PARIS: Sergio Aguero brushed off two missed penalties to score a hat-trick as Manchester City outclassed Steaua Bucharest 5-0 on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) in the first leg of their Champions League play-off tie in Romania.
The result means that new City coach Pep Guardiola can breathe a huge sigh of relief as the Abu Dhabi-backed club has one foot in the lucrative group stage.
David Silva fired City into a 13th-minute lead either side of two failed spot-kicks from Aguero, before the Argentine atoned with the visitors’ second goal just prior to half-time.
New signing Nolito then scored his first City goal early in the second half with Aguero netting twice more as Guardiola’s side seized complete control ahead of the return leg in Manchester in eight days’ time.
“We are almost in the Champions League. That was our target,” Guardiola told BT Sport.
“It was a great performance, great attitudes. The result is amazing; I am so satisfied with the way we played – a big compliment to these fantastic players.”
England goalkeeper Joe Hart was again left on the bench by Guardiola, with Nicolas Otamendi and Pablo Zabaleta drafted into the City defense as last year’s Champions League semi-finalists embarked on their latest European adventure.
Raheem Sterling won an early penalty for City, just as he did in Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League victory at home to Sunderland, when he was clattered by Muniru Sulley inside the area.
But Aguero saw his spot-kick turned away by Steaua keeper Florin Nita, with Nolito firing the rebound against the crossbar.
City though capitalized on more sloppy defending from the home side shortly after as Sterling stole the ball from Alin Tosca, the winger squaring for Silva to drill beyond a helpless Nita.
Gabriel Enache handed Aguero another chance from the penalty spot with just 20 minutes gone when he crudely upended Aleksandar Kolarov, but this time the Argentine blazed well over.
However, the striker redeemed himself with a superbly placed finish four minutes before the break after Sterling had cushioned the ball into his path on the edge of the area.
Guardiola spoke of his desire to play a brand of football that will captivate the club’s supporters, and the Spaniard will have been delighted with his side’s performance as they showed Steaua no mercy in the second half.
Nolito, played through by Kevin de Bruyne, rounded Nita to add City’s third and open his account for his new club after arriving from Celta Vigo in the summer.
Aguero rounded off a flowing move of one-two passes with an arrowed low strike into the corner on 78 minutes, and he completed his hat-trick a minute from time after racing clear of the Steaua defence.
Elsewhere, Borussia Moenchengladbach won 3-1 away to Young Boys of Switzerland, while four-time European champions Ajax were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Russian outfit Rostov.
Dinamo Zagreb drew 1-1 with Salzburg while FC Copenhagen secured a narrow 1-0 victory over APOEL Nicosia in Denmark.
On Wednesday, Scottish champions Celtic host Hapoel Beer-Sheva of Israel in Glasgow, while twice former winners Porto are at home to Roma and Monaco visit Villarreal.
Dundalk continue their improbable bid to become the first League of Ireland club to reach the Champions League group stage when they take on Legia Warsaw in Dublin.