Sergio Aguero shook off two first-half penalty misses to score a hat-trick as Manchester City all but sealed a place in the Champions League group stages with a 5-0 away win over Steaua Bucharest in the first leg of their play-off tie.
The Argentina international had his first attempt from 12 yards saved by goalkeeper Goalkeeper Florin Nita, before blasting a second spot kick over the bar after David Silva’s opener.
Aguero eventually made amends when he doubled City’s lead late in the first half with a calm finish, with Nolito piling even more misery on the hosts in the second half to make it 3-0.
City rounded off an easy win and it was Aguero who had the final say with a late double to complete his treble.
The fourth came in the 78th minute as Aguero converted at the end of an intricate passing move by firing into the bottom-left corner, and he hit home his third in off the post to add further gloss to the scoreline a minute from time.
City survived an early scare when Nicolae Stanciu nearly took advantage of some sloppy play from Fernandinho, but they were in full control from there on and should have gone a goal up in the eighth minute when referee Daniele Orsato awarded them a penalty following Muniru Sulley’s foul on Sterling.
Nita pulled off a superb save to deny Aguero from the spot, though, blocking his low shot, before Nolito crashed the rebound against the crossbar.
The Premier League side eventually did get the early goal they were after in the 13th minute when Silva found the net after some great work from Sterling.
Sterling stole the ball off Alin Tosca, charged forward and set up Silva inside the area, with the Spaniard coolly firing past Nita for the opener.
Aguero’s poor fortune from the spot continued in the 21st minute as he shot high off target after Gabriel Enache had brought down Aleksandar Kolarov inside the area.
City were nearly made to pay for Aguero’s profligacy when Jugurtha Hamroun popped up in a dangerous area after a quick counter-attack, but shot-stopper Willy Caballero – again selected ahead of Joe Hart – showed his class as he thwarted the winger.
Guardiola’s men pushed hard for a second goal in the closing stages of the first half and it was Aguero who made it two in the 42nd minute. Goalkeeper Nita first frustrated Kolarov and Sterling, but there was nothing he could do to stop Aguero’s placed shot from the edge of the box as he atoned for his previous penalty woes.
Nolito then all but put the tie to bed early in the second half, rounding the goalkeeper after a wonderful pass from Kevin De Bruyne before making it 3-0 to the visitors.
City and Aguero poured even more salt in the Steaua wounds courtesy of an excellent team goal 12 minutes from time, with the hat-trick and an emphatic rout then completed with yet another clinical finish.
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