Manchester City have almost produced an inspired comeback against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League Round of 16 second leg but despite winning 3-2 on the night, lost on away goals after the two-legged tie ended 3-3.
City went into the home leg a goal down after losing 1-0 in Portugal last week and at half-time of tonight’s fixture, things were looking dire for Roberto Mancini’s men who trailed 2-0 in the match and 3-0 on aggregate.
City managed to fight back with plenty of conviction courtesy of two goals from Sergio Aguero and a penalty from Mario Balotelli but in the end, Ricardo Sa Pinto’s charges made it through to the quarter-finals with City’s season slowly slipping away.
It was a very lackluster opening half-hour from both sides before Matias Fernandez produced a brilliant free-kick to put Sporting ahead in the 33rd minute. City striker Mario Balotelli quite clearly bumped Emiliano Insua down the middle of the back with referee Tom Harald Hagen awarding a free-kick to the visitors and the Chilean stepped up to expertly curl it around the wall and off Joe Hart’s outstretched left hand from the left flank.
Things went from bad to worse for City in the 40th minute when Marat Izmailov found space down the right before sliding a pinpoint cross for Ricky van Wolfswinkel to knock home from close range, putting enormous pressure on the home side.
Sporting looked largely untroubled early in the second half until City gave themselves some sort of slight hope when Yaya Toure played a ball into the feet of Sergio Aguero with the Argentine taking control and turning to fire home, making it 2-1 on the night.
In the 74th minute, City were awarded a penalty when substitute Renato Nato brought down Aguero right on the edge of the area with referee Hagen pointing to the spot. Balotelli stepped up and was able to coolly slot past Rui Patricio to make it 3-2 on aggregate and atone for his earlier mistake which led to the opening goal.
Things then changed dramatically with eight minutes left when Aguero helped himself to a second with a composed left-footed finish at the back post after Aleksandar Kolarov’s corner from the left found its way to the Argentine from Edin Dzeko’s glanced header.
City keeper Hart had come forward in injury-time and was inches away from netting a very late winner with his header falling just wide because of Rui Patricio’s perfectly-timed save.
UEFA Europa League Round of 16 – second leg
Etihad Stadium, Manchester