There’s little worse than waking up after fitful sleep and immediately realising that the terrible performance you had hoped was just a bad dream actually happened the day before. That was how I started the day, due to an embarrassing defeat, something I had hoped the team had resigned to history. Silly me.
A review of the match can be found elsewhere. What is gnawing away at me is the team that Pellegrini put out, the excuses, the ridiculous prioritisation of the wrong competition and not only the throwing away of a great chance of a domestic Cup double but also virtually handing Arsenal a trophy on a plate. They won’t repeat our mistakes. What gnaws away more than any one defeat though is the concern that our manager is not tactically aware enough to adapt to different situations.
The whole build up to the game was wrong, though hindsight is a wonderful thing and we fans fell into the same trap. The feeling was clear – we only had to turn up to win, tricky as the opposition were, especially with the front five we were playing. The sun was out, everyone was in good spirits, and Wembley beckoned once more. And yet every fan will have seen it, the elephant in the room – Lescott and Demichelis in defence once more.
I can excuse our manager making mistakes. He is human after all, and as a new manager in a new country, should be allowed the same transition phase as other managers get, especially considering the job the guy down the road is doing.
The thing is, I expect our manager to learn from mistakes. And yet yesterday Pellegrini seemed to fall into a trap for the third time in the same competition. Why can’t he not see what was staring everyone else in the face? Lescott is a fine defender who has served the club admirably, whilst Demichelis, for all his faults, has been harshly singled out at times, but we already know that the two alongside Kompany can do a job (sometimes), but together they are simply an accident waiting to happen. Pellegrini made it worse by throwing in reserve full-backs and a reserve keeper and the rest is history. This was a defence which arguably may all start next season elsewhere. And why does Joe Hart need resting? Did that one block he made against Denmark tire him out?
Without Kompany or Zabaleta, the team loses its drive – it happens every time we don’t play both of them, and it reasserts the theory that this squad does not have the depth many claim, and is reliant on a core of players. So why do it? Why?
When you narrow it down, the team put out at home to a championship side should have won with considerable ease, whatever our concerns. Pellegrini’s gamble should have had few repercussions and left him with super-fit key players for the midweek game. The front five should have had a field day. But a weak defence undermines a whole team, especially when the attackers are impotent for various reasons and a couple of your big players don’t play with any intensity or desire against “lesser” teams, not helped by yet another opposition manager being tactically aware and shackling City’s attacking players, Pellegrini being slow to react yet again, playing wide players against a back five, which suited Wigan perfectly. With three central defenders and wing-backs restricting Richards and Clichy, City created nothing for an hour, a statistic as damming as any defensive howlers.
City strikers have now not scored between them in their last 900 minutes on the pitch. Negredo is a shadow of his former self, Aguero has not hit the ground running post-injury this time whilst Dzeko cannot even hit the target with over 90 percent of his last 35+ shots. Damning.
The annoying thing is that it was clear after ten minutes that the shape was wrong.
To state the blindingly obvious, this was an FA Cup quarter final. It should have been the undisputed priority of the week. Sadly, the only people who seem to disagree with this is our manager and our owners. The owners have earned the right to prioritise as they see fit, though it is merely speculation anyway, along with the far-fetched conspiracy theories that they are dictating line ups to the manager. Whatever, City should have fielded their strongest side, whoever the opposition was. Can Pellegrini not remember as far back as Blackburn and Watford? Did he learn nothing? To prioritise a mid-week competition that City are as good as out of over being overwhelming favourites to reach an FA Cup semi-final and another trip to Wembley is unacceptable, and he even admitted post-match to underestimating Wigan, which is staggering and poses questions not only about him but his coaching staff. The second goal in the first leg against Barcelona should have been the moment that priorities switched exclusively to domestic affairs.
And make no mistake, prioritising the Champions League is what happened. For all Pellegrini’s claims that he rested players due to mid-week internationals four days before, that is what happened. To claim Kompany and Zabaleta couldn’t play because of that sounds like a poor excuse to me, especially as Aguero was on the pitch. And now Pellegrini has placed enormous pressure on himself to get something from the Nou Camp, whereas a victory over Wigan could have seen us travel with relatively low pressure on the players’ shoulders.
Having said all that, City should have won, with Wigan’s second goal probably a foul and numerous chances spurned on a day when the ball rarely dropped in the right place as it bounced off posts or the goalkeeper’s hands. The unintended bonus is not only to my bank balance but also to the fact that we will wake up on Thursday morning with City only in one competition (thoughts of beating Barcelona are the stuff of fantasy). The team need to re-focus and go for the league, though I feel that slipping away too. This is hardly all Pellegrini’s fault either. The players must take responsibility, and when fighting on four fronts there is always going to be rotation, but it all comes back to what should be prioritised and playing THAT defence.
The sad and worrying thing is that whatever your think about Pellegrini’s tactics yesterday, wherever you lay the blame, from perusing online yesterday evening it is clear that this result has tarnished the reputation of the Chilean. Predictable calls have emanated from a small section of spoilt reactionary fans calling for a new manager. This is par for the course with every City manager for the past 30 years or so it seems.
A minority have never truly accepted him anyway because of the man-love they still hold for his predecessor, but this surrender of a very winnable trophy has cut deep. Like any manager, as already mentioned, he has made mistakes – his poor mathematics skills in Munich was no laughing matter, his poor tactics in the home tie likewise. He has struggled to adapt at times to opposition teams that swamp midfield and shackle our team and his outburst after the Barcelona game was ill-advised. Then there was the home league game against Chelsea, where his tactics could have decided the title race. It’s a learning curve, but he lost supporters yesterday. It’s his job now to win them back, be flexible and adapt. A league title should do for starters.
So there it is – a domestic treble completed in three years, another trophy that would have seemed so unlikely just a few years ago. City did not excel but showed two moments of such quality that we won’t forget the match for a long time. A first League Cup win in my years of supporting the team but defeat for Sunderland in their first Wembley visit in 16 years and first final in 22 years. At half-time it seemed like another no-show was on the cards, another day where the underdog triumphed and the City of old returned, another miserable journey home followed by a week of recriminations, but in the end individual quality prevailed.
This blog is mostly not about football but instead I thought I would focus on trains. Boarding the first train of the day to London, the driver soon informed us of a one-hour delay due to engineering works overrunning. My long run of good luck on trains had run out and it wasn’t the best start to the day, especially with the bar soon running out of alcohol.
But as expected, once in London it was nice to have a stress-free day with little fear of trouble. Thank the lord for David De Gea’s late fumble in the other semi-final.
