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Manchester City have all-but booked their place in the Champions League group stages as they hammered Steaua Bucharest 5-0 in their first leg in Romania.
The first target of the Pep Guardiola era was to reach the main stage of European football’s premier competition and despite a pair of early penalty misses from Sergio Aguero, the English side utterly outclassed their Romanian opponents.
Although the hosts were at times a shambles at the back, the movement and interchanging of City’s attack was hugely impressive and they had Aguero - away from the penalty spot at least – in razor sharp form.
David Silva sent City on their way with a fine finish inside the opening quarter hour before Aguero doubled their lead just before the break.
Nolito made it three when registering his first goal since his summer move before Aguero completed his hat-trick with clinical strikes on 79 and 89 minutes.
Steaua were game throughout but were several levels below City and can only look back on their fans unwavering support as a highlight of the night.
The sides meet next Wednesday at the Etihad Stadium but this tie is over and City will reach the Champions League group stages for the sixth season in succession.
On eight minutes City had the perfect opportunity to take an early lead but Aguero’s penalty was weak and Florin Nita was able to palm the ball away; the rebound went to the advancing Nolito but the Spaniard’s first-time effort glanced off the crossbar and out for a goal-kick.
Just five minutes later they did go ahead though when the impressive Sterling did superbly on the right before cutting inside and teeing up Silva with the playmaker slamming past Nita from 10 yards.
Aguero had the chance to atone for his penalty miss when City were awarded a second spot-kick after Gabriel Enache chopped down Aleksandr Kolarov but the Argentine looked unconvincing in his run-up and his strike went high over the bar.
Aguero made amends four minutes before the break though when Nolito cut in form the left and found Sterling whose touch was perfect for the onrushing Aguero who fired home from 20 yards.
The game – and tie – was over as a contest just four minutes after the restart when Kevin de Bruyne took advantage of a static defence to play a simple ball through to Nolito and the former Celta Vigo man rounded Nita before tapping into the unguarded net.
City had their fourth with 12 minutes remaining when a fine intricate move between Aguero and Nolito ended up with the former Atletico Madrid forward slotting home from the right-hand edge of the penalty area.
Aguero ensured he left with the match ball as he swept past Nita with a minute remaining to cap a great night for himself and for City.