Friday, 18 March 2011

An opportunity lost

It was a night that started so brightly. City came out of the blocks all guns blazing for the second leg of our last 16 Europa League clash with Dinamo Kyiv, and you felt that it was going to be our night. An eventful 90 minutes later however, and we found ourselves out of the competition, defeating Kyiv 1-0 on the night but not being unable to overturn a 2-1 aggregate scoreline. I am sure we will look back on this European adventure as a major opportunity lost.

Somehow we have managed to crash out of Europa League not even matching our quarter final appearance in the UEFA Cup competition two or three seasons ago. And of course our squad back then was a shadow of what it is now. We have achieved less with more resources, more talent, more firepower at our disposal. It is just so frustrating.

The blame game

There are of course many reasons why we lost against Kyiv. Mario Balotelli is likely to come in for the most flak. The young Italian’s actions were rash, stupid, brainless, call them whatever you want. His sending off undoubtedly made it hard for us, but he alone did not single-handedly lose us this tie. Mario Balotelli is not as important as that. Instead we lost this tie with woeful defending in the cold night of Kiev, and in the wasteful finishing on show at Eastlands in the return leg. Preparation also seems to have been an issue – Vincent Kompany has spoken of how the squad were shocked by how good Kyiv were. That’s not acceptable in today’s game, and certainly not in knockout football. We all know of Dinamo’s Champions League pedigree. Plus, they didn’t exactly sneak past Besiktas in the last round. Either the players weren’t briefed well enough or they failed to listen to the advice of Mancini and his backroom team. Maybe some were too busy trying put on their training bibs.

That we were the better, more purposeful side for the vast majority of the second leg speaks volumes for the 10 men who were left with the seemingly insurmountable task of overcoming Kyiv without a full contingent of personnel. Dinamo Kyiv hammered Besiktas 8-1 in the previous round, but in truth over the two legs we should have dispatched them with ease. Two glaring defensive errors in Kyiv, combined with Balotelli's mindlessness and our own poor finishing, have more or less ended up handing the tie to the Ukranians.

Nullifying Kyiv

The threat of Shevchenko never materialised and he was more or less nullified by the excellent Kompany and Joleon Lescott. Tellingly, the former Milan and Chelsea striker was substituted at the midway point of the second half.

Kyiv were limited at best to counter attacking football. That is of course, when they weren’t diving around the pitch and trying to get City players booked. I have never seen a referee be sold on so many occasions during 90 minutes. But I have no complaints here – this is something we have to put up with in European football. Besides, the referee got the biggest call right, with Balotelli quite rightly being sent from proceedings.

Chance after chance

At the other end of the pitch though, we were woeful. To be fair, Kolarov took his strike well, but we had much clear opportunities to score that we didn’t take. From point black range, Balotelli sent a shot sailing over the bar in the second minute of the game. In the second half, a wicked deflection almost crept into the Kyiv goal at the near post. When he was introduced, Edin Dzeko had an excellent chance but shot directed at the keeper. Then, as the game reached its conclusion, we had the chance that could have forced extra time, with a shot coming through a crowded penalty area only for Tevez to miss the vital flick that would have sent it beyond the keeper and into the back of the net.

Its no coincidence that our attacking threat has diminished as there have been slight declines in the form of Carlos Tevez and David Silva. You can’t play well all the time, but at the bare minimum – at this point in the season – you must ensure victory. We have not had a good performance against credible opposition since we dispatched West Brom 3-0 back at the start of February. This needs to change soon, because we have Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs on the Premier League horizon, whilst United lie in wait in the FA Cup semi final.

Manchester City FC – Europa League Winners 2011’

Although this reality is now beyond us, the title nevertheless has a very believable ring to it. You look now at the strength of the competition – PSV, Benfica, Braga, Dinamo Kyiv, Porto, Spartak Moscow, Villareal, FC Twente. We have more than enough in our locker to beat this lot. I sense an excellent opportunity to get the 35 year monkey off our backs has gone begging.


  1. Anonymous24/3/11 14:09

    That 35yr old monkey aint going anywhere soon...its quite funny really, no!?