City fans have been spoilt in recent years and will continue to be, but the walk down Wembley Way never fails to stir this ageing heart, even if it resembles a war-zone. Everyone in red and blue was in good spirits, as it should be.
As for the team, the good news was that Sergio Aguero was passed fit and started, though doubts would remain over just how match-fit he would be. Kolarov got the nod over Clichy, and Demichelis unsurprisingly started alongside Kompany.
And then of course there was Joe Hart benched. We’ll all have our own opinions on this, but I believe there is little room for sentiment when picking a cup-final team and the manager should play his strongest side. If he is picking a specific Capital One Cup side then why not pick Lescott?
So how big an occasion was this? Big enough. When United were hoovering up trophies, I always pithily dismissed a League Cup trophy as nothing to get upset about as it wasn’t the biggest of trophies and they were competing for bigger prizes so this was nothing to get het up about. I will now contradict myself by saying this was not the case for City. In fifteen years’ time it may be, but for now it held significant importance for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, it would be a first trophy for Pellegrini, at the earliest opportunity, putting to rest the argument that he has never won anything (apart from those times that he did win stuff, but as we all know if it is not in Europe then it is irrelevant). Secondly, a trophy takes a small amount of pressure off the players as they compete for the other bigger prizes – this will not be a trophy-less season and thus is already an improvement on last season. Finally, City are not at the stage to be disregarding trophies, but are at the stage where trophies need to be accumulated – only then can we claim to have a history, eh?
As for the game, it was the most exciting spectacle I have seen yet at Wembley with plenty of goal-mouth action, at least compared to previous tight affairs. But depressingly City once more struggled against a team that packed the midfield and crowded central areas. Pellegrini picked a narrow team himself when width was needed, with two wide players in Silva and Nasri who naturally will drift infield and crowd things further. Now few managers would have the nerve to drop either Nasri and Silva to accommodate the opposition, but it played into Sunderland’s hands, who countered dangerously and soon reaped the rewards. Pellegrini realised this eventually but reacted too late, though again it is a brave manager who makes a tactical substitution in the first half of a cup final (or any game for that matter).
You could also argue of course that the formation was toothless because in addition to the above problems, City’s full-backs couldn’t get forward enough to provide that width.
What didn’t help was endless aimless punts upfield from Pantilimon that lost us possession time after time rather than the better option of us playing the ball out of defence. My argument is undermined somewhat by the punt upfield that led to City’s second goal.
As for Sunderland’s goal, it provided a handy occasion to criticise City’s resident scapegoats, namely Martin Demichelis and Costel Pantilimon. I am amazed Pantilimon has had some criticism on forums considering he did nothing wrong, his positioning not particularly out. Sometime you just have to acknowledge a great finish, which it undoubtedly was. Demichelis is always going to be a scapegoat and we just have to accept it now, not that he had a great game, but then he wasn’t alone in that respect and did plenty of good things during the match (especially clearing headers) that will receive scant coverage in many areas. He was outpaced by Borini and could have had the forethought to cover behind Kompany, but the captain must surely take the blame for the goal, his decision to try and clear the ball rather than shepherd Borini proving to be disastrous.
Which brings me to the excellent Michael Cox of Zonal Marking and Guardian podcast fame. Michael is a rare beast in that I don’t know which football team he supports because he always comments without any bias or prejudice and has a superb tactical awareness of the sport. What he says goes for me. He thought Poyet won the game tactically, which is a fair point as City won the game through two moments of sublime skill rather than through their overall performance. One other thing of note though was a twitter discussion I and others had with him today in which he commented on how he thinks Vincent Kompany is overrated as a defender and makes a glaring mistake at least once a game and is pretty poor positionally. I disagreed strongly (thus doubting him for the first time ever perhaps). It is true that a lot of Kompany’s status in the game and for City comes not through just how well he may play but through leadership qualities and his effect on the team – he is undoubtedly a driving force for the team, a team that lacks something when he is not there. He is not perfect however, but I argued on Twitter that he needs a consistent partner beside him as a settled defence is a godsend, and City’s defence has chopped and changed week after week for a variety of reasons. Defenders don’t get away with mistakes like attacking players do and Kompany and the other defenders suffer somewhat due to Pellegrini’s attacking ideals, which can leave them exposed especially if there is no Garcia on the pitch. If Kompany was playing under a defensive manager (or an Italian!) there would probably be no discussion to have. No defender is perfect anyway.
But back to the match and there can be few better feelings than that minute or two of football that saw City go from losing to leading the match. Not only was there the joy of turning the match around, but also in the wonder of witnessing two of the greatest strikes of the ball you could ever wish to see. Both goals were simply magnificent. As Toure hit the ball I shouted out in exasperation at what he was doing before the ball hit the back of the net. As Navas wrapped up the game I had just spent two seconds screaming at Toure for not passing to his left. What do I know, eh? Toure is an amazing footballer, one who can be terrible in defensive areas as seen by him not tracking Fletcher late on as he messed up a good opportunity, but we all know he is at his best going forward and is wasted somewhat in a deeper role. In the first half he was average at best once more as he was shackled and he cannot prosper in a packed midfield.
So having got it initially wrong with team selection (in my opinion and with hindsight, a wonderful tool not available to managers) Pellegrini at least did react during the match by bringing on Navas for width and Garcia to secure the game as Sunderland reacted well to going behind.
City held on after Sunderland came back strongly, and the third goal helped settle the nerves and saved us counting down the four minutes of injury time and whistling frantically at the referee.
Yaya Toure certainly likes that goal at Wembley. With three goals scored in it, does he now get to keep the net?
Dzeko was beyond awful and I am officially giving up on him (until next week). He had a run of great form over the New Year, but has regressed spectacularly since then. He is not good enough, but that is an argument that depends on where you place him in City’s pecking order. Players like him and Demichelis have had far more time on the pitch than may have been originally intended when the season kicked off. I still maintain that Demichelis, bought cheaply on low wages, is more than good enough as a backup defender, but nothing more. Likewise, Dzeko as a fourth choice striker would be one of the best backups going, but I would prefer a rising star in that position rather than him. Eventually he will leave City and score a bucketful of goals for another team.
PARANOIA KLAXZON. You know what is coming. The narrative was clear, from Martin Tyler, to John Dillon’s Express opinion piece to numerous other reports – money won the day. We all know of course that money brings success, we all know that it did before City come along, we all know this. What continues to exasperate, though I should rise above it, is that no other team gets this treatment. If Chelsea has beaten Sunderland yesterday, there would have been no mention of the disparity in team costs and we all know that Manchester United’s team cost has never been mentioned by any commentator or in any match report. Chelsea spent big before City came along and yet it is City that fascinates the envious out there, perhaps because we are conceived as having been transformed by money more than Chelsea, but we finished in the top half of the table before the takeover and Chelsea were close to going bust before Abramovich came along (as were City). There is little difference. As Arsenal slowly start splashing the cash in a desperate attempt to win a trophy, any trophy, then their boorish fans’ arguments will slowly become even more desperate than now. As for United, organic growth is of course fine, even if the way the club helped create a closed shop is more odious than a rich owner spending his own money and removing debt from a club.
