An evening that began with a big cheer to greet the news of Manchester United FC's UEFA Europa League elimination ended with dismay for Manchester City FC as they joined their neighbours in exiting the competition, beaten on away goals by Sporting Clube de Portugal. City produced an impressive comeback on the evening, fighting from two goals down to win 3-2, but it was not enough.
Ultimately City paid the price for a sluggish first-half display as Sporting added to their 1-0 first-leg advantage with goals from Matías Fernández and Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Although Sergio Agüero's double and Mario Balotelli's penalty set up a grandstand finish, Sporting held on to progress to a first European quarter-final since 2008.
City had entered the match on the back of two 1-0 defeats, following up their loss in Lisbon with a reverse at Swansea City AFC. They started without any real fluency, getting no closer to an early goal than an Adam Johnson volley past the far post.
A looping Xandão header was an early warning from Sporting and after containing City comfortably for the first half-hour, they struck. After Balotelli fouled Emiliano Insúa, Fernández lined up the free-kick to the left of the area and, with his right foot, bent the ball around the wall and past Joe Hart. Sporting extended their lead when Marat Izmailov broke into the box on the right and crossed low for Van Wolfswinkel to turn in at the far post.
Sporting, despite a recent upturn in form and confidence, would not have expected such a dream first half against opponents unbeaten in 16 European home outings. They will have braced themselves for City's response, which began on the hour as Yaya Touré threaded a pass to Agüero, who lifted the ball past Rui Patrício.
When Balotelli converted from the spot with 15 minutes left, the home fans sensed the comeback might be on. So it was as substitute Edin Džeko flicked on Aleksandar Kolarov's corner for the unmarked Agüero to steer the ball in at the far post. Sporting were hanging on now and it took Rui Patrício's fingertip save to foil City counterpart Joe Hart at the death.
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