ROMA 0, MANCHESTER CITY 2
Samir Nasri scores one and makes one for Pablo Zabaleta
Joe Hart saves keep Roma at bay
Bayern Munich win over CSKA Moscow confirms City progress to the knockout phase
Manchester City lived on their wits, work rate, and great saves by Joe Hart to deservedly win 2-0 in Rome and book their place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
Samir Nasri scored one and made one as Manchester City booked their place in the knockout phase, completing their comeback from the dead in Group E in Rome with only their second win of the current campaign.
Manuel Pellegrini’s tactical hand was influenced by injury and suspension to players of the calibre of Yaya Toure (suspended), Sergio Aguero, who will miss four to six weeks to a knee ligament injury, Vincent Kompany (calf), while Aleksandar Kolarov, Stevan Jovetic and David Silva were only fit enough for the bench.
The re-shaped team saw a ring-rusty Edin Dzeko, himself back from a calf injury, leading the line with Fernandinho and James Milner joining Fernando, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas in midfield as available personnel dictated a 5-man midfield.
Despite missing several high profile first team players the makeshift side survived a shaky start, with stand-in captain Hart in outstanding form to block an early Jose Holebas shot, to complete the victory they needed to stand any chance of going through.
Hart also kept out an outstanding Gervinho who looked to have the early beating of Zabaleta with his pace and direct running.
City thought they had scored after 26 minutes when Jesus Navas had the ball in the back of the net but Dzeko had committed a foul in the build-up.
Space opened up for Nasri on the hour after some excellent movement by James Milner and the French midfielder capitalised by firing home a 25 yard shot which went in off the post – it was his first goal of the season for City and a priceless one for Champions League qualification.
Hart had been responsible for a string of good saves earlier to keep a clean sheet for City, but the pick of the bunch was a world class save off Kostas Manolas’ 70th minute header which was pushed against the post by the England ‘keeper and away to stave off a late Roma charge.
Bayern Munich’s early 1-0 lead over CSKA had already filtered through to the City fans during the game but the cheer that welcomed news of a 2-0 lead for the Germans in the 85th minute was followed up by a roar a minute later when City made sure of victory.
Nasri noticed Zabaleta foraging forward up the right flank as Roma had already over-committed in attack to try and claw a goal back.
The Italians were caught on the break and the French midfielder picked out his Argentine team mate in the box with a fine pass.
Zabaleta went on to score his first Champions League goal to make the score 2-0 and leave the 1,500 travelling City fans in dreamland.
City can now concentrate on domestic competition until the spring, with a great chance to get injured players such as Sergio Aguero back and fully fit.
They could face Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Monaco, Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona or Porto when the draw for the knockout phase takes place on Monday.