Three takeaways from Roma-Manchester City

By Mike Woitalla
(@MikeWoitalla)

Roma, playing at home against reigning English Premier League champion Manchester City, could have advanced by posting a shutout. But the Giallorossi came out in an attacking mode to create a thriller at the Stadio Olimpico, where Man City survived some close calls before Sami Nasri led it to a 2-0 win -- both goals coming the final half hour.

1. Frenchman is MVP in global affair

An English team coached by a Chilean (Manuel Pellegrini) with Italian parents faced an Italian club coached by a Frenchman (Rudi Garcia). The starting lineups featured more South Americans than the total of Englishmen (keeper Joe Hart and John Milner) and Italians (keeper Morgan De Sanctis and Francesco Totti). The first-half star was Roma’s Ivory Coast forward Gervinho, who was given a Brazilian name by his Brazilian youth coach in Abidjan. Gervinho stormed down the wings and through the middle, set up a couple chances and had a shot saved by Joe Hart and missed just wide on another. Gervinho faded in the second half, when the Frenchman Nasri took over, scoring with a rocket in the 60th from 22 yards that went in off the post and assisting on an insurance goal by Argentine Pablo Zabaleta in the 86th minute.

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UEFA Champions League: Final 16

2. Citizens rewarded for strong finish

Man City went winless in its first four group games but advanced to the Champions League knockout stage for just the second time thanks to the win at Roma and the 3-2 comeback triumph at home over Bayern Munich two weeks ago in which Argentine Sergio Aguero hit a hat trick -- including an 85th-minute equalizer and stoppage-time gamewinner. Roma needed a scoreless tie or a win to advance, but came out attacking against a Manchester City desperate for a goal. This gave us end-to-end, high tempo action with precision passing. Once Nasri scored the first, Roma needed two goals. But after Kostas Manolas’ 72nd-minute shot hit the post, Roma had to spend too much valuable time defending against Man City's relentless attack.

3. Deep City roster pays off

Aguero was sidelined with a knee injury suffered last weekend in EPL play, Yaya Toure was serving a red-card suspension and central defender Vincent Kompany was also injured. Veteran back Martin Demichelis started in place of Kompany and helped make Totti invisible. Bosnian Edin Dzeko – who scored 26 goals in all competitions last season but has just four this season -- returned to the frontline. Dzeko didn’t hit the net but helped wear down a Roma defense. Also crucial was the 67th-minute entry of Spaniard David Silva, who has been out since October with a knee injury. Silva helped Man City keep possession when desperate Roma needed two goals advance.

TRIVIA. Manchester City’s only European title came with a Cup Winners' Cup crown in 1970. It has made four previous Champions League (né European Cup) appearances, its best performance coming last year when it fell in the round of 16 to Barcelona.

Dec. 10 in Rome.
Roma 0 Manchester City 2. Goals: Goals: Nasri 60, Zabaleta 85.
Roma -- De Sanctis, Yanga-Mbiwa, Nainggolan, Ljajic (Iturbe, 67), Maicon (Florenzi, 79), Pjanic, Keita, Holebas, Gervinho, Manolas, Totti (Destro, 70).
Manchester City -- Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Mangala, Clichy, Fernandinho, Fernando, Navas (Silva, 67), Nasri (Kolarov, 89), Milner, Dzeko (Jovetic, 78).
Att.: 82,000.

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