But enough of the moaning. What a wonderful day, what a wonderful atmosphere, and the Sunderland fans did themselves proud. Drink it all in, you could be back there twice in the next couple of months, along with City.
Oh hang on, more moaning. The trains back were “dry”, causing much consternation. I will take the alternative view however and state that I can understand the reasoning, even if as usual the sensible, well-behaved majority are punished for the actions of a vocal and drunk minority. I am clearly getting old by choosing to comment on such matters, but all train journeys (and those of friends elsewhere yesterday) back from Wembley and other parts have been uncomfortable affairs due to the actions of a few morons who act a certain way under the influence. We can hardly be surprised therefore that train companies don’t want their vehicles trashed or treated with contempt. Banning alcohol just creates more tension though, but as I said, it might be wrong, but I can understand why it happens. Having said that, we all know that football fans are considered as the scum of society much of the time, when people acting inappropriately after drinking is common in all walks of life, not just on a football train. God I’m getting old.
My decision to take the Monday off rates up there as one of my best.
I bet Nasri still bitterly regrets leaving Arsenal.
Antic, Raddy. The first on this list and the first villain of my City-supporting life. A mere year into my bumpy journey with City and up popped Antic to condemn City to relegation and make me question if I had made the right allegiance, something I continued to question for a couple of decades. He was also responsible for David Pleat’s inclusion on the list, as you will see.
Ball, Alan. Where to start? A terrible, terrible manager and it seems that telling players you once won the World Cup doesn’t guarantee better performances. Who knew? A flat-cap on the touchline is not a great look either, if I’m honest. There have been so many poor managerial appointments in City’s history (yes, we do have one), but Ball stands out for me.
Crerand, Paddy. There is a cast of thousands, and it would be easy to choose Eamonn Holmes, Clayton Blackmore, Lou Macari, Terry Christian, Mumford & Sons and many more, but if you were to choose one United sycophant who sees everything through red-tinted glasses, can never see any fault in their club and drones on repeatedly about history and the DNA/soul of their club, a DNA and soul that makes them more special than any other club, then this is your man, the man for all occasions.
Danny Mills. Need I say more? Well I will anyway. Happy to leech off the club for years and seems even happier to slate the club at every possible opportunity. I don’t know what he has against the club and I don’t care, but how the guy gets endless media jobs and onto an FA Commission is baffling.
Everton. Bogey club, c*ap restricted view, poor quality 100-year-old seats, a crowd baying for blood, with every decision that goes against them portrayed as a miscarriage of justice (see their booing of Lloris as he lay partially-unconscious on the pitch this season), and older fans will tell you what thugs a sizeable minority of them were in the 80’s, and thus their hatred for them. And then there was the CHOSEN ONE’s bleating over the Joleon Lescott transfer. For that alone they are on the list.
(and we lost 9-1 to them in 1906).
Ferguson, Alex. David Moyes or Alex Ferguson? A ruthless dictator who got more out of his teams than seemed feasible, the day of his retirement was a good day for City, Chelsea, Arsenal et al. In every sense of the word(s), good riddance. Check out his autobiography’s mentions of City if you are ever down, it will cheer you up no end (don’t buy it,obviously, just find the extracts).
Gene Kelly stand. Always amusing to watch other people dressed in cheap mackintoshes getting drenched, but come on – what a ridiculous addition to the old ground. An embarrassment, if truth be known.
Halsey, Mark. Yeah, that’s right, Mark Halsey. Please spare me how he was a hero for the added time amount in the play-off final. The amount added on was correct, and merely him doing his job. Since then he seemed to go out of his way to give us nothing. Now he is whoring himself around in the pursuit of money and fame. So sod him.
Ian Rush – yes, City did what City do best by holding the ball in the corner when drawing a match they needed to win to avoid relegation, but if Liverpool had done their job and not put any effort in, as morally they should have done in a meaningless game for them (ahem), then perhaps the king of all cock-ups may never have occurred. Rush scored that day so I hold him especially responsible, in one of those irrational hatred things we all have.
Jon Macken – for scoring one outrageous goal against City on a rainy day in Preston, thus convincing our profligate manager that you were worth spending £5m on. If only it had bounced wide.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Ah, the pied piper of the city-are-evil-and-are-killing-football-you-can’t-disrupt-the-status-quo-we-do-things-the-right-way-and-intend-to-keep-squashing-anyone-who-gets-in-our-way-and-we’ll-go-crying-to-UEFA-if-you-try-and-stop-us-or-perhaps-start-a-European-super-league brigade.
As Bayern Munich chief executive, Rummenigge likes nothing more than to bleat about City and not meeting financial fair play rules. Thankfully his bleating seems to have been in vain whilst his own club do things the right way, organically backed by huge corporations.
The Bundesliga is all that is good in football of course and you only have to mention the league to David Conn and a change of pants is required but the likes of Ruminegge have got their way and domestic and European domination has come to fruition for Bayern now. Mission accomplished.
League, Champions. Little known fact klaxon – in 1929, a young George Orwell wrote a book that was never published called 1992. In it, the anti-hero James Grimble was conditioned to like a “brave new world” by a constant stream of propaganda that was communicated through big screens (Orwell was a visionary). This new world had shiny balls, evocative opera-lite music blasted through huge speakers 24/7, and money. Lots and lots of money. Orwell called it the Champions League, a league for champions and all their powerful friends who weren’t champions but needed to stay powerful so they could keep trying to be champions along with their select group of friends. There was no resistence to this world that Orwell painted so evocatively and hauntingly. Resistance was, after all, futile.
And thus City, and so many other clubs, never had a chance of success anymore without a benefactor. The beautiful game.
Michel Platini. The devil himself, in human form. The greatest trick Platini ever pulled….
I don’t know if Platini is angry because he has a woman’s name or he genuinely thinks Financial Fair Play is a good thing, but the fact is it addresses few of the issues in the modern game (it would not have prevented Portsmouth’s woes, for example), helps maintain a status quo and was introduced only after pressure was applied from Europe’s most powerful clubs, which tells you all you need to know.Any footballing great is diminished in my eyes when he becomes a politican, and that is all he is now, the rights and wrongs of the game of little concern as long as he gets along in life.
