Heroic fightback not enough to save City Europa dream

Manchester City 3 Sporting Lisbon 2 (Agg: 3-3, Sporting win on away goals)

Sporting Lisbon held off a dramatic Manchester City fightback to edge
the English side out of the Europa League at the Etihad Stadium
tonight.

City appeared in disarray as they fell 3-0 behind on aggregate following goals from Mathias Fernandez and Ricky van Wolfswinkel in the first half of the second leg of the last-16 tie.

Yet City were as good in the second period as they were bad in the first, hitting back through two Sergio Aguero goals and a Mario Balotelli penalty to fall agonisingly short of the quarter-finals.

The pulsating finish, which saw goalkeeper Joe Hart's last-gasp header tipped agonisingly wide, seemed highly unlikely at the break.

City were defensively poor, error prone and Balotelli was having one of his more volatile nights.

The striker even seemed to argue with manager Roberto Mancini after conceding the free-kick which led to Sporting's opener.

But after their rousing fightback City could take huge consolation from a performance which bodes well for the rest of their Barclays Premier League title challenge.

City had initially seemed in the mood as the game kicked off in a lively atmosphere, enhanced by a small band of excitable Sporting fans who let off some green flares.

After an early score when Stijn Schaars shot wide after a poor Stefan Savic clearance, City looked to attack.

Adam Johnson made two threatening runs and almost broke through as he looked to play a one-two with David Silva, but the Spaniard's return pass was well read by Anderson Polga.

Sporting had no intention of sitting back on their first-leg advantage and the impressive Fernandez found space to shoot, but his effort was blocked by Savic and first-leg goalscorer Xandao headed wide from the resulting corner.

Johnson volleyed wide from a Silva cross as City came forward again, but the hosts then began to show signs of early frustration and Sporting dug in.

First Yaya Toure was booked for throwing the ball into the ground after fouling Fernandez. Balotelli then took a Silva cross-field pass in his stride but Polga got across to deflect his shot wide.

As the ball bounced back off the advertising hoarding, Balotelli thumped it high into the stand.

Fernandez continued to pose a danger but was booked for diving after turning sharply in the area and tumbling following minimal contact from David Pizarro.

However, Fernandez got the break he wanted soon after with a stunning free-kick in the 33rd minute after a backtracking Balotelli clumsily bundled over former Liverpool defender Emiliano Insua.

Mancini appeared frustrated by Balotelli's actions - and exchanged words with his fellow Italian - but Fernandez took full advantage as he curled a fine shot around the wall which Hart could only palm in.

City were left needing four goals to progress after Sporting then grabbed their second of the night six minutes before the interval.

Aleksandar Kolarov headed clear a free-kick but was then caught out of position as Marat Izmailov stole in and crossed low for Van Wolfswinkel to tap in.

Mancini attempted to bring some solidity back to his side by sending on Nigel de Jong for Johnson at the start of the second half. Edin Dzeko also came off the bench to bolster the forward line, replacing midfielder David Pizarro.

The changes seemed to work as City became more measured in possession.

They eventually pulled one back on the hour as Yaya Toure, fed by Micah Richards, picked out Aguero in the box, who took a touch and turned to fire past Rui Patricio.

Balotelli then won a free-kick outside the area but Kolarov clipped his shot narrowly wide.

City suddenly began to sense an unlikely comeback as Aguero won a penalty after being felled by Renato Neto.

There was some debate as to whether the offence took place in the area, but Balotelli showed no sign of nerves with a cool penalty that left wrong-footed Patricio standing.

The game was truly on as Aguero remarkably put City ahead on the night - and level on aggregate - eight minutes from time.

The Argentinian was left unmarked at the back post as a Kolarov corner made its way to him via the head of Savic and he blasted in.

City began to pour forward in search of a winner and Dzeko headed over from a Kolarov cross before Balotelli went even closer with another header that drifted across goal.

Hart almost completed a sensational comeback as he went forward for a corner deep into injury time, but his header was tipped round the post by Patricio and there was no time to take the resulting corner.

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions