Champions League

Pellegrini hails weakened team

2014-12-11 08:42
Manuel Pellegrini (Supplied)
Manuel Pellegrini (Supplied)

Turin - Manuel Pellegrini hailed his depleted Manchester City side's resolve after a 2-0 win over Roma secured the English champions' an unlikely ticket for the knockout phase of the Champions League on Wednesday.

City, requiring at least a score-draw to go through to the knock-out phase, were dominated for large periods of the match at a packed Stadio Olimpico where a win would have secured Roma's passage for the first time since the 2010/11 season.

However Pellegrini's men made up for the absence of key players including top scorer Sergio Aguero and defender Vincent Kompany to turn the match on its head on the hour mark when Samir Nasri fired a superb shot past Morgan De Sanctis and in off the keeper's near post.

It settled City's nerves and after Roma spurned a series of late chances to level the Frenchman coolly set up Pablo Zabaleta inside the box for his first Champions League goal in the 86th minute.

But Pellegrini said he had plenty of faith that City, whose Group E campaign was revived by a stunning Aguero treble in a shock 3-2 win over Bayern a fortnight ago, would rise to the challenge.

"Maybe in this moment if we hadn't qualified for the next round, it would be easy for me to say we were missing a lot of players, but I have a lot of trust and confidence in this squad," said Pellegrini.

"I always repeat the same answer. I don't think this team is just one player and I think that today demonstrated that."

City could welcome back Aguero if the Argentinian striker, who has scored 14 Premier League goals and 19 in all competitions so far this season, recovers in time for February's last 16 ties.

Ahead of that challenge, Pellegrini was quick to play down City's dreams of making it into the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time in the history of the competition.

"We're not trying to send any message to anybody. We're just happy to make it to the next stage, which was our target from the start," said Pellegrini, whose side were eliminated in the last 16 by Barcelona last year.

"Last year we qualified with 15 points from 18, the best second in the history of the champions league, then we played against Barcelona and you can't afford to make the kind of mistakes we made against them."

City finished second in Group E behind already-qualified Bayern Munich, with Roma finishing third to drop into the Europa League.

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