Newspapers. They all have it in for City, right? Well not really, but they sure make life difficult for City, as with any other sporting institution. From the stupid press conference questions, the agendas, the lies, the appalling agent-led transfer gossip to the pitiful opinion pieces from the likes of Harry Redknapp, Brian Reade or Ian Wright, we really would be better off without a swathe (but not all) of our football press.
Office, ticket (Maine Road). Only City could have an outside ticket office in the rainiest City in the country. The night the League Cup match v Ipswich was abandoned due to Paul Dickov almost drowning, I queued for my ticket outside a portakabin for 30 minutes, and have been dryer than I was that night when submerged in a bath. I haven’t been the same since.
Pleat, David. Faster than a kerb-crawling car, David skipped across the Maine Road pitch in his loafers and one of the first memories of my City-supporting life was etched indelibly on my brain. He hugged Brian Horton on his travels that day, but Brian’s a lovely bloke so I’ll let him off. The previously mentioned 1-0 home defeat to Luton in 1983, condemning City to relegation from the top flight was a perfect example of what was to come. I’ve always held an irrational grudge against Pleat ever since, probably fortified by the opinion that he is a terrible co-commentator who can’t pronounce the simplest of names.
Quinn, Niall. Another player that makes it onto the Heroes & Villains list, once I realised this is a stupid way to compile a list (wait until you see the Z entry!). Quinn gets in for his new role as simpleton-sidekick to Martin Tyler, his inane ramblings and his ability to talk drivel about City never a joy to behold. Where United have ex-pros scattered throughout the media ready to fight their corner with ludicrous levels of prejudice and bias, here is yet another ex-player all too eager to stick the boot in. I’m not saying pundits should be biased towards old teams, but everyone else’s ex-players seem to be, so why not ours? How have we managed to scar every single one of them?
(don’t answer that)
Revolving door. A metaphorical one. City’s inability to keep one manager for any considerable period of time added to their many woes for decades and prevented any chance of stability at the club. Many managers should never have got the job in the first place of course, but the odd diamond in the faecal matter rarely stayed for too long anyway.
Swales, Peter. City’s own pantomime villain. He meant well, he was after all a blue, but it’s fair to say there were some terrible decisions along the way, and the Granada TV documentary that followed him around makes for some painful (and I’ll admit, hilarious) viewing. The footage of John Bond’s interview for the manager’s job stands out. Swales’ reign was never going to end well and it turned out the grass wasn’t greener on the other side after all. A sad time for the club and for all concerned.
Tony Coton. Yes he is on the heroes list as well, but he left us for United, so big boos all round to him. Judas!
United, Manchester. Boo, hiss (see C,F and X for further details).
Villa, Ricky. Judging by the number of times I am subjected to it, it seems Villa scored the only great goal in the history of the FA Cup. None of us will ever be allowed to forget it. The magic of the FA Cup,eh?
Weah, George. It’s stretching the definition somewhat to call Weah a villain, but he is symbolic of City’s buying policy for much of the dark days of decades past. Purchasing players who used to be good was something City specialised in and Weah fit the bill perfectly, bringing with him a large pay packet (£30k a week). In the end, Weah played 3 full games for City, but at least he didn’t hang around for too long and thus cost the club that much money. By purchasing players in the twilight of their career the odd gem was acquired this way (Ali Bernarbia springs to mind), but plenty of duffers passed through also. I’m looking at you Steve McManaman.
X-rated tackles. Martin Buchan, Roy Keane. There’s a pattern developing here.
Yeboah, Tony. His wonder-strike (you know the one) stopped the miraculous possibility of a City player actually winning goal of the season. That’s all I’ve got. If you think that’s bad….
Z – the letter Z in the club shop printing section. Hear me out, it’s the biggest villain of all. Because of City’s influx of Georgian players, namely Georgi Kinkladze, Kakha Tskhadadze and Murtaz Shelia, the club shop ran out of the letter Z for the back of shirts. This caused a slump in sales of shirts in the shop as Mr Kinkladze especially was the most popular name and as the club charged by the letter, was a money-spinner for the club at a time when money was scarce (hence Joe Royle’s suggestion to the board to sign the enigmatic Bulgarian playmaker Vladivar Romavaronichinov). Anyway, this slump in income was crucial in City’s failure to remain competitive. A succession of poor players bought on the cheap as a result of the failure to sell shirts eventually resulted in two relegations and put the club back over a decade, brought near bankruptcy and the exit from Maine Road. Few realise it was all little Georgi Kinkladze’s fault.
If you missed the original A-Z list of City Heroes, you can find it here:
You can buy my season review books here:
The biggest match of a generation? The moment we had all been waiting for, had always dreamt of a mere 5477 days previous when we had lined up against Macclesfield? Well whatever, the hyperbole for this match was off the scale, the giddiness hard to restrain.
Clearly this was not our biggest match in decades. A first-leg tie in the last 16 of the Champions League does not compare to that day against QPR, or the Newcastle match that preceded it, nor the derby before that or the FA Cup final against Stoke and not even the semi-final against United. During that title run-in I aged a decade and had three nervous breakdowns.
Our owners may see last night slightly different of course. But it’s what it symbolised that is important. This was not our first game against a European superpower, but it was our first game in the knock-out stage and perhaps Barcelona carry a slightly different aura to those that we have played already. It was a match in the knockout stage of the Champions League against Barcelona and some of us struggled to get our heads round the fact that this was happening when we considered what had gone before.
So, caught up in the excitement from others, I spent yesterday with a churning stomach, worried and also expectant about what lay ahead. I have always been negative about City and remain so against the top sides as I can’t shake it our of my system after decades of disappointment, and I felt stupid for adopting a similar mindset as when we used to play United as massive underdogs – namely, please don’t concede early and don’t get walloped. I just wanted us to be competitive over these two legs, as it would be another step forward for the club. As I said, rather negative, but hopefully one day my glass will always be half-full.
But to be honest, I was still not THAT bothered. The Champions League has not yet captured my imagination, as domestic honours still mean more to me. Let’s look at it from a clinical point of view. Should we get past Barcelona, we then have the likes of Bayern Munich, PSG, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund to beat to the cup. Domestically, we are 3-1 to win the treble. United fans argued with a friend on Facebook last night wondering how we could not see the Champions League as a priority, but it’s just being realistic. If City win the league and a cup (or two), there’s not a City fan on earth who would give a damn about our exit to Barcelona.
Terrorizing Europe? All in good time….
