Sergio Aguero struck a last-gasp penalty winner as Manchester City came from behind to ignite their Champions League campaign with a 2-1 win at Borussia Monchengladbach.
It had looked like a familiar story of frustration and Joe Hart brilliance for City as Lars Stindl finally beat the visitors’ outstanding goalkeeper to give the hosts a 54th-minute lead at a raucous Borussia Park. But Nicolas Otamendi rammed home an equalizer 11 minutes later, and City were rewarded for a bright finish as the otherwise labored Aguero scored from the spot after being fouled.
City had conceded a penalty themselves in the first half but Hart saved from Raffael, as he did on a number of other occasions from the Brazilian and his teammates in open play. But the visitors also had a number of opportunities in a compelling Group D encounter played in a lively atmosphere befitting Monchengladbach’s first home match in the competition for 37 years.
The first half was played at a ferocious pace with City looking to attack at every opportunity but being regularly caught on the break by an equally positive-minded home side. Raffael was a constant danger and gave City a warning as he blazed an early chance over.
Another feature of the game was Aguero’s frustration in front of goal, and the Argentinian was denied in the opening minutes by goalkeeper Yann Sommer as he slid onto a Raheem Sterling pass.
City had another chance as Kevin de Bruyne drove across goal but Patrick Herrmann narrowly missed the target for the hosts.
Monchengladbach had a great chance to go ahead as Otamendi’s clumsy challenge on Raffael resulted in a penalty but Hart saved the Brazilian’s spot-kick to his right.
City quickly countered and Aguero raced through on goal but he dragged his shot wide and missed another opportunity soon after.
Hart produced superb point-blank saves from Raffael and Hermann, and City breathed another sigh of relief when referee Clement Turpin gave nothing after Stindl went down in the area.
Monchengladbach began the second half at the same tempo, and Hart was needed again as Raffael broke through once more. With Granit Xhaka having a shot blocked it began to seem a goal was inevitable as City were being pushed back. It came as Julian Korb found room on the right and pulled the ball back for Stindl to fire a low shot past Hart.
It seemed City were again suffering on the continent and David Silva, on his return from a calf injury, was withdrawn just after the hour. Yaya Toure, who had been troubled by a hamstring problem since the weekend, had already left the fray at halftime.
But City found a lifeline from a corner in the 65th minute. Martin Demichelis fired the ball goalwards from a Fernandinho header and his effort was blocked on — or perhaps just behind — the line. City appealed to the referee for a goal but Otamendi did not wait for an explanation as he smashed home the rebound from outside the area via a big deflection.
City cranked up the pressure and Fernandinho went close while Aguero had two more efforts blocked and De Bruyne shot over. Substitute Jesus Navas delivered a dangerous cross and Sterling headed over.
The final word came in the last minute after Aguero was hacked down. The striker put a night of frustration behind him to net a cool winner.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
— Shaun Goater MBE (@OfficialSGoater) September 30, 2015
Yann Sommer: 6 (out of 10)
Julian Korb: 7
Andreas Christensen: 6
Alvaro Dominguez: 6
Oscar Wendt: 7
Patrick Hermann: 7
Mahmoud Dahoud: 7
Granit Xhaka: 7
Fabian Johnson: 7
Lars Stindl: 8
Andre Hahn: 6
Ibrahima Traore: 5
Havard Nordtveit: 5
Joe Hart: 10
Bacary Sagna: 5
Martin Demichelis: 6
Nicolas Otamendi: 6
Aleksandar Kolarov: 5
Yaya Toure: 5
Kevin de Bruyne: 6
David Silva: 7
Raheem Sterling: 7
Sergio Aguero: 7
Jesus Navas: 5
Pablo Zabaleta: 1
Joe Hart. Another absolutely brilliant performance England’s number one, who produced a string of fine saves, including one from the penalty spot. Hart regularly seems to produce his best against German sides in the Champions League, only to be left frustrated by the result. A win was the very least he deserved.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Sergio Aguero’s last-gasp winner could prove a turning point for City in the Champions League, if they can build on the result in their next match against Sevilla. City have struggled all too often away from home in the competition but the way they fought back from behind and secured the result they wanted was a major step in the right direction.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Both sides were fully committed to attack. This could quite easily, and not for the first time, have proved City manager Manuel Pellegrini’s undoing but it came good for him in the end. For Pellegrini, the return of captain Vincent Kompany from injury cannot come soon enough. Monchengladbach’s interim coach Andre Schubert continues to make a positive impression and he could well be full-time boss by the time these two sides meet again.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
City obviously want to catch the eye in Europe but there must be better ways of doing it than wearing their ‘glow-in-the-dark’ green away kit (as some fans have called it) when it is not necessary. City would have looked much smarter in their regular blue and white.
WHO’S UP NEXT?
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Wolfsburg (Bundesliga, Saturday, Oct. 3)
Manchester City vs. Newcastle (Barclays Premier League, Saturday, Oct, 3)
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