City scrap through to last 16

Manchester City’s David Silva (2R) scores the 1-1 leveler during their UEFA Champions League Group C match against Borussia Moenchengladbach in Moenchengladbach, Germany, last night. The goal ensured City qualified for the last 16 in the competition. PHOTO: MARIUS BECKER/EPA

David Silva’s deft equaliser ensured Manchester City reached the Champions League knockout stage for a fourth consecutive season with a draw at Borussia Monchengladbach.

City trailed when Raffael powered a rising 15-yard drive past Claudio Bravo from a central position.

But Silva slid in at the near post to convert Kevin de Bruyne’s low cross before the break.

City improved after half-time, helped by the dismissal of home skipper Lars Stindl for two yellow cards.

However, the visitors were also reduced to 10 men when Fernandinho was booked for a second time for a needless tug on Raffael’s shirt inside the Monchengladbach half.

Despite more space for both sides to exploit, the game failed to open up in the final half-hour.

But the point, coupled with Celtic’s home defeat by leaders Barcelona, clinches second place in Group C for Pep Guardiola’s men.

“I’m happy to be there in the last 16. We have qualified with one game left and it’s a big compliment for the team, for the whole stage. In general we made a good performance,” The Spanish manager said.

The Blues cannot catch the Spanish champions, who are four points clear with one round of matches to play.

City reached their Champions League zenith when they beat Barcelona in their previous group game, proving they could compete with Europe’s elite.

Of course, they reached the semi-finals of the continent’s premier club competition last season, but – under Manuel Pellegrini’s guidance – were outclassed by eventual winners Real Madrid.

So is Guardiola’s side better equipped to take the club to a first European final since 1970?

Not based on their away form. City have not won in five Champions League matches on the road, stretching their run without an away clean sheet in the competition to 10 games. That, of course, includes a chastening 4-0 defeat at the Nou Camp.

And not based on this performance. Against a Monchengladbach side 14th in the Bundesliga, a City side packed with attacking artillery enjoyed plenty of possession without creating many clear-cut chances.

Monchengladbach used their pace to catch out City on the counter before Silva’s opener, but the away side eventually gained a measure of control after the break.

While it was not the prettiest of displays, Guardiola will be content with the doggedness shown by his side to see out the draw – a craft likely to be needed against better sides later in the competition.

“In the end, after we got the red card we killed the game off,” said midfielder De Bruyne. “We are through and that’s the most important thing.”

A common theme has run through the early days of Guardiola’s tenure – his team giving away sloppy goals.

And they certainly cannot afford to do that against better Champions League opposition.

England centre-back John Stones has come under significant scrutiny, with critics saying the £47.5m summer signing needs to stop over-playing in his own half.

Although the odd pass went astray here, questions are likely to be raised about whether Stones needed to be stronger in the build-up to Monchengladbach’s goal.

The 22-year-old was easily brushed off the ball by Stindl, who picked out Raffael.

The goal means City, who were again without the injured Vincent Kompany, have managed to keep just one clean sheet in their past 12 matches.

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