  2. Desmond Traynor25/3/11 12:20

    Could I just indicate at this juncture that I now officially go on record as hoping Manchester City do NOT finish in the Top Four of the Barclay's Premiership? That way, Roberto Mancini is sure to lose his job, a boon for the club which cannot come soon enough, in my opinion. If I have to sit through one more turgid, boring, lethargic, lifeless, workaday, workmanlike under-performance from the Sky Blues this season, I may have no option but to put my own eyes out. And then to have to listen to more excuses about tiredness and fatigue, and too many matches, from someone with a huge squad, huge funds at his disposal, and an array of talented players sold or on loan (and certifiable loopers still getting a game). Did Bobbi Manc imagine that a repeat show of the nil-all bus-parking bore-fest against Arsenal at the Emirates would also be a good result against Chelsea at The Bridge last Sunday? Hardly, if it had been achieved in a similar fashion. Which it would have been, had it even been achieved. But, of course, it wasn't achieved at all. The overly cautious and ultra careful Italian is obsessed with not conceding, his philosophy being that if the opposition don't score, and you manage to sneak even one, hey presto, you've won the game. What he has so far failed to realise is that there is always the possibility of conceding, no matter how tight your defence is, especially against the big clubs who provide strong attacking opposition. A total of three shots on goal on Sunday, one on target, everything breaking down in midfield, because there is no one further up the pitch: is this any way to play football, much less challenge for a title? Especially when you consider the number of talented AND HONEST players in the squad. I wouldn't mind if Citeh finished tenth, if they played like they believed they could finish first. More risk-taking is required for a title win. Such timid and blatant lack of ambition, and lack of demonstration of the flair we know is there, this wilful shackling and under-use of resources, cannot go unpunished. The sooner the manager fucks off back to Italy, where he can play catenaccio to his heart's content like it's 1972, the better for all concerned with the club.

    Jose Mourhino for Manchester - the blue part.


  3. Desmond Traynor25/3/11 12:21

    On second thoughts:

    Does anyone other life-long City fan feel the same as me? On second thoughts, the best possible scenario for us is that City finish in the top four but still sack Mancini!

    But it's not just Mancini that is the problem. City's problems also stem from the selection of a poor management team. Of course it is the Head Coach's ultimate responsibility, but look at this:

    Brian Kidd - has been know to have too much influence on the training ground. Noted for his sterile, defensive tactical approach. At Leeds and Blackburn, the styles went markedly defensive when Kidd came on board.

    David Platt - just ask Nottingham Forest fans how successful he was! Has a good knowledge of the game but little proven experience.

    Attilio Lombardo - a disaster as player manager at Crystal Palace. Some experience in Italy but little of value in the Premier League.

    In spite of these obtsacles, City will probably still finish in the top four but the owners are no mugs. They will want a better brand. We played some good football last year, particularly at home to Arsenal and away to Chelsea, possibly the residue of Hughes' reign.

    But we probably need more creativity from the centre of midfield and a better defensive unit to win the title.

    Of course, if we beat Man United in the FA Cup semi-finals, however, all will be forgiven.

  4. Alright Desmond,

    Not sure I'd go as far as your first comment wish that the Blues finish outside of the top four, but I understand the sentiment. I've often thought about whether the style of football we currently play has something to do with the lesser attendances we've seen at Eastlands (particularly Cup) games recently. The economic conditions are probably the biggest factor but I think also the slow tempo of our play may turn others away - especially in the earlier rounds of competitions.

    Not sure if Mourinho is the man to give us free flowing attacking football - Hughes was the man for that. I do sometimes think that Mancini's brand of football makes it easier for the fans to get on his back when things don't go to plan on the pitch. There's nothing worse than playing slow tempo, considered, possession football AND losing. Of course - like you say - pretty much anyone can stomach this when the Blues are winning.

    Thoughts will naturally turn to Mancini's future now that we're reaching the business end of the season. But the Italian can put a big feather in his cap - and strengthen his position considerably with both board and fans - if we overturn the Reds at Wembley. I just thinking defeating United at the Twin Towers is our own special holy grail. Others would - of course - call me bitter!

  5. Anonymous29/3/11 21:08

    while I agree with much of what DT has written, there is no point in sacking Mancini unless we have an established, successful manager waiting in the wings. It gives me no joy to say this but the idea that Mourinho will one day be manager at City is an absolute and utter pipe dream. He has stated clearly that he covets Fergie's position at the swamp.