x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Mancini revels in relief after late Aguero goal

The Manchester City manager said everything can happen now in their Champions League group after Sergio Aguero kept their hopes alive against Villarreal.

MANCHESTER // Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, punched the air repeatedly in relief when Sergio Aguero scored the late winner which has possibly kept the club's Champions League hopes alive.

City are finally up and running in the competition as Aguero, on as a substitute, struck in the third minute of injury time to secure the club's first victory in the competition and turn a frustrating night against Villarreal at the Etihad Stadium into a jubilant one.

"I hope this goal will be very important — it was very important to win the first game in the Champions League," Mancini said. "I think everything can happen in this group, for first place."

After collecting just one point from their opening two games, City had needed to win to keep realistic hopes of progressing from Group A alive.

But after conceding to Cani after just four minutes, City produced a sluggish performance far removed from their free-scoring Premier League form.

They enjoyed good possession in the first half but it needed a Carlos Marchena own goal to haul them back into contention and the spark was still missing until Aguero's dramatic late intervention.

After Napoli and Bayern Munich drew 1-1 in Italy, City have gained ground and are three points behind the German side, the group leaders, halfway through the stage.

There was one side issue, however, as, three weeks after controversy over substitutions in the defeat in Munich, Mancini appeared to upset Adam Johnson by withdrawing him late in the first half.

The winger was replaced by Gareth Barry and shook his head as he left the field, but Mancini insisted there was no problem.

"We didn't have many players in the middle and I wanted to move Yaya [Toure] behind Edin [Dzeko]," Mancini said.

"Adam played very well but at that moment I had to do a tactical substitution. I spoke with him [afterwards] and he understood this."

City, the Premier League leaders, still have quite a week ahead of them on and off the field.

Carlos Tevez faces an internal disciplinary hearing over his alleged refusal to play as a substitute in Munich and the team face arch-rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford in an eagerly-anticipated derby on Sunday.

Mancini has spoken little about Tevez since saying the player was "finished" at the club after the game at the Allianz Arena and was again unwilling to discuss it last night.

However, he intriguingly told Sky Sports: "I'm soft because I'm a good man and I can't understand everything but I would prefer not to speak about this situation."

The derby will be his main focus and he added: "It is important for our confidence to go there top and after beating Villarreal but it will be different on Sunday."