Man City make history, reach UCL last eight with 0-0 draw vs. Dynamo Kiev
MANCHESTER, England -- Three points from Man City's 0-0 draw (3-1 aggregate) with Dynamo Kiev that ensured a spot in the quarterfinals for Manuel Pellegrini's side.
1. Man City make history in a stalemate
As is their custom, the Manchester City crowd booed the Champions League anthem but for once they will be hearing it in April, too. This was the most mundane of matches but a significant step forward for them nonetheless. For the first time in their history, they are Champions League quarterfinalists.
Ultimately, Tuesday's 0-0 draw against Dynamo Kiev completed a 3-1 aggregate triumph. A lifeless second leg nonetheless means City will breathe the more rarefied air near the summit of the European game, though they will have to play with rather more incision, invention and urgency if they are to trouble the continent's superpowers.
At least the departing Manuel Pellegrini can reflect that part of his job has been accomplished. He was hired in part because of his exploits in continental competitions but inherited a club that had never got out of the group stages; now, just as he did with Villarreal and Malaga, he's taken one without much of a European pedigree to the last eight. City's spending renders it less of a feat than his results with the Spanish clubs but he can claim it is a notable achievement, albeit secured in a forgettable match.
The only concerns came in the form of injuries as City drew 0-0 for the second time in four days. They have now had six goalless games this season, only one behind Manchester United. A different battle for "supremacy" in Manchester is underway.
The first shot came in the 37th minute and Sergio Aguero dragged it well wide. Jesus Navas struck the post with an angled drive, taking him agonisingly close to doubling his tally amid an unproductive season. Yaya Toure, one of the few bright players, tested the 41-year-old goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy -- he debuted for Kiev before the City substitute Raheem Sterling was born -- but no one really looked like scoring.
2. Defensive injuries mar City's magical night
Champions League progress came at a cost as City lost the cornerstones of their defence within the first quarter of the game. Injuries have been a recurring theme this season but now they threaten to curtail their campaign, given the potential problems they could face in two competitions without Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi.
There was something depressingly predictable about Kompany's early exit. The captain's face betrayed the familiar realisation that he faces another spell on the sidelines. He pulled up in pain after attempting to clear the ball and hobbled off after five minutes, boding badly for City's chances in the title race and in Europe.
City have only kept six clean sheets in the 29 games he has not started this season and Kompany's two previous calf injuries both ruled him out for at least six weeks. If this is a similar problem, it suggests that he will not feature again until May, and that they will have to score plenty of goals to compensate for those they are likely to concede.
Eliaquim Mangala didn't even make the bench at Norwich on Saturday, an ignominious state of affairs for the third-most expensive defender in football history. Restored to the squad, he replaced the captain in the opening minutes.
Pellegrini had sprung something of a surprise by naming two central defenders among his substitutes. It seemed a wise move when Otamendi then went down after a collision with Vitaliy Buyalskiy. The Argentine limped on for a further seven minutes before making way for Martin Demichelis. It left City's third- and fourth-choice centre-backs in harness, forming a partnership they will probably have to reprise against United on Sunday. Anthony Martial may savour the thought of a race against Demichelis or the chance to capitalise on Mangala's clumsiness.
As it was, the pair almost gifted Kiev an opening as a casual Demichelis under-hit a pass to Mangala, who lacked the composure to keep the ball under pressure. They negotiated this game comparatively comfortably thereafter but stiffer tests await.
3. Yarmolenko, Kiev kept quiet
Considering that Kiev and Merseyside are separated by the best part of 1500 miles, this offered the opportunity for one of the shorter scouting trips. Roberto Martinez had a trip to the Etihad in his diary to watch winger Andriy Yarmolenko. Everton were interested in Yarmolenko last summer and given the investment of billionaire co-owner Farhad Moshiri, the club should have greater funds to spend this year.
Martinez's unrivalled capacity to take the positives from any game meant he no doubt emerged enthused. This, though, was not a night to add to Yarmolenko's considerable price tag or sizeable fan club. Having scored in his previous three games, he rarely threatened to extend that run.
He began on the right flank though the form of Aaron Lennon and Gerard Deulofeu this season indicates that any vacancy at Goodison Park may be on the left, where Arouna Kone and Tom Cleverley have platooned to rather less effect. In response, Pellegrini picked his more defensively-minded left-back, Gael Clichy, to counter Kiev's trump card. The Frenchman rarely ventured forward, which was just as well -- when Yarmolenko almost sent Buyalskiy through on goal, Clichy was there to cover.
Quiet on the right, he became the main striker in the second half when the anonymous Lukasz Teodorczyk was replaced. His brightest moment came as the front man, a swift dart inside Mangala being followed by a shot that went straight at Joe Hart. He should have earned a late penalty when Fernando appeared to clip his heels as he flicked the ball to Buyalskiy, but such skill came too late to threaten the outcome of the tie.
Otherwise, his was a drab display in keeping with his team's. They almost scored with the last kick of the ball via Olexandr Yakovenko, but until the final few minutes, Kiev lacked the attacking intent of a side that required a minimum of three goals to qualify. Rather, they resembled one who had never won in England and were content to avoid defeat in a damage-limitation exercise.
Kiev's progress to the latter stages owed much to a surprise away victory against Porto, but Tuesday's affair showed why they have a reputation as timid travellers these days. As it was, they have ventured further in the competition than at any point this millennium but they still have not reached the quarterfinals since 1999, when Serhiy Rebrov was leading the line, rather than managing the club, and he was unable to emulate his mentor Valeriy Lobanovskyi, who steered them into the last four back then.
It may be some time before they reach those heights again, especially if Yarmolenko leaves.
Richard Jolly is a football writer for ESPN, The Guardian, The National, The Observer, the Straits Times and the Sunday Express.