- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ROME (AP) - English champion Manchester City is finally starting to show it can compete in Europe.

Samri Nasri scored one goal and set up another as City won 2-0 at Roma on Wednesday to reach the Champions League knockout phase despite missing three key players - including top scorer Sergio Aguero.

“I don’t think that this team is just one player and I think that today demonstrated that,” City coach Manuel Pellegrini said.

Entering the Stadio Olimpico, City faced a steep challenge to avoid its third group-phase exit in four years.

City struggled at home against Roma and in both matches against CSKA but had already showed signs of a recovery when Aguero scored a hat trick in a come-from-behind win over Bayern in the penultimate round of group matches.

“We recovered and I think we’re playing exactly the same way we’re playing in the Premier League,” Pellegrini said.

It looked as if Roma was set to go through until Nasri found the target with a long, rising shot on the hour mark. Then Pablo Zabaleta doubled the visitors’ lead in the 88th following a perfect pass from Nasri.

Roma’s best chance was a header off the post from Kostas Manolas in the 72nd.

Bayern Munich easily won Group E - considered perhaps the competition’s toughest - with 15 points following a 3-0 home win over CSKA Moscow. City finished second with eight points, Roma was third with five and will play in the Europa League. CSKA finished last, also with five points.

Since the Abu Dhabi United Group took over City in 2008, the club has won two Premier League titles - in 2012 and 2014 - but failed to advance past the second round of the Champions League.

“We’ll see in February about that,” Pellegrini said when asked what his squad’s goals are now. “We’re just happy we’re qualified for the next stage.”

The win must have been a relief after Aguero injured his left knee Saturday, ruling him out for six weeks. Also, star midfielder Yaya Toure was suspended, captain Vincent Kompany sat out injured and David Silva, who also was coming off an injury, only came on midway through the second half.

Roma controlled at the start but failed to take advantage.

“In the first 15 minutes we could have done more and scored,” Roma coach Rudi Garcia said. “But we were also unlucky. They hit the post and the ball went in. We hit the post and it bounced out.

“But they’re more mature and have more experience in these types of matches,” Garcia added. “We’re still learning. … We need to play in Europe every year and gain more points to avoid these difficult groups.”

Without Aguero, Edin Dzeko spearheaded City’s attack with support from James Milner, Nasri and Jesus Navas.

Roma had a similar 4-2-3-1 formation with Gervinho, Miralem Pjanic and Adem Ljajic behind 38-year-old captain Francesco Totti.

Roma had the first chance five minutes in when Jose Holebas was set up by Totti and nearly got his shot under Joe Hart but the City goalkeeper managed to slow the ball just enough to prevent it from going in.

After a strong start from Roma, City began to move forward and Milner threatened from the left flank in the 20th, testing Roma goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis.

Then it was Nasri’s turn to set up Dzeko, who was blocked by Manolas and couldn’t find the target.

Milner had another opportunity in the 39th, forcing De Sanctis to push the ball wide.

Combined with Bayern’s win, a 0-0 draw would have been enough for Roma to advance - which would have been no small feat following a devastating 7-1 home loss to Bayern in October.

But Nasri had other ideas, taking advantage of the slightest amount of space at the edge of the area and banging in the decisive goal off the post.

Then the Frenchman’s pass required Zabalata to merely slot the ball past De Sanctis from the center of the area.


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