Tuesday, 22 November 2011


November 22nd 2011 and City were to play their most important match since.....well....since the last match ? Seems they are all pretty important for one reason or another these days. Guess that's what happens when you are playing at the high level we are playing at now and are actually contenders for trophies to. Takes some getting used to after some of the crap I've seen over the years i can tell you. Anyway, tonight's match was away to Napoli in the champions league. A win tonight would see us qualify for the knockout stages.

Group as it stood before kick off

 1 Bayern Munich    10pts
2 Manchester city     7pts
3 Napoli                   5pts
4 Villarreal                0pts

Hart started in Goal, the Champions league back four of Zabba, Kompany, Lescott & Kolarov returned. Silva, Yaya, De Jong & Milner was the midfield four and Dzeko and Mario were the front two, not as attacking as usual but i think Mancini is learning how to play away in Europe now. Having said that, the first 10 minutes, Napoli played like the away team, letting us have all the possession and hitting us on the counter, Most dangerous occasion when Lavezzi went close after a nice attacking move.  A long range effort from Inler bought a smart save from Hart in the 16th minute and from the resulting corner Napoli were a head. Corner swung in by Lavezzi and Cavani got a touch to sneak in at the near post. It was going to be an uphill battle now.

Napoli sat back again and soaked us up, and for all the possession we had we were kept to long distance shots at the Napoli goal. It seemed like the pace wasn't in the team like usual and with Baoltelli and Dzeko up front in my opinion it was crying out for Aguero. But on 32 minutes, a ball into the box from Dzeko was poorly cleared and a David Silva shot was only parried into the path of Balotelli to tap us level. 41 minutes and a great ball from Balotelli to Silva saw him play in Kolarov for a good shot from a tight angle which the goal keeper dealt with better this time. The half came to an end with us level and overall we hadn't played to bad. Balotelli had been a bit wasteful with Possession at times, trying to dribble when he could have passed but overall not to bad, although i still felt the team was lacking pace.

Second half started with the same 11 players even though Mario Balotelli hadn't looked to good on the half time whistle but Napoli started the better side knocking it about well and scoring early on again with Cavani. Platt had been talking about losing possession in the middle of the field and that's exactly what we had started off by doing, again, a mountain to climb. Napoli had their tails up now and were putting us under a lot of pressure and we just couldn't seem to get out and we offered nothing for the first 15 minutes. On 60 minutes a clever free kick saw a ball floated into the Napoli box but Balotelli and Yaya were unable to apply a finish, our first chance of the second half. It all still looked a little slow and sluggish to me and we needed an injection of pace, the flowing football that had put us top of the premier league was missing.   68 minutes and a slip from Kompany saw a Hamsik shot smartly saved by Hart to keep us in the game. It wasn't looking good. We were not putting any pressure on our opponents and creating nothing at all. 69th minute and De Jong made way for Nasri.

75th minute and City rode their luck again, a great break from Napoli and Hamsik was in with Hart to beat but hits the post. That would have been the end of us had that gone in so with 15 minutes to go our champions league dream was still alive, faltering, but alive. 77 minutes, a brilliant ball over the top from Yaya and Balotelli brings a smart save from Napoli's keeper. Hope ? Straight from that chance Napoli was in behind us and Maggio was one on one with Hart but Hart saved us again. 80th minute and the change that I'd wanted to see earlier finally happened, Dzeko off, Aguero on. 81st minute and we should have been level, a great run into the box from Nasri, found by Silva and the cross was met by Mario's head, but he put it over the bar. Creating a little more now, but time running out. Balotelli came close again from a corner in the 84th minute, unconvincing save from the keeper but a save all the same. 85th minute and the last throw of the dice, AJ on for Zabba. 3 minutes to go and City finally start to pile on the pressure, throwing ball after ball into the Napoli box, but Napoli were standing strong.

It was all to little to late as Napoli see the game out and win 2-1. Aguero did more in the 10 minutes he was on the pitch than Dzecko did in 80 and the free flowing attacking football from the premier league just wasn't there. It all means that if Napoli beat the whipping boys of the group in the last game we are out of the Champions league. We face a tough test against Bayern at home so it looks like its all over. Am i disappointed ? Yes i am, but I never for a second thought that we would win the Champions league in our first time of asking so it isn't a great shock. On the night, we didn't do enough to win the game and didn't deserve to so i guess you have to say the better team won. Did Mancini get this wrong ? In my opinion he did. Why is Richards not used tonight after the display he put on to earn him man of the match at the weekend vs Newcastle ? He wasn't even on the bench, i find that strange. Why does Aguero only get 10 minutes ? He should have been on a lot earlier than that, if not from the start. But Mancini has done a lot more right for City than he has got wrong so I'm not going to turn on the manager. It just doesn't like it's meant to be this year.

Group with 1 game to go

1 Bayern Munich (Q)      13pt
2 Napoli                               8pts
3 Manchester City           7pts
4 Villarreal                         0pts
Manchester city vs Bayern Munich
Villarreal vs Napoli

Really don't see Napoli losing to Villarreal so it looks like Europa league football in the new year for us, But then again, You never know, a guy can dream right ? Thanks for reading

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