Sergio Aguero late equaliser sends Man City through to Champions League knockout stages

SERGIO AGUERO finally managed to tame Lyon and put Manchester City in the knock-out round.

But what a formidable opponent the French team have been on two occasions this season – leaving the English champions quivering both times.

Sergio Aguero sent Manchester City into the Champions League last 16
Sergio Aguero sent Manchester City into the Champions League last 16
The Argentine striker headed a late equaliser that secured a place in the knockout rounds
The Argentine striker headed a late equaliser that secured a place in the knockout rounds

Ivorian striker Maxwel Cornet looked certain to scoop the headlines by twice giving the home side the lead.

But Aymeric Laporte and then Aguero showed this City side have character to go with their flair by hitting back in double quick time.

It means they have qualified for the last 16 for a sixth consecutive season. And a draw against Hoffenheim in a fortnight will guarantee top spot.

Yet no matter how far they go in the competition this year, they are unlikely to face a stiffer test than Lyon have twice given them.

Pep Guardiola had something of an injury crisis – by his standards – in midfield with Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan all out injured.

Yet instead of handing a rare start to England Under 21 ace Phil Foden he opted to go with Raheem Sterling in a central position.

It was a surprising choice and a bold one against the only team to have beaten City in any competition this season.

The French side had come away with a sensational 2-1 win from the Etihad two months ago when Guardiola looked on in dismay from the stands.

This time he was in the dug-out but his team once again struggled to contain the lively home side with his makeshift midfield looking light-weight.

City had bounced back from that shock defeat by winning their next three and putting themselves on the brink of qualification.

Yet right from the off, Lyon looked capable of making it a double as they carved out a series of great chances.

Cornet – who scored in the reverse fixture – sent over a cross from the right which looked perfect for Memphis Depay.

The former Manchester United man looked certain to score but got his feet in a tangle under pressure from Kyle Walker and could add the finishing touch.

A rare attack at the other end saw record signing Riyad Mahrez sting the palms of Anthony Lopes but most of the chances were coming for the home side.

City’s French defender Aymeric Laporte had to make a superb last ditch tackle to deny Cornet as they sped through on goal.

But the home forward had an even better chance a few minutes later when Ferland Mendy whipped over a cross from the left.

Cornet took a touch and had the goal at his mercy but Laporte got back with a crucial challeng and the Ivorian scooped his effort over the bar.

Lyon had failed to win any of their three Champions League games since their famous win at the Etihad. What’s more they are 15 points off Paris Saint Germain in their domestic league.

Both of those are hard to fathom on this evidence. They seem to know how to get at Guardiola’s team and plenty of Premier League teams would like to know their secret.

Both Fernandinho and Sterling got booked by the Italian referee – a sign of how much they were struggling to contain Lyon.

But back at the other end, another cross from the left by Mendy found Cornet again at the back post.

This time he volleyed down into the ground and was so unlucky to see it bounce up and strike the crossbar.

Walker revealed that Guardiola had told them he was embarrassed by their first half show in the home game against Lyon in September.

It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall in the dressing room here – because City had not been at it again.

The Premier League leaders only needed a point to be sure of a place in the last 16 – but even that looked in some doubt at the break.

Cornet must have been thinking it was not his night but all that changed 10 minutes after the re-start.

A floated ball to the back post by Memphis found the Ivory Coast man and he went inside Alex Zinchenko before shaping a lovely curler from 20 yards around Ederson.

It was no more than the home team deserved but the lead – and it temporarily put them at the top of Group F.

But the lead lasted only seven minutes as City won a free-kick on the right which Sterling floated over.

It flicked off a Lyon defender under pressure from David SIlva into the path of Laporte who steered a bullet header past Lopes to level things up.

The £57 million man has been outstanding at the back for City this season – here he was making a difference at the other end.

How he keeps getting overlooked by France is something only Didier Deschamps can explain.

City almost turned the tie completely on its head within a minute as Lopes allowed a shot by Leroy Sane to squirm beneath him but got back to save just in time.

The visitors looked the more likely winners but then Cornet got a yard on Laporte and rolled underneath Ederson.

The mention of Cornet must have sent a shiver down Guardiola’s spine at that point.

This time the lead lasted less than two minutes as a corner from the left by Mahrez landed on the head of Aguero who steered into the corner.


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