Nevertheless, Manuel Pellegrini had a huge dilemma for the match. Should he stick to his mantra of never conceding to the opposition when picking his side, or should he be pragmatic and try and negate Barcelona’s multi-pronged threats? He would have been praised and criticised in equal measures whichever route he took, but thankfully for me he took the latter route and was pragmatic. It was not a total success, sadly.
But as I said, it’s what I would have done, the Bayern rout fresh in the mind still. We don’t quite have the team yet to play our strongest XI against any team. Not yet. Not quite – and as Jonathan Wilson explained in his match report – you HAVE to take special measures against Barcelona.
The surprise came with the selection of Kolarov in left-midfield to nullify the threat of Alves and Sanchez and whilst City’s two left-backs did not have great games, the pairing did work to an extent. With Kolarov off the pitch, Barcelona’s threat down their right increased rapidly.
Typical City lives on – the mosaic piece our section had to hold up fell to pieces as soon as I touched it, and left I and many others covered in black pieces that took the rest of the evening to scrape off our hands, faces and phones. Thanks.For.That.
Barcelona hogged the ball for 20 minutes, but perhaps City were happy with this. I was slightly concerned if this was setting the pattern for the rest of the game, but I wasn’t worried about Barcelona’s immediate threat as there wasn’t one. City retained a tight shape, were disciplined and there were no chances for the visitors. After that, City grew into the game more and saw more of the ball.
And possession does not win games. We all remember the Mourinho master class that was administered to us the other week, all done with minimal possession. When Bayern Munich beat Barcelona 4-0 last season, they had 34% possession. Pellegrini may well have been fine with City not seeing much of the ball.
Those who have watched Barcelona say they are weakest in defence and are vulnerable from wide and clearly Pellegrini included Navas and Kolarov with the intention of getting plenty of balls into the box from wide to test Barcelona’s defence. The biggest disappointment of the night for me was that we just didn’t get into enough good positions to do this. Alba stayed deep to negate Navas and Kolarov was simply unable to get past his full-back.
And yes, up to the red card, Demichelis had played well. His distribution out of defence was occasionally wayward, but he wasn’t the only one. His experience was put to good use prior to his dismissal, with interception after interception, and the trio of him, Kompany and Fernandinho kept Messi super-quiet. But the fact is, City are currently deficient in one of their central defence slots, and whoever Pellegrini had picked would have proved troublesome and a potential weak link. Lescott hardly covered himself in glory once he was introduced.
Then of course came the turning point of the game. It was probably a foul on Navas, especially in the context of a fussy referee, but not getting a free kick in the opposition half is not worthy of great debate. Demichelis is understandably the focus of huge criticism today, but Kompany did not help by playing Messi onside. With hindsight, Demichelis should have let Messi through and then if he scores, he scores. But he had a split second decision to make and was probably aware of how bad it would look if he didn’t make a challenge. Sadly, he was never getting the ball and the rest is history.
As for it being outside the area – as Micah Richards showed in a pitiful 2-0 defeat to Everton a few years ago, a foul by holding a player that starts outside the area but continues into the area is a penalty, but I am not sure it applies to a tackle also. The foul as we all know happened outside the area, but I hold little blame to the officials as at full speed it looked like a penalty to me and plenty around me.
After that it was damage limitation and City almost did their job. I may have low expectations, but I was proud of how they coped for the final half-hour, after a small post-goal surge from Barcelona. What a shame that they threw away all the good work at the death.
There really has been a huge disparity of opinion on how well City played however. Men against boys said some, a good display until one crucial turning-point said I and others.
As I have said all along – we are not as good as Barcelona yet. Critics will moan about how we have spent billions of pounds, but this is clearly not the complete side or squad yet and it will take time and it will take a successful academy to reach where Barcelona are. Barcelona themselves went through this same process a decade ago, revolutionizing their whole approach to how they were run and City are playing catch-up now. We also have a new manager, and like all managers, he will truly make his mark in the transfer market in his second summer transfer window. We need a top class central defender (perhaps two), we need a top class left-back and we need a top class defensive midfielder. If we make the academy produce just one good player a year, the future is brighter than we could ever imagine. Perhaps PSG are showing you can spend and be the finished article quickly, but as long as we continue to move forward there’s little to complain about.
As for the referee, it is all part of the learning curve for mastering European competitions that you have to put up with such displays. As is often the case, having replayed the match he wasn’t quite as bad as I had first thought, but he was ridiculously fussy, his protection of Valdes was ridiculous, his handing out of yellow cards unnecessary and he failed to let the game flow. Apart from that he was fine.
Jamie Jackson of the Guardian’s Five Talking Points included the following:
David Silva sparkles only sporadically
….after Messi’s penalty – and Demichelis’s sending off …he became an ever more peripheral figure as City engaged in damage limitation.
Yaya Touré struggles to make an impact
Elsewhere, the Telegraph gave Kompany 6/10.
As for after the match, I was very disappointed with Pellegrini, something I never expected to say. I thought he was above such tirades. Perhaps he is now trying some of these amazing mind-games that deflect attention away from the team, or was trying to paint a story of bad luck in front of the club’s owners or maybe he just lost his cool. Either way it was stupid, he will now be banned and he has not helped the side in any shape or form. Please leave that sort of stuff to the likes of Mourinho in the future.
So Pellegrini must now decide how to approach the second leg. There is an imperative to keep it tight of course once more, at least in the early stages. But goals are required, which surely merits the obvious return of Aguero, but also Nasro and Jovetic. Keep the shield in front of the back four, play Nastastic, and then pray.
Still at least the defeat proved a nice season-highlight for United fans. That and the claim that their stadium tour sold out yesterday. In times of hardship, as we well know, you take what you can….
Now that was better. An utter transformation from the game of 12 days previous, the roles were reversed at the Etihad as City won comfortably and the special one made failure his speciality for the day as City inflicted Chelsea’s second FA Cup defeat in open play since 2008 – the other also being City of course.
With Daily Mirror exclusives warning us during the week that both managers were to play weakened teams, needless to say they were completely wrong as per usual as two strong teams were fielded. Thankfully, on the premise that Jovetic is not a specialised front man, Pellegrini chose a 5-man midfield in a bid to restrict the acres of space that the likes of Hazard had enjoyed in the league game.
And I felt a rush of confidence from seeing Lescott back in the team. For all his faults I still feel more at ease when he partners Kompany, at least until Nastastic can find his form of old (or more to the point, stay fit for more than a week at a time). I will be truly sad to see him go in the summer, but it has been coming for some time.
And it worked a treat. Pellegrini has commented numerous times that he will not betray his ideals and formations due to the opposition, a worrying thought with Barcelona on the horizon, but it seems he learnt from his mistake and made the relevant changes.
