October 17th 2011 and this game was Crucial. Due to a draw with Napoli in game one and losing away to Bayern in Game two, City found them selves 3rd in their Champions league group with 1 point. Second were Napoli with 4 points and top with 6 points were Bayern, so tonight We faced bottom of the table and pointless Villarreal. Outside the ground the mood seemed positive and anyone who was asked was predicting a City win, but this being the Champions League, i wasn't so sure that this was going to be the walk over a lot of fans were predicting.
The team sheet saw Dzeko starting up front with Nasri, Johnson and the mercurial Silva backing him up. The 2 holding midfielders were Yaya and De Jong and in came Mancini's preferred fullbacks for Europe, Kolarov and Zabbaleta. The centre backs were the usual Lescott and Captain Kompany with Hart in net. The atmosphere as kick off loomed was great, that music once again making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on edge, and as the teams came out, the fans held up the paper provided on each seat to create the blue moon banner. It was all set up to be one of those nights. The new singing section created by moving the away fans out of the south stand to make the stadium 360 degrees of blue was in great voice. Everyone was ready, apart from maybe the 11 players on the pitch.
Three minutes into the game and a loose pass from Silva meant that the ever dependable De Jong lost possession of the ball 30 yards from our own net, their danger man Rossi picked the ball up on the edge of our area, cut inside Kompany and got of a shot. Hart saved, but could only palm the ball into the path of the in coming Cani and before we knew what was happening we were 1-0 down and facing a mountain to climb. The fans didn't seem to lose hope though and kept them selves entertained by screwing up the paper from their seats and throwing them at each other. After the early set back it was all City as we desperately tried to get back into the game, But Villarreal had set up well and held up to our waves of attacks, mostly coming down the left in the form of Kolarov, getting forward when ever he could, but the breakthrough wouldn't come. It was Kolarov himself who made the best chances. One shot from the left whizzing just wide and then a free kick from the right, nicely saved by the Villarreal keeper.
5 minutes before half time and Mancini made his first substitution. Adam Johnson off for Barry, and Jono looked as confused as the rest of us at this decicion, but the manager later explained that he wanted to get another midfielder on to combat the away teams formation and also get Yaya further up the pitch. I questioned this decision, thinking that this was a change that could have waited until half time, but as I'd questioned the starting 11 vs Villa the weekend just gone and was proved wrong, i was quickly proved wrong again. 42 minutes and Silva gave the ball to Nasri, the little french man played a great pass to the ever running Kolarov, and his cross was put in the net to equalize, Not by the in coming Dzeko, but by Marchena, the defender trying to stop Dzeko from scoring. We didn't care who scored it or that it was an own goal, we just cared we were level and back in the game. Minutes later Silva played Dzeko in again but his shot was saved and the halftime whistle came, probably at the wrong time for us as we were building some momentum. In all honesty we hadn't been great and it wouldn't be fair to single out anyone who was playing badly, because everyone hadn't been brilliant.
Second half started and as i watched it pan out in front of me there was only one thing going through my mind, "This isn't good enough". We weren't creating much, and when we did Dzeko wasted it. We were getting caught offside far to much and although we had all the possession, they kept trying to break on us, at one point bringing a good save from Joe. On 63 minutes Aguero made his return, his first appearance since limping off against Blackburn. He added some much needed pace and urgency, but he seemed to be off the pace a little and lost possession or over ran the ball far to many times. 81 minutes and Milner entered the game. Milner picked up where he'd left off against Villa, looking hungry and determined and it was him that started the move that became one of those "I was there when" moments.
Three minutes of injury time had been announced and three minutes had almost elapsed when Milner picked up the ball on the right. He skipped inside a sliding challenge before playing a pass that got Zabbaleta in behind the back four. He turned into the box and played a first time cross, across the front of goal. It took a little flick from Silva, but it was Aguero, arriving at the back post to poke home the winner with seconds remaining. We'd done it, our first Champions League win, and 3 vital points. The place erupted ! Me and Little D jumping up and down in each others arms. It felt amazing, and was a brilliant result, but it did maybe disguise a poor performance overall, but tonight was all about getting a result, and we had. Villarreal only had time to kick off again before the whistle ended the game and sent us blues home happy.
There was a lot to be disappointed about. The most disappointing thing for me was the away support. I'd been to a lot of European games and a lot of the time the away support was colourful and loud, but the Villarreal fans were practically none existent. The overall performance was disappointing, but the 5 seconds before the final whistle swept all that under the carpet. Maybe this was the catalyst to kick start our European campaign now. Villarreal away would be next and the fact Bayer had drawn at Napoli 1-1 meant we were right back in it.
Bayern 7 points
Napoli 5 points
CITY 4 points
Villarreal 0 points
Also, a draw here would have probably meant our champions league dreams were all but dead and we would have all been feeling low. But Aguero's last ditch winner meant we were alive and kicking in our group and all on a high going into our next game, Manchester United away on Sunday. Us top, 2 points clear of them in second. This is probably the biggest derby in recent history or at least since the semi final of the FA cup last year. Bring it on. I can't wait. Thanks for reading.