|A||Real Sociedad||Shakhtar Donetsk|
A burst of three goals in ten second-half minutes swept Manchester City FC to victory at FK Viktoria Plzeň that gave the Premier League club the ideal start to Group D.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini turned 60 the day before the game, and his players presented him with the perfect gift in the Czech Republic. Though frustrated in the first half, Pellegrini's new side cut loose after the break with Edin Džeko, Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero all finding the net in quick succession to inflict Plzeň's first defeat in 15 competitive games this season.
Habitually slow starters with just a single point from their last two group stage openers, City challenged that statistic as they immediately threw themselves into their task with relish. Jesús Navas ended a jet-heeled dart forward with a drive tipped over by Matúš Kozáčik, who then scrambled frantically across goal to block a point-blank Džeko header. Had the Bosnia and Herzegovina striker placed his effort either side of the Plzeň goalkeeper, it is likely his hands would have been raised in celebration rather than clutching his head in anguish.
Having played their debut group campaign two seasons ago in Prague, Plzeň were welcoming football at this level to their Štruncovy Sady Stadión for the first time. Pavel Horváth had featured prominently in his club's maiden outing in such elevated company, and though the oldest man on the pitch at 38, the Plzeň captain again stood out. With speed of thought compensating for his declining pace, Horváth used his left foot to promising effect though without ever fully undoing the City rearguard.
While the return of Vincent Kompany gave the visitors reassurance at the back, the injury-enforced absence of the imposing Marián Čišovský at the opposite end was felt when City went ahead. The Slovakian centre-back's replacement Lukáš Hejda was outmuscled by Agüero, who squared for Džeko to confidently slide the ball under Kozáčik. Touré went the aerial route to find the net five minutes later, producing a curling effort from outside the box whose beauty seemed to surprise even the Ivorian himself.
A Jan Kovařík shot, bravely and brilliantly blocked by Pablo Zabaleta in between City's two goals, might have heaved Plzeň back into the game, but when Agüero turned smartly before finding the bottom corner, the hosts' quest for a maiden group stage home win was over as City, bar a late Tomáš Hořava volley that struck a post, eased to victory. Their next outing, at home to reigning European champions FC Bayern München, is unlikely to prove as comfortable while Plzeň will hope for succour from a trip to PFC CSKA Moskva.
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