Man City 2 Villarreal 1: City’s European travails continue but Aguero snatches late victory

Sergio Aguero finally ignited Manchester City’s stuttering Champions League campaign with a dramatic late winner against Villarreal last night.

The Argentinian playmaker tapped home in the third minute of stoppage time just as the Spanish side looked to have frustrated Roberto Mancini’s men at the Etihad Stadium.

Villarreal had stunned City by taking a fourth-minute lead through Cani but Carlos Marchena’s own goal hauled City back into contention just before the break.

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For much of the second half City were laboured but fit-again Aguero, who came off the bench on the hour, glossed over a poor 90 minutes by snatching his side’s first win in Group A.

City recovered from the shock of conceding early to dominate first-half possession but, despite the constant probing of David Silva, lacked their usual Premier League swagger.

The manner of their equaliser was fortunate and the goal failed to provide the spark they needed until Aguero saved the day.

It had seemed the return of Silva, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko, all rested at the weekend, had failed to find the winning formula in Europe.

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And after the well-documented problems with substitutions in the loss to Bayern Munich last month, manager Mancini also appeared to upset another player by taking Adam Johnson off late in the first half.

City had gone into the game as clear favourites but it was La Liga’s 13th-placed side who made the perfect start.

The game had barely begun when Silva played Nigel de Jong into trouble outside his own area and Jonathan de Guzman nipped in to steal possession.

Former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi, a constant menace, lashed a shot at goal that Joe Hart could only parry and Cani reacted quickly to poke home.

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Villarreal were lifted by that first goal in this season’s group stages and Joleon Lescott needed to break up another promising attack.

After that sloppy start, City finally began to find some life after Aleksandar Kolarov fired wide from distance.

Kolarov then found space on the left to clip in a cross for Nasri on the edge of the box but the Frenchman volleyed narrowly over. Kolarov went for goal direct from a free-kick but goalkeeper Diego Lopez palmed his curling effort away.

With Silva influential, City looked to maintain the pressure but, after a good spell, found Villarreal difficult to penetrate.

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Mancini surprisingly made a change five minutes before the break by sending on Gareth Barry for Johnson, who was not injured and shook his head as he left the field.

Barry was involved in the build-up as the hosts pulled level three minutes later. Kolarov made an incisive run and his low cross took a slight deflection before sliding Marchena diverted it into his own goal attempting to clear.

City were almost caught napping at the restart as Rossi robbed Vincent Kompany and blasted a shot wide after a dangerous run.

The hosts responded as Silva spread the ball wide for Zabaleta and his cross dropped nicely for Dzeko but the Bosnian failed to make clean contact.

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City thought they had claimed the lead when Kolarov smashed in a shot off the underside of the bar but the flag was raised for offside.

Villarreal gave City another scare when former West Brom midfielder Borja Valero found space to shoot but missed the target.

With City looking leaden-footed, Mancini made a second substitution with Aguero replacing De Jong.

Dzeko had a chance in the closing minutes but his frustrating evening only continued as he headed well wide.

Just as time looked to be up, Zabaleta crossed and Aguero tapped in to spark jubilant scenes.