There’s no better way to start a goals review than a Manchester Derby, right? Of course, it’s Sergio Aguero in the thick of it all with this fantastic netter.
Jesus Navas could be considered out of position tracking this far back. His play here allows for City’s defenders (Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany) to relax, and also gives Joe Hart a little more time in getting the ball up the pitch. The rest of City’s attack can stay in their attacking half, and Navas has drawn United’s cover out of position. It wasn’t caught on camera, but both Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia are far up chasing the ball down. United’s wingers have left their backs alone and with no cover, which is what City is about to exploit.
Nastasic’s play here is key. Samir Nasri is City’s important attacker in midfield, filling in for David Silva and spending much of his time on the left-side or cutting in from the left. Instead of finding the big man Yaya Toure, Nastasic opts to push the ball up further, heading it to Nasri. This allows for City to bring a speedier pace to the attack, and also allows for City to attack United’s right back, Chris Smalling, who isn’t first choice. It might not be the power of Toure bring the ball up, but this small maneuver puts Man City in a favorable attacking position, allowing for overlaps, crosses, a centering pass, or even a cut-in and a shot.
We see that Nasri pushed the ball deep down the left and Smalling catches up, left with a one on one situation. Nasri takes a look to his right to check his options and can pick up Aleksander Kolarov storming down for an overlap. Smalling opts not to attempt a challenge and possibly risk getting beat, giving Nasri time on the ball. With the second-choice right back and now two upcoming men in the attack, United are overpowered this area and it’s about to get worse.
Kolarov wasn’t cut off by Valencia, and thus has plenty of room and the momentum to get the end-line before Smalling and put a ball into the box. This is great awareness on City’s end – finding the man, checking positioning, and recognizing vulnerability. United, on the other hand, left their man out to dry and didn’t prevent a successive pass.
While City did a good job of getting into shape, United’s back line is relatively solid here. Evra, Vidic, and Ferdinand dropped deep and are holding a straight line; even Maruoane Fellaini has fell back and come to assist. With Negredo being double-teamed and Aguero seemingly marked by a taller defender, scoring might be a difficult task here. As Negredo seems to be pressing deeper, Vidic drops towards the six-yard box, while Negredo instead inches toward the ball–buying some space in between them. What that slight movement does is also create space for Aguero. Not being much of an aerial threat, he isn’t the most important force for United to mark, and with both Fellaini and Carrick in the area, United’s defense seemingly can rest easy.
Kolarov delivers the ball behind everyone with gusto. At first glance, this is nothing more than a bad cross. Aguero doesn’t panic and doesn’t push anything – instead just sticks his left foot out and lets the ball fall right onto it, simply misdirecting it. It’s an individual move, but nonetheless fantastically brilliant by the Argentinian here to still get a touch onto the ball. There’s nothing easy about it either – his weight is to his front, the ball is behind him, and he’s a short guy as is, trying to catch a ball coming towards him at a blistering pace. But for somebody like Sergio Aguero, this is training-style.
Just like that, it’s Manchester City in the lead in their biggest match to date in the season. There’s nothing like a goal to take the lead and the derby, and City dominated this match early on. They controlled possession, and were extremely aware of their tactics. Kolarov’s overlap and Nasri’s run down the middle being the attack but it was the slight movement by Negredo and the world-class finish from Aguero that made this goal brilliant, and put the Citizens in the lead.