Tomas Horava who, from just outside the box, found the net with an unstoppable drive high to the right of Hart.
City brought on Navas at the break to add spark and Yaya Toure midway through the second period.
And the pair linked up superbly with a neat interchange of passes before Navas crossed for Nasri to find the net with a side-foot valley from six yards as City regained the lead in the 65th minute..
Plzen were not finished and a 35-yard drive from Kolar forced a fine save from Hart to turn the shot over the crossbar.
And four minutes after falling behind, Plzen were back on level terms as they sliced open City’s defence with a neat interchange of passes before Stanislav Tecl slotted home a low shot from six yards.
City regained the lead in the 78th minute through Negredo who had only been on the field for three minutes as he was free at the far post to tap in a cross from Navas.
Plzen were still not finished and Hart came to City’s rescue with an important save with his legs to deny Prochazka.
It wasn’t until the 89th minute that City put clear daylight between them and their opponents when Dzeko headed home a cross from James Milner.
And it was fitting that Hart should have the last word making a fine injury-time save to deny Rajtoral.