City Beat Steaua 1-0 In Return Leg

Joe Hart marked his first start of the season, and possibly his last for Manchester City, with a clean sheet as Pep Guardiola’s side advanced to the Champions League group stage.

Keeper Hart, who is expected to leave with Claudio Bravo close to signing, was rarely troubled after being made captain against Steaua Bucharest.

Leading 5-0 from the first leg, City rested several key players.

Fabian Delph’s header from Jesus Navas’ cross made it 6-0 on aggregate.

 

Hart was dropped for City’s first three games as Guardiola opted for Willy Caballero instead.

However, the City boss had hinted at his pre-match news conference that Hart would start this one – and he gave the 29-year-old the added responsibility of leading the team out.

Hart’s every touch was applauded by home supporters while there were many banners on display in support of the England keeper.

In the 66th minute of his 348th start for the club, while a Steaua Bucharest player was receiving treatment, the Etihad reverberated to chants of “Stand up if you love Joe Hart”. He responded by shaking his head and touching the club badge on his shirt.

Hart had little to do as the visitors sat back. He produced a couple of examples of short, sharp distribution with his feet – contrary to theperceived weakness that may have counted against him under Guardiola – while making two saves to keep out substitute Nicolae Stanciu’s free-kick and then blocking Alexandru Tudorie’s effort.

He also celebrated Delph’s goal by raising both arms and punching the air.

At the final whistle, Hart applauded all four sides of the Etihad along with his team-mates.

Concern for Iheanacho

As well as Hart, there were four other first starts of the season for City players – including a first competitive start for 19-year-old right-back Pablo Maffeo – as Steaua embarked on the improbable task of turning over a five-goal deficit.

Yaya Toure, who is also expected to leave next week, hit the side netting, Nolito volleyed wide and young forward Kelechi Iheanacho forced a save before Delph’s well-executed header following the best move of the game.

Guardiola was at his animated best throughout – conducting mini-tutorials, calling Maffeo, then John Stones over to the touchline for one-on-one instruction.

Despite City’s victory, there was one moment of concern for Guardiola when Iheanacho was carried off on a stretcher after pulling up and receiving swift medical treatment.

That raises the possibility of a reprieve for fellow striker Wilfried Bony, who has been linked with West Ham and was not in the 18-man squad on Wednesday.

Who could City face in group stages?

City are in Thursday’s draw for the Champions League group stage along with four other British teams – Leicester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Celtic.

No team can play a club from their own association.

Guardiola could find himself up against one of his former clubs – Barcelona or Bayern Munich who are both in Pot 1 along with Juventus, Benfica, Paris St-Germain and CSKA Moscow.

All will become clear around 17:00 BST.

 

Source: BBC

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