In the end, it was comfortable. Chelsea never threatened, with no shots on target and no real chances of note, some achievement by the City team, a team who were clearly out for revenge. With the midfield tight, it was City who fashioned enough in the opposition penalty area to come out on top. Apart from the goals, City went close on a few other occasions and had a goal disallowed.
The second goal may have been marginally offside, it depends when you stop the replay, but as Chelsea didn’t have a chance all match, it was hardly match-defining. Perhaps a second yellow card for Luiz rugby-tackling Dzeko ten minutes into the second half may have had a greater impact.
Phil Dowd was rubbish.
It’s hard to pick out a man-of-the-match when the whole team did its job. Jovetic continues to flourish now he has kept his fitness and is an excellent link between midfield and attack, though he clearly needs to eradicate the play-acting – let’s leave that to Moyes’ Marvels and his holy trinity. Silva and Toure were superb and Kompany and Lescott majestic. What’s more, Javi Garcia also shone, a player who may never get a fair crack of the whip at City, but who once more did his job effectively.
(it’s sadly predictable that Garcia gets more stick for a couple of bad performances than Mario Balotelli ever did after half a season of half-arsed performances prior to leaving City. And yet still some fans want him back)
And what a joy to see Nasri back on the pitch, his influence immediate. This is what man-management can do. He’s like a new signing and all that….
And as was seen with Nasri, Pellegrini managed the substitutions perfectly. Silva was taken off to rest before Tuesday, Jovetic too may have been brought off for the same reason, or perhaps because he does still not have 90 minutes in him, but City had the luxury of bringing on Navas and Nasri thus not significantly weakening the team. Mourinho made three substitutions but none of them had an impact on the game, not even Oscar.
So, after the Mourinho love-in following the league defeat, when we were told of his tactical master class and how he had once more out-witted Pellegrini, I expect the same will be said in reverse today, yes? There was a ridiculous overreaction to Chelsea’s victory at the Etihad last week, especially as it came off the back of a goalless draw at home to West Ham. A draw and a defeat since should bring a bit more perspective. City were slated for a league defeat in which they had 65% possession and 24 shots. Yesterday, Chelsea had 3 shots, none of which were on target.
This victory also had a few extra benefits elsewhere. History shows that a team going for trophies on multiple fronts can often end up empty-handed and the pursuit can often unravel in one bad week. Thankfully the prospect of two cup exits in a week (a comfortable home defeat to Barcelona is effectively an exit even at the half-way stage) is no more and what’s more for now the oft-quoted subtext about Mourinho having a hoodoo over Pellegrini can also be put to rest, for now.
And so to Chelsea, a master class in nastiness off the pitch. I can excuse the odd fan from not obeying a minutes’ silence if they are just entering the stadium and may not know about it, but to my ears the singing was a tad more extensive than that – I can’t say I’m that surprised, nor by their fighting at the end with the odd monkey chant aimed at a steward. Classy as always.
And then there is Mourinho, lovely, cuddly Jose Mourinho. By talking about him I have no doubt most journalists would tell me that I have simply fallen into his trap and what he says has thus worked. Whatever – I don’t need lessons in psychology and mind-games from anyone thank you very much.
There is no doubt that Mourinho does foster a resolute, strong, “us-against-them” spirit in his squads and the drivel that regularly spews out of his mouth is often attributed as a factor in this spirit. To me it is all rubbish. I doubt the players pay much attention to little spats with other managers and it is his relationship with them in the dressing room and on the training ground that is more important. As I have mentioned, you will often see journalists say that Mourinho’s tactics have worked as soon as a manager dares respond to his bile, but allow me to let you into a little secret – they are talking b***ocks. If another manager hits back it does not mean Mourinho has “won”, it means they are doing what Mourinho has done himself, so why there is a winner in all of this eludes me. There is no evidence that what Mourinho does has won his team a single point in a football match, so spare me the lecture on what a master he is in the dark arts. He is simply a classless, spiteful man quite prepared to gouge an opposition coach in the eye, so his reverence amongst the press pack is merely because he provides easy copy for them and creates a story, which is exactly what they want. This whole situation would not exist if journalists actually asked more sensible questions on conferences rather than try and create a story (and I am not referring to all journalists of course – it is a select few that are ruining it for everyone, and their sub-editors who create hysterical, sensational and often false headlines to the accompanying story). Mourinho has been shown to contradict himself on an almost daily basis and we all know that he is full of crap, so let’s try and ignore him from now on.
But I HAVE just written a thesis on him, so he has won after all. Damn you Mourinho!
Apropos of nothing. Mourinho once more hinted at City’s financial superiority post-match, commenting that City have Jovetic as a 4th striker, which is of course rubbish. Still, good to see his latest signing appear for the second half, not that I noticed until it was pointed out to me post-match.
And now for the really big match….a game we dreamt about for decades. So let’s try and enjoy it.
I have rarely been as nervous as when I approached Tom Finney to get his autograph at a City do a few years ago. Very few carry that aura or truly deserve a legend status. R.I.P.
Football In The Bible
- In the beginning God created the Premiership and BSkyB
- And God said, Let there be light entertainment: and there was light entertainment.
- And God saw the light entertainment, that it was good: and God divided the light (Division 1) from the darkness (Divisions 2-4).
- And God called the light THE PREMIER LEAGUE TM, and the darkness he called THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
- And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, synthetic and real and also creosote markings.
- And God said, Let there be floodlights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night. And let them be to give light upon the pitch: and it was so. And let not Malaysian betting syndicates remove this light; but it was not always so.
- And God created in his own image Richard Keys and Andy Gray, though he made Richard with great hair, even on his hands.
Andy, less so.
For many years the two reigned in paradise, but wisdom was gained through disobedience at severe cost. And the lord saw that misogyny was their forbidden fruit and their downfall was a snake.
- But before all could progress, new laws were set in place for the citizens and the devils and the pensioners and the toffees and the canaries and the Geordie tribe and the Mackems from the north and the gunners and their neighbours the spurs and more.
- And God spoke all these words, to all, but mostly to the citizens:
The Eight Commandments
- I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Moss Side, out of the land of debt.
- You shall have no other gods before me, not even David Silva.
- You shall not murder Sloop John B songs, even if the city is yours.
- You shall not commit adultery, unless you are a footballer or Russell Brand.
- You shall not steal, unless it’s a leverage scheme and a loose Fit & Proper test has been passed.
- You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour by pretending they have lots of empty seats.
- You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife unless you are Ryan Giggs, or his male or female servant unless you are Ryan Giggs, his ox or donkey unless you are Ryan Giggs, or anything that belongs to your neighbour, unless you are Ryan Giggs.
