MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City's prolific strike force bailed out its vulnerable defense in a 4-2 win over Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday that kept alive the English team's hopes of topping Group D in the Champions League.
Fielding a depleted team having already qualified for the last 16, City was twice pegged back by the plucky Czech champions at Etihad Stadium before goals by Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko in the final 12 minutes sealed victory.
"We can attack and we can score four goals without giving (away) so many chances that we did today," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "One of the most important things to be an attacking team is to know how to defend well. Today we did very, very bad."
England goalkeeper Joe Hart might have been expecting a comfortable night on his return to City's first team after being dropped for the last five matches, but he was kept busy throughout on an anxious night for the home side despite the final scoreline.
Sergio Aguero's 33rd-minute penalty — his 12th goal in his last nine games — put City ahead but Tomas Horava's brilliant strike in the 43rd deservedly put Plzen level at halftime. Samir Nasri regained the lead for City with a 65th-minute volley, only for Hart to be exposed once again as Stanislav Tecl slotted home four minutes later.
"I think Joe Hart played very well. I didn't expect that he would have to work so much during the game," said Pellegrini, who wouldn't state whether Hart had done enough to retain the jersey for Sunday's Premier League match against Swansea.
The result kept City three points behind Bayern Munich ahead of their meeting in Germany in two weeks. Having already lost 3-1 at home to the reigning champions, Pellegrini's men will need to win 3-0 or by a two-goal margin if they score four or more times to finish first and probably secure an easier last-16 match.
It shows just how prolific City has become under Pellegrini that a weakened team featuring seven changes from the 6-0 thrashing of Tottenham on Sunday could still create so many chances and look so threatening going forward.