City learn new trick with comeback win

Manchester City may have paid a club record £38 million to bring Sergio Aguero and his dazzling Latin American skills to the Etihad Stadium, but it is a finish from barely two yards out which could become one of the most remembered of his time at the club.
The Argentina striker's winner against Villarreal in the third minute of stoppage time last night secured a 2-1 victory which has given City's hopes of qualifying from their Champions League group a real boost.

On a night in which Wayne Rooney's two penalties against Otelul Galati got Manchester United's own campaign back on track, failure to beat Villarreal would have been a real blow to City's morale as well as their prospects ahead of Sunday's derby at Old Trafford.

For a while, it looked as though they might not even get a draw. Cani's early goal looked as though it would set up the most crushing disappointment in Manchester this side of the Stone Roses reunion gigs.

Just as well Roberto Mancini had almost £40 million-worth of goalscorer to bring off the bench then, though not before he had introduced Gareth Barry and James Milner into the fray.

What makes the late victory so noteworthy is that City have so rarely been able to achieve them under Mancini. In the past 12 months they had come from behind to grab victory just once before last night, a 4-3 home win over Wolves back in January.

There has been a handful of other times when they have scrapped back to claim draws - most recently the 1-1 draw against Napoli on their first match in the Champions a month ago

That lone result against Wolves looks even more isolated when you consider that, in the same period, they have lost seven times after conceding the first goal

While Sheikh Mansour's billions have funded the hasty assembly of a star-studded squad at City, those petrodollars have not been able to foster a team spirit among them.

The group of players that Mancini has put together have had to cultivate their own winning mentality, something which has been distinctly absent from City's recent history.

Remember, even in that one season under Sven-Goran Eriksson's management and Thaksin Shinawatra's financial backing which kicked off the club's transformation in 2007-08, City only finished ninth, below Portsmouth and Blackburn. The change in the respective complexions of those three clubs in the intervening three years shows just how quickly things can change in football.

Since then, the City squad is virtually unrecognisable, with only Micah Richards and Joe Hart able to remember the days when Stuart Pearce was the gaffer.

With almost no links to even their recent past, City have had to go about creating their own history, and it is wins like last night's  which will do just that. A regulation 3-0 victory over an average Villarreal side would have been just another win, one which would have pleased Mancini, no doubt, but would not have taught him anything new about his players.

Judging by his ecstatic reaction to Aguero's late strike, playing poorly and still winning was a much greater source of satisfaction for the Italian boss. His players can now look back upon this win as an example of them sticking together even as things looked bleak and getting the job done, something surely have to do again and again if they are to achieve their lofty ambitions.

And, in the short term, it provides the ideal boost for the City camp ahead of the biggest Manchester derby in the league for many a year this weekend.

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FOREIGN VIEW: "The unique link between the old Juventus and the new Juve is our captain, Alessandro del Piero. He wanted to stay with us for one more year, and this will be his last season wearing the black-and-white jersey." - Juve president Andrea Agnelli announces that the great Italian forward will be leaving the club next summer, by which time he would have played his 19th season for the Bianconeri.

COMING UP: Plenty of fun and games to be had before tonight's Champions League fixtures. Euroscout will be running the rule over Marseille forward Loic Remy, West Brom striker Shane Long will be put Under the Microscope and Jim White will be filing his latest blog.

Then tonight catch live coverage from 19:45 of Chelsea v Genk, Marseille v Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen v Valencia, Olympiacos v Borussia Dortmund, FC Porto v APOEL Nicosia, Shakhtar Donetsk v Zenit St. Petersburg, AC Milan v BATE Borisov, Barcelona v FC Viktoria Plzen and Leicester City v Watford at 19:45. One of those matches is in the Championship.