Shay Given saved two penalties as Manchester City snatched a place in the Uefa Cup quarter-finals last night despite a dramatic late collapse in Aalborg. Protecting a 2-0 lead from the first leg, City were five minutes from progressing in normal time when the Danes staged a late fightback through Luton Shelton and Michael Jakobsen. It was left to Given to spare City's blushes and he delivered by keeping out spot-kicks from Thomas Augustinussen and former Sheffield United forward Shelton.
It was the second time in the competition City had been taken to penalties by Danish opposition after a dramatic win over Midtjylland in the second qualifying round in August. The win kept alive City's hopes, as the last remaining English side in the event, of winning a first major piece of silverware since 1976. Yet, on a bitterly cold night at the Energi Nord Arena, City were almost made to pay for their failure to kill off a tie they had dominated.
"It is relief. It should have been dead and buried – we did it the hard way," said Given. "We could have made it easier for ourselves but thankfully we came out on top." As for his own crucial part in City's hard-fought success, Given shrugged: "Sometimes it is the luck of the draw – happily I saved a couple. We didn't play at our best but we are still in the draw."
Robinho was again below par away from home and was taken off in extra-time, although the Brazilian almost put City through when he hit the crossbar after 83 minutes.
Aalborg, despite needing to chase the game, opted for a safety-first approach in the first half out of fear of conceding an away goal. Only after the break did they begin to show any urgency but the tactic paid off dramatically as they turned the tie on its head in a frantic finale. Until then City, despite playing cautiously themselves, made most of the early running in a contest that lacked bite.
Aalborg had the first of several penalty appeals early in the second half when Kasper Risgard went down under Vincent Kompany's challenge. French referee Stephane Lannoy was unimpressed.
Moments later, City almost caught Aalborg on the break as Stephen Ireland set up Ched Evans, but the Welshman somehow managed to clear the stand from 10 yards.
The Danes had stronger and more vociferous penalty claims turned down on the hour when substitute Javier Garrido felled former Wigan player Andreas Johansson in a 50-50 challenge. Lannoy was immediately surrounded by home players but City were reprieved.
City's attacks were becoming rarer but Robinho went close to settling the tie seven minutes from time when he hit the woodwork after Ireland reached the byline. City soon paid the price for failing to kill off Aalborg as the Danes remarkably broke through twice in the dying moments. First Shelton blasted home from close range as the ball bounced up invitingly inside the area from a right-wing cross.
That set up a nervy finale and City were unable to hang on as the hapless Evans handled a Jakobsen header in the last minute. This time the referee did point to the spot – at the fourth time of asking – and Jakobsen stepped up to smash into the top of the net from the spot.
The visitors looked tired but neither side could create a meaningful opportunity in the additional periods. It came down to penalties and City comfortably tucked away all four of theirs while Given saved from Augustinussen and Shelton.
AaB Aalborg: Zaza; Bogelund, L Nielsen, Jakobsen, Beauchamp, Due, Johansson, Augustinussen, Caca, Risgaard (Tracy, 77), Shelton. Substitutes not used: K Nielsen (gk), Sorensen, Nomvethe,Kristensen, R Nielsen, Dalsgaard.
Manchester City: Given; Richards, Dunne, Onuoha, Bridge (Garrido, 54), Wright-Phillips, Zabaleta, Kompany, Ireland, Robinho, Evans. Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Berti, Elano, Fernandes, Caicedo, Etuhu.
Referee: S Lannoy (France).
City's Danish shoot-out
Jackobsen (Aalborg) scores 1-0
Evans (Man City) scores 1-1
Johansson (Aalborg) scores 2-1
Elano (City) scores 2-2
Augustinussen (Aalborg) saved
Wright-Phillips (City) scores 2-3
Nomvethe (Aalborg) scores 3-3
Dunne (City) scores 3-4
Shelton (Aalborg) saved
Manchester City win 3-4