Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick as Manchester City thrashed Steaua Bucharest in the first leg of their Champions League qualifying play-off.
Aguero also missed two penalties – the first saved and second powered over – either side of David Silva’s opener.
Striker Aguero stroked in his first goal to make it 2-0 and added two more after Nolito scored City’s third.
The second leg is in Manchester on Wednesday, 24 August, with the winners reaching the group stage.
A tale of two Agueros
In the end, it was a satisfying night for Argentine frontman Aguero after two missed spot-kicks in the first half. All three goals he scored were different:
- First: A beautifully rolled shot finds the bottom corner from outside the area
- Second: Excellent interplay with Nolito before firing across the goalkeeper and into the net
- Third: Back to goal, turns and runs at the defence and slams home
City slickers dominate
City were in total control of the match and outclassed their Romanian opponents.
Summer signing Nolito twice struck the woodwork, as well as netting his first City goal by rounding the goalkeeper following Kevin de Bruyne’s inch-perfect pass.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart was left out once again, with boss Pep Guardiola preferring Willy Caballero. But, despite having to rush off his line in the early stages to clear the ball, the Argentine was a spectator for the remainder of the game.
The plane carrying City staff to Romania was evacuated after smoke was seen in the cabin, but there was no scare for the players on the pitch and it will need a calamitous collapse in the second leg to stop them from advancing.
Sterling back on the rise
Question marks were raised over Raheem Sterling’s performances in his first season at City after becoming the most expensive English player ever following a £49m transfer from Liverpool.
The winger also bore the brunt of England’s criticism at Euro 2016 and a petition was even set up to bring the player back home from France.
But the 21-year-old has started this season full of confidence, earning a penalty in the opening 10 minutes in Bucharest, just as he did against Sunderland in the Premier League on Saturday.
Aguero failed to convert this time, but Sterling’s pressing panicked Steaua defender Alin Tosca into making a mistake, before keeping his cool to lay the ball into the path of Silva for the opener and then cushioning the ball for Aguero’s first.