- Then hear thou in heaven, and of thy people Manchester, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk (with a swagger), and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance and also as a curse. And a great plague was sent down on Manchester, and it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and then another 40 days and 40 nights, and so on and so forth for all of eternity. And yet still when the rain did relent the lord said until his people that there would be a hosepipe ban. And further plagues were sent down on the people, first swarms of glory-hunters then Monday night football then Jim White.
- But before all this came a man with false hair to rule over the Citizens. And at first all was well and Peter (Swales) doth say this is easy, but it was not easy.
- The people did lose heart and rebelled, refusing to enter Maine Road and crying for a new leader who would take them back to the promised land.
- During these years of wandering in the wilderness, Swales’ patience was continually tested by the murmurings, grumblings, and complaints of the people. At one point, Swales’ patience reached its breaking point and he sinned against the Lord, in anger against the people, by signing Steve Daley.
- When hence he did depart, their saviour arrived, but nothing was well still.
- The citizens turned and took a journey into the wilderness by the way of Division 2, as the LORD spake unto them: and they compassed administration many days and many months. And the LORD spake unto them, saying, “Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.”
- Now rise up, and get you over the black burn. And they went over the black burn.
- And the space in which they came from York, until they were come over the black burn was two years;
- And Jesus provided many miracles, not least the return to the Premiership. And he did feed the 5000 (Fulham (H)), yet still they did run out of chicken balti pies by half-time. And Jesus said: “I have compassion for these people: they have already been with me 90 minutes and have nothing to eat, and they have been with Stuart Pearce for three years and have no goals to see.”
- And Jesus expelled the money changers from the temple, accusing them of turning the temple into a den of thieves, especially those ***** at Viagogo.
- Thaksin was expelled into the wilderness, and he fled to the east. And all the while Sven begat Ulrika and Nancy and Faria and begat anyone who moved.
- And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which were in Moss Side and now Beswick, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
- And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Shinawatras, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Mansours, and the Sheikhs, and the snazzy F1 race, and the desert, and that appalling Michael Owen helicopter video on Youtube.
- Seriously, look it up. It’s terrible.
- If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the LORD toward the Citeh which thou hast chosen, and toward the council house that I have built for thy name. And my followers will not care about defeat, both now and the previous week, because of inebriation. And that shall be OK.
- And so it was noted in Leviticus (19:27): “ You shall not round off the side growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard, and to maintain the strength of your bitterness and lies your moustache should never diminish.”
- Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at the theatre of dreams, which belongeth to Trafford, and was pitched between Manchester and Salford, in the north.
- And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Alex, of Govan, whose height was six cubits and a span.
- And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a nose as red as the blood of the citizens of Bethlehem;
- And he had by him Wayne of Rooney. And Wayne had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And this brass was as old as the hills of Mezualeb.
- When Graham Poll and all referees heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid. And all the men of the FA, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
- Now Roberto was the son of that Aldo and Marianna; and he had two sons, who he placed in the reserves. And he asked what shall be done to the man that defeateth this Philistine, and doth knock him off his perch?
- And the people answered him after this manner, saying, so shall it be done to the man that killeth him, thou shall be inducted by Garry Cook into the Manchester United hall of fame.
- And Roberto put his hand in his bag, and took thence a billion petrodollars, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.
- So Roberto prevailed over the Philistine with silva and more, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of Roberto. And during this period did all witness the Exodus.
- And so it was only 3-1, but the crowds did depart. It was only 4-1, yet more had left. It was only 5-1, yet the empty seats were plentiful. And then it was 6-1, and the land was bare. And so it came to pass that it should have been 10. And they did thank themselves that it was not 10, and considered the good fortune of the illegitimate.
- And it came to pass in the eighteenth year after the children of England were come out of the land of the football league, in the fourth year of Mansour’s reign over the Citizens, in the month May, which is the fifth month, that Roberto finished building the house of the champions*.
- And the City had no need of the sun, neither of the blue moon, to shine in it: for the glory of petrodollars did lighten it. And the people did say Agueroooooo. And the word of the citizens came to Roberto, saying, “Blessed are the owners, and may all their teas be chippy teas”.
- And the lord did say “Drink it in. Go forth and celebrate, for you will never see anything like this again.” And they did drink it in and they continued to drink it in and some are still drinking it in.
- But the rejoicing did wane as a great curse returned on the team. Roberto was betrayed by one of his apostles, probably the kit-man, who did travel to the Sun and tell of his master’s tyrannical ways.
- And so from a cold land came a holistic man who brought with him many goals.
- And the knight finally departed, not only because he was of great years and his powers had waned, but also because he transgresseth by wine. But the fear of his followers, who numbered three billion and ten, were assured not to worry, as on the mountain of Sinai in the summer of the 14th year of the millennium the chalice which no one yet knew was poisoned was passed to the chosen one: David from the town of Glasgow in the north. And they did proclaim that the legacy did live on.
- And so it came to pass. But they couldn’t, because they were English, so the chosen one led his followers back into the wilderness. But behold! There was great rejoicing in the west as it came to be that they now had an official drinks partner for America and Asia.
- And a star rose in the east, and the Lord called him Adnan. And he came from the land of Albania and the land of Belgium and the land of Kosovo and the land of the English. And he told the Lord that he did not know from whence he had come. But the Lord and all around him saw that he shone brighter than any other star, and he guided the wise men to Bethlehem and beyond, into the realm of the cusp of the Europa Cup.
- Blessed is the war chest for it shall break open and restore the power of those in red. And the growth begins and it shall be organic, both through history and success, in the west and especially in the east, where their star shines brightest. And it will be so as is it is in their DNA. And the chosen one went forth once more and he proclaimed “we are back!”
- But then they were defeated at home to Swansea.
- And David did proclaim (Psalms 3:6): “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” And he had by him the holy trinity, so all was well in the kingdom.
- But more support was coming in the dark. For, lo, David did raise up the Men In Black, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.
- They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand. And they shall force Rio Ferdinand to sign a new contract. But they shall not force Nemanja Vidic to stay as he leaves the chosen ones.
- And having slain some families on Wembley Way they doth proclaim: our work is done. And it had to be so, as they did not return to the land of the twin towers for a long time.
- But the blue tribe had become too powerful, and the other tribes doth protest at this power, which had not been earned how they wanted it to be. And thus Michel pushed for new laws, for he was angry as he had a woman’s name.
- And one man who protested hard was Arsene Wenger, but to no avail, as in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And the weight of Arsene’s coat was five thousand shekels of gold.
