Richard Buxton: City must improve or kiss Champions League hopes goodbye
City won't go far unless they get their act together
ROUND OF 16, SECOND LEG
MAN CITY 0
DYNAMO KIEV 0
● Man City win 3-1 on aggregate.
The seventh English club to reach the Champions League quarter-finals in the history of the elite club competition remain far from magnificent.
Barring a stunning comeback from Arsenal against Barcelona this morning (Singapore time), Manchester City will be the EPL's lone standard bearer in this season's Champions League but lack the standards required.
Those who endured the purgatory of their Round-of-16, second-leg goalles draw with Dynamo Kiev yesterday morning (Singapore time) could be forgiven for wondering why they had even bothered.
Manuel Pellegrini's side certainly didn't.
They appeared to be still decamped in Olimpiyskiy's dressing room.
Had they been back there, they might have displayed a greater willingness, instead of resting on their laurels on the back of a comfortable first-leg win three weeks ago.
Outnumbered by the Ukrainian side with a 1:5 shot ratio and more than shaded in the possession stakes (47 per cent to 53), they resembled visiting underdogs with nothing to lose far more than Sergei Rebrov's charges.
Circumstance also forced their hand with Vincent Kompany's latest, inevitable setback.
City's previously reliable captain has increasingly become a liability.
He has already spent a combined four-and-a-half months on the sidelines this season through injury, including two seven-week lay-offs which were separated by just nine minutes of action.
His programme notes spoke of a player who was "fit and focused" and keen to draw a line under "what has gone before". It sounded too good to be true, and so it proved.
In a sixth start in 20 days, a rarity by recent standards, Kompany lasted little more than five minutes before the inevitable happened.
The absence of their once-formidable skipper will ensure that Sunday's Manchester Derby is approached with a strong degree of trepidation.
Should that absence extend to the remainder of this season, however, it will be far more traumatic.
Kompany's fragility has left Pellegrini with a defensive heart that lacks resolve and composure.
Nicolas Otamendi's loss later in the first half only served to intensify that potential panic.
In their absence, Eliaquim Managala and Martin Demichelis were spared indignity in their absence by a pragmatic Kiev frontline.
The story is unlikely to be as fortuitous the next time around, when the quarter-finals play out next month.
The prospective mauling of the makeshift defensive pairing by potential opponents such as Lionel Messi and Thomas Mueller would be as merciless as that scoreline would be emphatic.
Armed with the knowledge of Kompany's susceptibility, Pellegrini still allowed his defence to plummet with such an appalling quality in depth.
It is for this reason that City cannot truly enjoy their breakthrough.
This was the day that everything had been geared towards - the day when all hard work and lucrative outlay would be rewarded as they rightfully share the stage with the continental elite.
But events at the Etihad Stadium underlined just why they remain a long way from holding their own against the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid when Uefa delegates pair them against their potential makers in tomorrow's quarter-final draw.
Throw the addition of holders Barcelona and potentially Bayern Munich, headed by their future manager Pep Guardiola, into the mix and the challenge becomes increasingly onerous.
Neither would merely indulge in the bizarre role reversal that City allowed Kiev to undertake; they would ensure City were punished for doing so.
With it, City run the risk of being unmasked as the great pretenders of European football's flagship competition.
BY THE NUMBERS 1
Manchester City have reached the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in history.
I Always said that the last two seasons we were very unlucky to have the draw in the Round of 16... This season, we won the group and we now are (among) the best eight teams in Europe. We will see how far we can go in this competition.
— Man City boss Manuel Pellegrini, on drawing Barcelona in the Round of 16 for the last two seasons