Iheana­cho up to speed as Man City, Celtic draw

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Manch­ester City striker Kelechi Iheana­cho made a suc­cess­ful start to his spell as Ser­gio Aguero’s stand-in by earn­ing his team a 11 Cham­pi­ons League draw with Celtic yes­ter­day.

Aguero’s four-game ban for get­ting sent off in Satur­day’s 3-1 loss to Chelsea means Iheana­cho can look for­ward to a run of games in man­ager Pep Guardi­ola’s first XI.

The 20-year-old Nige­ria striker took his chance with an eighth-minute goal that can­celled out Celtic’s opener, iron­i­cally scored by 19-year-old City loa­nee Pa­trick Roberts.

City had al­ready se­cured a place in the last 16 and were guar­an­teed to fin­ish be­low Group C win­ners Barcelona, while fourth-place Celtic al­ready knew they had missed out on a Europa League berth.

Roberts’s goal means City have recorded just one clean sheet in their last 16 matches, but af­ter the trauma of the loss to Chelsea, in which Fer­nand­inho also saw red, this was a wel­come re­turn to nor­mal­ity.

With noth­ing rid­ing on the game, Guardi­ola gave some play­ing time to young de­fend­ers Pablo Maf­feo and Tosin Adara­bioyo, but it was an­other City young­ster who was the first to show. Roberts, loaned to Celtic by City in Fe­bru­ary, em­bar­rassed his par­ent club’s de­fence, slip­ping past Gael Clichy from the right and stick­ing a left-foot shot past goal­keeper Willy Ca­ballero.

Celtic had con­ceded the lead three times in Septem­ber’s 3-3 draw at Celtic Park and his­tory was to re­peat it­self here as City lev­elled within four min­utes. Nolito slid a pass down the in­sid­eleft chan­nel for Iheana­cho and he showed com­po­sure to guide a firm shot past Craig Gor­don.


The sense that Guardi­ola was treat­ing the game as an ex­per­i­ment was em­pha­sised by his ca­sual dress-skinny jeans and sneak­ers-as well as by City’s novel 3-5-2 shape.

The sys­tem fea­tured Pablo Za­baleta in mid­field and he al­most cre­ated a sec­ond goal with a sweep­ing pass that Iheana­cho put wide.

Gor­don was also re­quired to palm away an im­pro­vised back-heel from Iheana­cho, with Nolito’s fol­low-up blocked. But City looked patchy at the back and Moussa Dem­bele, scorer of a brace at Celtic Park, twice got in be­hind in the early stages.

Freed in turn by a sloppy Fernando back-pass and a neat James For­rest through ball, he was thwarted both times by Ca­ballero, blaz­ing waste­fully wide of an open goal on the sec­ond oc­ca­sion. De­spite los­ing For­rest to in­jury, Celtic made a bright start to the sec­ond half, with his re­place­ment, Gary Mackay-Steven, curl­ing a shot into Ca­ballero’s gloves. Guardi­ola in­tro­duced Je­sus Navas for Maf­feo and the winger teed up Nolito to turn the ball up at the back post, only for an off­side flag to cur­tail the Spain in­ter­na­tional’s cel­e­bra­tions.

Celtic threat­ened twice as the game ap­proached its lat­ter stages, with Leigh Grif­fiths shoot­ing wide and Ca­ballero thwart­ing Mack­aySteven. Leroy Sane curled a free-kick nar­rowly wide at the other end and might have won his side a late penalty with a cross that struck Jozo Simunovic’s hand, but Slove­nian ref­eree Slavko Vin­cic shook his head. —AFP

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