MANCHESTER – “Sergio, Sergio, Sergio” the Manchester City crowd chanted as one.
It wouldn’t have been so strange had the small Argentine magician Sergio “Kun” Aguero just scored the winning goal like he so often has.
But this chant, which began as a murmur behind Ederson’s goals on the south side of the Etihad Stadium, gathered momentum via the western stands and reached its crescendo on the northern end, was right after Diego Maradona’s former son-in-law had missed a penalty.
At 1-0 up following a fantastic strike by Kevin de Bruyne from just outside the box, which ended Shakhtar Donetsk’s stubborn resistance in the Champions League on Tuesday, Aguero got the chance to stretch the lead with about 18 minutes of play remaining.
The spot-kick was somewhat fortuitous, the referee having awarded it for what appeared an innocuous foul by defender Ivan Ordets on winger Leroy Sane inside the visitors’ box.
When Aguero stepped up, an air of anticipation permeated the sparsely populated blue arena where he is revered as a king.
Except for about 500 Shakhtar fans, just about everyone in the ground expected to see the net bulging. Yet instead of a massive celebration, shock followed as the Argentine’s strike was well-saved by the visitors’ goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov.
Dead silence ensued, only for it to be quickly broken by the chant – “Sergio, Sergio, Sergio”.
By the time it reached deafening levels, the fact that Aguero had missed a massive opportunity to draw level with Eric Brook as City’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 177 goals was long forgotten.
The Shakhtar goalkeeper had actually earlier on pulled off a brilliant save to deny Aguero from close range on 55 minutes. But the crowd had remained hopeful.
Ahead of the match, some had voiced their respect for a man they admire immensely.
“Kun Aguero will always be a legend to any City player that was here when we won the league (back in 2012),” said one fan. “It doesn’t matter what he does (equals or break the scoring record), that’s just a bonus.
“Because that day we were at 2-2, and we thought everything was lost. When he hit the back of that net, I can’t describe the feeling,” the man says, the crack in his voice giving away the emotions he still feels to this day.
And then he added the clincher that essentially sums up the reverence with which City fans hold Aguero.
“Kun Aguero can do whatever he wants. I could walk home tonight and if he was in bed with the wife, I’d go make him a cuppa tea and let him have me slippers.
“So he’ll break the record, he’ll set a new record and he will always be a legend. He’s one of the best (I’ve seen in a blue shirt).
“The other best I’ve seen in a blue shirt is David Silva, the best midfielder we’ve ever had. Most people don’t recognise it, (but) he is fantastic on the ball, fantastic off the ball and he’s fed the balls to Aguero. Who could ask for more?”
No wonder they just can’t see anything wrong with Aguero, that incredible injury-time winner against Queens Park Rangers having earned him legendary status at City.
And as he made way for Bernado Silva late in the game, they again chanted in unison – “Sergio, Sergio, Sergio”. And he applauded them back.
They are sure to chant the roof off the Etihad as they did on that glorious Saturday afternoon back on 13 May 2012, when Aguero finally becomes the club’s all-time leading scorer.