Yaya Toure superb as Man City beat Dynamo Kiev 3-1 in UCL last-16 first leg
Three points from Man City's 3-1 win at Dynamo Kiev in their UEFA Champions League last-16 first leg.
1. City's away win vindicates Pellegrini
After Chelsea and Arsenal's respective first-leg troubles, one of English football's remaining trio is set fair for the Champions League quarterfinals. First-half strikes from Sergio Aguero and David Silva gave City a foothold against potentially tricky opposition -- the Argentine predator lashed in from close range in the 15th minute after a Yaya Toure flick, with the Spaniard converting a Raheem Sterling cross five minutes before the break. Then Yaya Toure, outstanding all evening, completed a 3-1 victory with a swerving 90th minute drive.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini can now prepare for Sunday's League Cup final with Liverpool flushed with vindication. A losing run of three matches had been the worst sequence of his time in charge; victory in Kiev was necessary to soothe the damage done by fielding an under-strength team in the FA Cup at Chelsea at the weekend and losing 5-1.
That gamble -- "sensible," to quote Pellegrini -- was taken with a key objective in mind.. City have never reached the Champions League quarter-finals in their history, losing in the last-16 for two seasons running. Both times Barcelona were their conquerors but Dynamo, under-cooked as a result of the Ukrainian season's lengthy winter hiatus, proved far easier prey.
Sergei Rebrov's team were well short of the quality the club possessed in 1999, when the coach was a star striker alongside Andriy Shevchenko in a team that reached the semifinals. City defended well -- central defender Nicolas Otamendi was especially outstanding in blunting attacks, clearly helped by having the guiding force of captain Vincent Kompany alongside him. The Argentine was unfortunate to have Vitaly Buyalsky's 58th minute strike rattle off his thigh and deflect past goalkeeper Joe Hart for a goal that gave Dynamo a lifeline after City had begun the second half a little too languidly.
It was a moment that gave Kiev hope; City had slacked off, one of those idling periods that cause them great problems in their challenge for the Premier League title. Goalkeeper Joe Hart was called upon to make a full-length scrabbling save from Buyalsky's low shot with 10 minutes to play, but victory was preserved. Toure's strike would add a much-deserved cushion.
2. Toure delivers a masterclass
With Pep Guardiola arriving in July, this season is almost certain to be the last stand of an old favourite. If City had lost on Wednesday night, this two-legged tie would have surely been Toure's final continental excursion for the club in a competition in which he has regularly disappointed. This, though, was one of his better European nights for City. To follow the regular pattern of his six seasons at the club, he shone and the team around him prospered.
With Fernandinho rather unusually placed to his right, Toure's central partner was Fernando, whose dedication to defence allowed the Ivorian to indulge himself. His attacking qualities are the chief reason Pellegrini and predecessor Roberto Mancini would never enter a big match without him. From Silva's corner, Toure climbed highest at the far post, his header down the deftest of flicks to give Aguero the time and space to lash home City's crucial away goal.
Such moments of creative vision are what City fans will recall when Toure eventually vacates his Etihad dressing-room peg rather than a variable dedication to rear-guard efforts, though this was a night when he was to be found offering himself as a shield to the defence. Aguero will particularly miss him. The pair have developed an extra-sensory understanding down the years; just before Silva scored City's second, Aguero set up Toure, breaking at speed from deep, who warmed the hands of Oleksandr Shovkovskiy.
The downside of having Toure in the engine room was briefly on display during Kiev's second-half resurgence as Fernando found himself overmanned by some speedy counterattacks. Toure finally got the message and dropped deep; one outstanding tackle on Buyalsky showed that he remains hugely capable of supplying high-quality dirty work.
Toure might have kicked himself for heading wide in the 82nd minute when Silva had placed a certain goal on a plate, but he soon made amends with that glorious clincher.
3. Rusty Dynamo caught cold
Dynamo had looked a plum opponent when City pulled them in December's last-16 draw and they lived up to that expectation. Rebrov's team had not played a competitive match for approaching 10 weeks -- their only preparation came from 13 friendlies in their warm-weather training camp in southern Spain. They began slowly, taking until the second half to build up a head of steam. By then, the tie was already out of their grasp.
Andriy Yarmolenko, a leading name teasing some Premier League clubs during the last few transfer windows, was the main man as expected, drifting inside from the right flank with his teammates looking to get him on the ball as often as possible. There appeared no ill effects of his lingering knee injury in the fourth minute when he seized on a deflected free-kick, sped past a sleeping Sterling and forced Joe Hart to tip the ball onto the crossbar from a tight angle.
The danger man had announced himself quickly but City's high pressing approach would eventually starve him of too much involvement. Sterling in particular was useful, backing up left-back Gael Clichy when the ball made its way out to that right flank.
Those glimmers of flair were all too rare for Rebrov's team, who struggled from the start. Rebrov made a tactical switch on the half hour, hauling off Denis Garmash for Miguel Veloso, but within 10 minutes City had scored again. Kiev spent much of the second half on the precipice of exiting the competition, a fate made more certain by Toure's goal.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.