Joe Hart excels as Manchester City steal late European win

 
Ross McLean
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Sergio Aguero’s spot-kick saw City earn their first Champions League win this season
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini believed his side warranted a slice of good a fortune after Sergio Aguero converted a late penalty to seal Champions League victory against Borussia Monchengladbach last night.

Aguero proved City’s matchwinner with a spot-kick in the dying embers of their Group D showdown on a night when English football’s Champions League slump was given respite by the two Manchester clubs.

Argentina defender Nicolas Otamendi levelled following Lars Stindl’s opener although City’s maiden European win of the campaign owed much to the commanding performance of fit-again Joe Hart, who saved a first-half Raffael penalty.

City remain third in Group D, level on points with Sevilla, but three behind leaders Juventus, as Pellegrini’s side improved a worrying sequence of seven defeats in their last 11 Champions League matches.

“Maybe with a little bit of luck we won this game,” said Pellegrini. “But all the games we lost before, against Juventus, West Ham and Tottenham, I don’t think we deserved to lose, but we lost. Maybe today we didn’t deserve to win, but we won.

“It was a strange game. For 65 minutes both teams had very clear chances to score. They played better than we did, especially in defence, but after the goal we had a strong reaction and improved a lot. I am relieved of course because it is three very important points.”

Despite their lavish spending, City have never progressed beyond the Champions League’s round of 16 and without the heroics of Hart, who recovered from the back injury which sidelined him at the weekend, they might be facing group-stage agony.

The 28-year-old repelled Raffael’s first-half spot-kick, awarded following Otamendi’s foul, while he also proved less than charitable when midfielder Patrick Herrmann was clean through on goal. Hart has now saved the last two Champions League penalties he has faced.

“For the penalty, no stone is left unturned,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of penalties from a lot of players – we have good guys in the analysis department. We always take the scenic route through Europe.”

Hart’s gutsy showing laid the platform for City inflicting Monchengladbach’s first ever defeat by an English club on their own turf, but not before Stindl side-footed home the opening goal nine minutes after the re-start.

City equalised shortly after the hour mark when Otamendi volleyed home from inside the penalty area, although Martin Demichelis’s initial effort was not given despite it clearly crossing the goalline. Pellegrini opted to field his £116m all-star forward line of Aguero, Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne although the quartet were unable to establish a consistent level of fluency in the final third.

Just as City looked destined for a point, United States defender Fabian Johnson tripped Aguero in the box and the Argentine stepped up and converted the resulting spot-kick.