- The special one did also speak, and he did speak some more, then some more and the lord said to the people “please shut up this interminable bore” but the special one was not for shutting up and he doth speak some more.
- Jesus, crosses, blah blah…..
Another lucky victory, another three points bought from the officials – you know the stuck record drill by now.
This was the first of two difficult games that would test City’s championship credentials once and for all, and the truth is that I wouldn’t have been too disappointed with a draw going into the match.
The line up had few surprises, Clichy preferred over Kolarov, perhaps for his pace, something Spurs traditionally have in abundance. The rest of the side was as you might expect with Negredo not risked to start the match, though perhaps Dzeko would have been picked anyway, as has happened previously away from home.
For half an hour, City were simply majestic. They passed their way round Spurs with consummate ease, scored one, should have scored plenty more and the only concern was that we may pay for the profligacy. Spurs came back into the game in the last 15 minutes of the half, but once down to ten men there was little to worry about. City closed the match out after the Spurs goal with great professionalism.
For me, Spurs paid the price for being far too open. It’s been City’s downfall playing teams who pack midfield, press high and press hard and harry City’s midfielders. Spurs did none of that and played right into Pellegrini’s hands. City have turned around their away form in recent months to the point that people have almost stopped talking about it, but the performances have not come close to matching those at the Etihad and there have been some roller-coaster rises along the way. Against Spurs it was so refreshing to see such dominance on the road against a side with Top Four aspirations.
On the surface, Edin Dzeko had a terrible game, his second in succession after the FA Cup horror show, spurning chance after chance on a night when he could easily have equalled his four goal tally from two seasons ago. For much of the match I found myself exasperated by him and adult words were heard drifting towards the television screen on more than one occasion. But away from his shooting, he once more put in an excellent shift, worked his socks off and led the line well. He will continue to both exasperate and excite until the day he leaves.
Sergio Aguero was once more unplayable, making his injury all the more worrying. You would hope he was being very cautious by effectively taking himself off, but he could easily be out for over a month. City have coped admirably without Aguero, barely breaking stride, but Barcelona is a whole new ball game and City’s chances of getting past the Spanish champions will be severely hindered without their talismanic front-man.
Great performances were littered throughout the side, Jesus Navas once more catching the eye (and Silva, obviously) whilst Martin Demichelis’ shift in midfield was once again a success. Elsewhere and it is great to see Stevan Jovetic not only playing but scoring and he is quickly showing signs of becoming the player we hoped for.
Be thankful that the Spurs goal was not prevented by the hand of Fernandinho, otherwise we’d be another man down on Monday.
Where to start with BT? I mean, really, where?
It was clear that a narrative had been set from the moment the half-time whistle sounded, namely that Manchester City had once more got the benefit of decisions. A blatant handball was not deemed worthy of analysis, nor an Adebayor stamp or any other rough-house tactics, nor was there felt the need to mention that the free-kick that preceded the disallowed goal was won with a dive thus making everything thereafter utterly irrelevant. But why let these trifling little details get in the way of another Manchester City conspiracy theory. The BT team felt a goal correctly given offside was worthy of repeated analysis, for reasons that defeat me apart from the obvious intent to create a story that wasn’t there. Adebayor, a player who should not have stayed on the pitch for the duration of the game, was clearly offside, went for the ball and said ball shaved the top of his head. There ends the debate. In the end, the linesman gave offside against Dawson, incorrectly, but he made the right decision even if it was for the wrong reasons, the City player playing Dawson onside totally obscured by Adebayor to the linesman.
As for the penalty, another miscarriage of justice it was not. Rose got his foot on the ball, but this is irrelevant. It certainly looked a nailed on penalty when first viewed, and this is what the officials base their decisions on, not a super slo-mo replay from 3 different angles. I would argue it was a tad harsh, and if it had happened the other way round you would probably be agreeing with me, but contact on the ball does not matter if you foul the man as well, and Rose not only grabbed Dzeko’s right hand but also made contact with the back of the Bosnian’s legs -there is enough there to justify the decision. I’ve mentioned before that the double punishment for such an offence is unduly harsh in my opinion, but that’s not City’s fault, nor was it their concern last night.
And then there was the commentary…..brace yourselves.
Watching the game in the pub, the avalanche of drivel spewing out of Michael Owen’s mouth eventually became too much for one patron, who proceeded to rip his own ears off before trying to flush them down a toilet. Thankfully a doctor was seated at the next table and helped sedate the man until the ambulance arrived. As he left on a stretcher, the pub rose as one and applauded him out of the building.
I hope you’re happy with yourself BT Sport.
With that in mind, you don’t need to hear anymore about the world’s most banal co-commentator as you know it all already, though I particularly liked his inept attempts to dissect the disallowed goal for Spurs (“it’s offside on the video replay, but clearly not offside for me”) and his complete lack of ire when Adebayor stamped on Demichelis or when Benteleb juggled the ball.
But perhaps we’ve all been had here. It’s occurred to me that Owen has played a decade-long trick on us all, having played the long-game and as a result it is he who is having the last laugh. From his tedious twitter account to his monotone commentary, this could be one big act to give him an “angle” in his post-playing media career. He’s been pretty savvy as it happens, but thankfully I am intelligent enough to see through his act and thus will not be getting irate when next I hear his unique brand of analysis.
But time for praise outside of City. I half-expected Alan Hansen on the Match of the Day “sofa” to spend fifteen minutes dissecting the goal City conceded, but let’s be glad that they actually showed Bentaleb’s handball, that Hansen noted it should never have been a free-kick prior to the disallowed goal then pointed out that the offside call was correct. It is ridiculous that I should be praising a programme for pointing out the obvious, but this is what it’s come to.
On a more positive note, some credit is merited towards Tim Sherwood for being honest in his post-match comments. No whinging, no blaming of officials or bemoaning their luck nor were there cries of great injustices, he just said it as we would. He has gone up in my estimation, a nice contrast to the classless spiv that patrols the St. James’ Park touchline.
And on a similar note, some credit too for Andre Marriner for a sterling attempt to deflect criticism away from Michael Owen’s performance or that of the home side. He was inept from beginning to end, intent on not giving City a free kick all night, even for the most blatant of fouls, whilst booking Demichelis for being stamped on. Bravo, a promotion cannot be far away.
Unexpected draws for Arsenal and especially Chelsea have given City breathing space now. Chelsea cannot go ahead of the Citizens even with victory on Monday, and City will be there or thereabouts come-what-may. I’ll settle for that, but victory on Monday would make a huge statement to the rest of the chasing pack and put City in a very strong position indeed.
Good to see Vincent Kompany move ahead of Adnan Januzaj in the goal-scoring charts.