Aguero strikes late as City beats Villarreal 2-1
Substitute Sergio Aguero grabbed a stoppage-time winner as Manchester City rallied to beat Villarreal 2-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday, earning the Premier League leaders their first victory in Group A.
The Argentina striker moved big-spending City to within a point of second-place Napoli by meeting a cross from compatriot Pablo Zabaleta with a simple tap-in at the far post in the fourth minute of injury time.
''It was an important goal because it is now open for first place,'' said City manager Roberto Mancini, whose team is three points behind group leader Bayern Munich after three matches.
Villarreal slipped to its third straight defeat despite taking a fourth-minute lead through Cani, who poked home a rebound from six yards (meters) after City goalkeeper Joe Hart spilled a low shot by Italy and former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi.
City equalized through Carlos Marchena's own goal in the 43rd and left it late to register its maiden victory in its first Champions League campaign, having previously drawn at home to Napoli and lost 2-0 at Bayern.
''When you play in the Champions League for the first time, you need to improve game after game,'' Mancini said. ''We needed to win ... and in the end I think we deserved to beat them.''
Languishing in the bottom half of the Spanish league and at the foot of its Champions League group, Villarreal has appeared a team lacking in confidence and belief this season.
However, the visitors surprised City by taking the lead with their first real chance of the match.
Nigel de Jong lost a 50-50 tackle with Jonathan de Guzman after being sold short by a sloppy pass from David Silva and the ball was fed to Rossi, who lashed in a low shot from just outside the area.
Hart could only parry it out to the inrushing Cani, who poked home from close range.
''Europe seems to be so different for us this season,'' said City captain Vincent Kompany, whose side has stormed to the top of the Premier League after eight games but seems weighed down by expectation in Europe.
''I've said it before, I think we are in the toughest group ... Villarreal have been in (the Champions League) much more than us so it makes this a beautiful night.''
Villarreal, semifinalist in 2006, didn't threaten the hosts again in the first half, preferring instead to sit back and defend its lead.
That proved to be a dangerous tactic as City poured forward, Aleksandar Kolarov, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko all going close.
In the end, it was a Villarreal own goal that brought City level, Kolarov running onto Nasri's clever reverse pass and driving in a low cross that Marchena contrived to turn into his own net from six yards out, under pressure from Dzeko.
Diego Lopez kept out a fierce, angled shot from Dzeko as Villarreal held out until halftime but the visitors carried more of a goal threat after the break.
Rossi, in particular, stretched City's defense, shooting just wide and then drawing a low save out of Hart in the 55th.
Kolarov had a goal disallowed for offside at the other end in the 55th and Mancini introduced Aguero off the bench seven minutes later in place of De Jong.
Zabaleta was off target with a header but the right back was set free by substitute James Milner to cross for Aguero's winner.