Dzeko quick out of the blocks to ensure City's safe passage
Manchester City 3 Aris Thessaloniki 0 (Manchester City win 3-0 on aggregate)
Friday 25 February 2011
With an attacking armoury that would walk into any side in the Premier League, let alone this competition, it was a matter of time before someone was on the receiving end of a Manchester City thrashing. In a season where goals have at times been hard to come by, all of a sudden they're raining down on Eastlands.
In fact the last five home games have yielded 19 goals, suggesting the goal drought that had dominated Roberto Mancini's thoughts earlier this season had long gone.
His solution here was to find room for a plethora of strikers with Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, David Silva and two-goal hero Edin Dzeko all featuring.
Seeing off the little-known Aris Salonika, thanks to Dzeko's early intervention and Yaya Touré late on, was never going to be the tough task. Accommodating his striking quartet was a more difficult one.
Yet this was a perhaps a glimpse of the future, even if the Manchester City manager was quick to suggest it won't be a permanent future after booking a spot against Dynamo Kiev in the last 16 of the Europa League.
"The first half we played very well with Mario, Tevez and Dzeko but we need to play more games together," said Mancini. "The problem is when we don't have the ball and if we don't have the ball and don't work and cover every situation it could be difficult.
"But in the first half they played well, they worked back. After 2-0 they worked so-so. Maybe sometimes we can play [all four of them] but not often. This is only the second game Mario has played after his injury. Maybe he is not 100 per cent. I think he can play better.
"I do think we are one of the best teams in the Premier League, we play football. Sometimes maybe, it's possible we don't play well but this is the same for all the teams."
It was as comfortable an evening as Manchester City could have asked for, and at no point did it require them to get out of second gear. Two early goals was enough: at times the Manchester City team could have lit a cigar given the ease of this win.
Tougher tests lie ahead in this competition, but by then you will surely see a fitter, stronger Dzeko in what is an ominous prospect for the rest. This time last week the Bosnian looked a forlorn figure, trudging off the pitch in this corresponding leg before incurring the wrath of his manager for his sub-standard performance.
Last night it took him just 12 minutes to respond to those remarks in emphatic fashion as he finally arrived. Striking home twice with either foot in the space of five minutes, he demonstrated just why he was in such-demand and Manchester City stumped up £27m for his services.
His seventh-minute opener was raw power and finishing ability, making the most of on a stumble from Nikolaos Lazaridis to shoot off the inside of the post. His second moments later was about hitting the target, this time finishing off a sweeping move to quieten the vocal Greek travelling support.
It was game over then, with the hosts keeping the ball and frustrating the poor visiting side.
Ironically Mancini's side have struggled for goals all season when they needed them, so there was no chance of them looking to push on to add to their tally here.
They didn't have to, with Aris offering little threat. The closest they came was when Raul Bonadilla curled a shot way over in a rare fluent foray forward on the hour mark.
Balotelli, who looked interested tonight in contrast to those occasions when he appears to want to be anywhere else but Manchester, struck a post late on. It didn't matter a jot though, with Yaya Touré's 75th-minute deflected goal only illustrating the gulf in class between the two teams on a night when Manchester City simply cruised through.
"My confidence is always good. I always think we can arrive in the final," added Mancini, when asked of his side's chances of winning the competition. "We have to meet Dynamo Kiev and could meet more big teams.
"Dynamo Kiev has a lot of experience, they have played in the Champions League and it will be a very hard game because they're a good team and have experience."
There's no doubt there is room for improvement with Dzeko, despite his two-goal haul, admitting he was far from satisfied with his evening's work. "I'm really happy because it is the first time I've scored two goals in one game," he explained. "It was really important that we started well and we managed to get two goals in the first 12 minutes.
"That was important for the team. But I think I can play much better. I wasn't happy with my last chance and it wasn't the first time this has happened."
Manchester City (4-4-3): Hart, Boateng, Kompany (Zabaleta ,35), Lescott, Kolarov; Silva (Wright-Phillips, 80), Y Touré, Barry; Tevez (Viera, 79), Dzeko, Balotelli. Substitutes not used Taylor, Wright-Phillips, Jo, K Touré, Wabara.
Aris Salonika (4-5-1): Sifakis; Vangeli, Guiaro, Lazaridis, Michel; Prittas, Faty, Neto (Kaznaferis, 79), Toja, Sakata (Mendrinos, 46); Bobadilla (Pardo, 61). Substitutes not used Juanma, Oriol, Cesarec, Koke
Referee P Kralovec (Czech Republic).
Last 16 draw
Ajax v Spartak Moscow
Benfica v PSG
Dynamo Kiev v Manchester City
Bayer Leverkusen v Villarreal
PSV Eindhoven v Rangers
CSKA Moscow v Porto
FC Twente v Zenit St Petersburg
Liverpool v Braga
Ties to take place 10 & 17 March
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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