Manchester City grabbed a crucial 2-1 victory over Villarreal after a late Sergio Aguero goal. Cani had given Villarreal an early lead, while a Carlos Marchena own goal levelled the scores just before the interval.
Despite a poor performance, City were the slightly better side for much of the game. The match seemed to be drifting towards a draw before Aguero’s late, dramatic winner rescued the Premier league leaders. Roberto Mancini will be slightly concerned with a lethargic second half performance, however.
The first half belonged to City as Mancini’s men created the majority of the chances. It was Villarreal who took an early lead, however.
Villarreal had only scored once in their last nine away games, but took the lead in the fourth minute. A poor pass by David Silva was cut out by Jonathan De Guzman and the Canadian played the ball forward to Giuseppe Rossi at the edge of the City area. Rossi’s shot was palmed out by Joe Hart but Cani responded quickest. The striker followed in and toe poked the ball under Hart to give the Spanish side the lead.
City slowly came into the match and created a bulk of chances for the remainder of the first half. The Manchester side’s first half chance of the match fell to Alexsandar Kolarov in the 11th minute. The left back hit an ambitious shot from 35 yards and the ball flew just past the right upright.
Kolarov, who was arguably City’s best player on the night, was again roaming down the Villarreal left wing minutes later. The Serbian sent a dangerous cross into the Villarreal area and Samir Nasri volleyed over.
City continued to attack in waves and Silva almost found Adam Johnson in the Villarreal box in the 15th minute and an Edin Dzeko cross caused the defence some problems moments later.
The energetic Kolarov forced the first Diego Lopez save in the 20th minute. City won a free kick 40 yards from goal and it looked like a decent crossing opportunity. Kolarov went straight for goal, however, and forced a good save out of Lopez. After the ensuing corner, Nigel De Jong shot narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
Yaya Toure had a tough night but used his strength to win the ball at the edge of the Villarreal area in the 38th minute. The Ivorian failed to make the most of the chance and shot well wide.
Adam Johnson was surprisingly taken off in the 39th minute and replaced by Gareth Barry. The winger rightly looked disappointed as he left the field, but the substitution allowed Yaya Toure to venture further forward and a host of City chances followed before half-time.
City equalised in the 42nd minute after another Kolarov probing run. The Serbian beat his marker and hit a dangerous cross into the six yard. The ball looked to be heading straight for Dzeko, who would have had an easy finish. Instead, Carlos Marchena stretched for the ball and scored past his own keeper.
Two minutes later Silva made a good run before slipping the ball through to Dzeko. The striker was one-on-one with Lopez but the keeper made a good save as Dzeko shot from a difficult angle. Nasri broke through a minute later and forced yet another save out of Lopez.
Villarreal made it to the interval at 1-1 and the Spanish side were the happier side at the break.
City had a great chance to take the lead within two minutes of the re-start. A cross was volleyed towards goal by Edin Dzeko, who was unmarked behind the Villarreal defence. Lopez managed to made a decent save.
Villarreal chances were a scarce commodity in the second half, but Rossi had a couple of half chances early in the second period, shooting wide and forcing an easy save out of Joe Hart. Borja Valero also shot well wide in the 58th minute and Christian Zapata then forced a save out of Hart in three minutes later.
City were still the team looking more likely to score, however, and Kolarov had a goal ruled out in the 55h minute. Yaya Toure did well to battle through two defenders and play in Kolarov, who finished with aplomb. The Serbian was clearly offside, however.
Kolarov almost gave Manchester City the lead after a quality free kick in the 74th minute. The ball curled just by the right post, but Lopez might have saved it if it was on target.
The 62nd minute introduction of Sergio Aguero for Nigel De Jong proved to be the crucial decision of the match. In the 77th minute, Aguero played a beautifully weighted pass through to Dzeko. The Bosnian ran on to the ball and struck a powerful shot wide.
Dzeko then had a free header in the Villarreal box four minutes from time but his effort went wide from 12 yards.
A Kolarov cross caused problems for Villarreal in injury time. The cross landed at David Silva in the six yard boxbut the Spaniard could not control the ball. A James Milner cross moments later found Zabaleta unmarked in the box. The Argentine’s header went straight at the keeper, however.
City won the match with virtually the last kick of the game. James Milner found Zabaleta with a delicate through ball. Zabaleta immediately crossed along the ground. Silva flicked the ball on and Sergio Aguero finished into an empty net.
The result could save Manchester City’s Champions League campaign. With Napoli and Bayern Munich drawing, a victory in Spain would put City firmly in contention in Group A.