Manchester City on Uefa Cup road to Istanbul after last 16 first leg win over Aalborg

12 March 2009 10:21
Manchester's travel agents will be doing a roaring trade. United's imperious form has put them on the road to Rome. City, meanwhile, are patiently negotiating the byzantine structure of the Uefa Cup. They look destined for Istanbul.

Mark Hughes's side will surely find themselves in the pot for the quarter-finals a week today after goals from Felipe Caicedo and Shaun Wright-Phillips dispatched an AaB Aalborg side the hosts thoroughly outclassed.

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The idea of Uefa Cup glory has clearly not captured the imagination of City's fans – Eastlands was scarcely half full – but with impressive home form and most of the competition's big names already fallen, they will have rarely had a better chance to end the club's 30-year wait for silverware.

Hughes said: 'The players are starting to sense we can win this now. We have to make sure we can get through but we're in good shape.

'Once you start to get to quarter finals or semi finals you get a real sense that you can do something great. But we're certainly enjoying the European experience.'

This is a competition Hughes has always taken seriously, fielding unfashionably full-strength sides even at Blackburn in a tournament criminally, continually belittled by the Premier League's petit bourgeoisie. This time, though, he has an ulterior motive in eschewing the isolationist ignorance of the likes of Harry Redknapp and Martin O'Neill.

If Hughes's employers are to return to Valencia this summer and offer £50 million or more into the Spanish side's cobwebbed coffers for David Villa, a gleaming UEFA Cup as proof of pedigree and promise would go some way to enticing a player reluctant to leave his homeland.

'I've said it several times before but it's important for our development as a team that we keep on having success,' he said. Such success, of course, would also go a long way to ensuring Hughes's continued employment at the club.

He has clearly passed his views on to his players. They raced out of the blocks, Robinho and Caicedo missing chances before the Ecuadorian received the Brazilian's pass on the edge of the box, using his bovine strength to hold off Michael Jakobsen, turn and slot home. It was just a shame only 24,596 people were there to see it.

AaB Aalborg might not be Europe's most glamorous side and there may be a credit crunch on, but it is an irony that fans so hungry for European competition, who will no doubt call for the Welshman's head if City don't have it next season, care so little they were not even prepared to shell out £10 for a cut-price ticket.

They missed out on City at their fluid, creative best. Moments after Micah Richards had shot against Zaza's legs from a tight angle, Wright-Phillips twisted Patrick Kristensen's blood before unleashing a dipping, swerving 25-yard shot into the near corner.

Robinho missed two gilt-edged chances in under a minute, skipping past Anders Due and firing at Zaza before somehow missing on the line from Wright-Phillips's cross. He even broke out his patented pedalada, legs twirling, bewitching Michael Beauchamp six times before the Australian kicked out but somehow avoided conceding a penalty.

The gulf in class between the two sides was clear. City could, and should, have made the tie safe after the break, Nedum Onuoha heading Elano's corner over and Wright-Phillips firing wide when clean through.

It would take a shock of epic proportions to derail City in Denmark next week. As long as Hughes continues to show the tournament the respect it deserves, there is no reason there cannot be a blue moon over the Bosphorus come May.



Match detailsManchester City (4-2-3-1): Given; Richards, Dunne, Onuoha, Bridge; Zabaleta, Ireland; Wright-Phillips (Etuhu 87), Elano, Robinho; Caicedo (Evans 63).Subs: Hart (g), Vassell, Garrido, Fernandes.Booked: Elano 72.Aalborg (4-5-1): Zaza; Bogelund, Beauchamp, Jakobsen, Kristensen; Caca, Enevoldsen (Risgaard 76), Augustinussen, Johansson, Due (Curth 65); Shelton.Subs: Nielsen (Jakobsen 86), Nomvete, Tracy, Christensen.Booked: Enevoldsen 71.Referee: A Hamer (Luxembourg).

 

Source: Telegraph