Tuesday, 27 September 2011

THE BIG TEST



This was the nights that City fans have been dreaming of and the nights that if I'm honest, 10 years ago, i never thought I'd see. September 27th 2011 and City go to German Giants Bayern Munich. A team that have been involved in 8 finals and won it 4 times. No doubt about it, this was going to be a test. I was having a week off work and decided that i wasn't going to sit and watch the build up all day as it would only make me nervous for the match, so i chose to watch a couple of films and avoid sky sports in any form all day, until 7 o'clock. I turned on Sky sports 2 to see a brilliant little Montage of Noel Gallagher talking about us and our history and what the club has grown into since the relegation 13 years ago. It almost moved me to tears and now the nerves began. The team news was Kolo Toure coming in for Lescott and the rest of the team pretty much picked its self. The fact that Mancini had dropped Lescott, who had looked better and better the more games he played and changed the central defencive pairing for such a big game was also worrying. When the Champions League Music kicked in and the whistle sounded the start of the match my heart was pounding.



City actually started very well, passing the ball around well and keeping possession. We should have had a nailed on penalty early on to when David Silva was taken out in the penalty but we got nothing. Bayern began to settle into the game now though and the game became very open. We looked comfortable though and this worried me. I even said to my son, "we've looked ok here, probably the better team, that means they will probably score first". I hate it when I'm right. On 35 minutes Bayern took the lead. We'd just had one warning when Bayern should have scored but it was scooped over the bar, and we didn't learn from it because straight after the breakthrough came. Hart made a fantastic double save but couldn't stop the 3rd as Gomez scores as our defence falls asleep. We had to regroup and keep it to 1-0 or even equalize before the break. It looked like we could do to, Until the 45th minute, and with the last kick of the half Gomez made it 2-0, Hart again making a good save but as the defence watched on he couldn't stop the follow up. So the half time whistle goes and we are 2-0 down with a mountain to climb. I dreamt that we'd lose 3-0. Maybe dreams come true. Or did it qualify as a nightmare ?




Second half starts and we didn't look confident, giving away unnecessary free kicks in the first 10 minutes, Ribery coming more and more into the game. On 55 minutes needing 2 goals Mancini decides to bring off Dzeko and replace him with De jong, Meaning that Yaya would play further up the field, Platt saying at half time we hadn't defending far enough up the pitch. Dzeko was not happy about coming off at all. The change didn't seem to help as straight away we were on the back foot and Bayern should have scored again. 60 minutes gone and we just couldn't get hold of the ball and when we did we couldn't keep it. It looked bad now. Surely needing 2 goals, seeing the manager take Dzeko off who can get you goals must surely have a negative affect on the team. German crowd were lapping it up and enjoying their Octoberfest now. 69th minute and Milner replaced Nasri.  Bayern were just passing the ball around for fun now because time was on their side and frankly, we didn't look like we even wanted the ball. 72nd Minute and our final su comes on, Kolarov for Barry, so needing 2 goals, Dzeko was off and Tevez was still on the bench. I don't like to knock our manager after all he's done for the club, but sometimes his substitutions leave me baffled.  Joe hart pulled of a fantastic save from a free kick to keep us in touch with 10 minutes to go, Joe hart being the player who could hold his head up highest tonight.




The final whistle sounded and we'd suffered our first defeat of the season and failed our first Champions league test. Bayern had looked like a quality team but hadn't looked like they had needed to play at their very best to beat us. Ultimately this was disappointing and maybe just highlighted the difference between us and the experienced teams in this competition. It looks like Bayern will be strong favourites to win our group, but its not over, we have 4 more games to play, 2 of them against Villareal, who had lost their opening 2 fixtures and looked like the weakest team in our group. So as long as Bayern take points against Napoli and we can win our back to back games against Villareal, there is still a long way to go in this group. Still not looking for any bridges to jump off, still not going to slate anyone or rant and rave, but the choice of subs tonight was puzzling and it also looked like it puzzled the subs bench also. Guess this one has to be chalked up as experience. We live and we learn. Not such a happy blue tonight,  but we've come a long way and we still have a long way to go. Thanks for reading. CTID !

Saturday, 24 September 2011

STICKY TOFFEE'S

September 24th 2011 and the early kick off saw our Bogey team coming to the Etihad stadium as we played Everton. We'd found it hard to get anything against Everton recently, last season they came and only had 2 shots and somehow managed to win 2-0 so we really needed to break the Hoodoo that the Toffees seemed to have over us. Mancini had the luxury of being able to change the complete starting line up from our midweek win over Birmingham, showing just how deep and Strong our squad is now.


The toffee's came with a game plan. Park the bus and defend, man mark David Silva, and kick the crap out of him every single chance they got, and thats exactly what they did. In the first 15 minutes it actually looked like Everton might offer something to the game, but after City settled, it was clear that they wouldn't offer much, apart from 5 bookings, at least 3 of them for fouls on Silva. They did however not allow us any space on the pitch and we were unable to get the movement going that had made us look so good in the first few games of the season. Silva, when he wasn't being fouled, was his brilliant best again, running things as usual but maybe we were looking for him to much when there was other options on. Dzeko who had started the season well was also struggling to get into the game and Nasri and Aguero were having to come to deep to get involved so it was no surprise when the first half finished 0-0. Tevez and Balotelli were warming up constantly through the first half and it seemed it was only a matter of time before one of those replaced Dzeko.




The second half started and again Everton had a spell, earning a few consecutive corners, but it was clear that Everton were a team that hadn't improved at all since the last time i saw them and they had the same game plan they had last season. Last season we couldn't handle it or break them down but our improvement showed as we did start to create chances as the second half unfolded. On 60 minutes the obvious change happened, and after his goal in mid week it was Balotelli who replaced Dzeko and man did he make an impact. 8 minutes after coming on it was Mario who curled a wonderful shot low into the bottom corner of the net to open the scoring and knock the stuffing out of the Toffee men. After scoring it was nice to see Balotelli run to the halfway line to give his manager a hug.  Now Everton would have to come out and maybe try and play a bit of football instead of killing the game. Milner replaced Aguero on 79 minutes and then Savic came on for Nasri on 83 as the manager tries to sure things up and take what we had. Balotelli and Siva combined to put the ball in the net and send the crowd wild, but Silva was ruled offside and the goal didn't count.




Always had that feeling that we would need another goal if we were going to take the points because with the hoodoo that Everton have had over us it wouldn't have been a shock if they were to get a late equalizer so when David Silva played in James Milner on 90 minutes to fire the ball under Tim Howard for the second goal I was a happy blue. The fixture was put to bed and the jinx of Everton was finally broken and city were 2nd in the league to United, But only on goal difference as United Drop their first points of the season away to Stoke. The derby is now only four weeks away and we are keeping track with the Champions so if things carry on like this, that game will be a very tasty fixture. Next for the blues though is a trip to face Bayern Munich in our second Champions League game on Tuesday. Has Mario earned himself i place in the starting line up for that one ? If it was down to me I'd play him, but it's not, so we'll wait and see. This weekend though, for one reason AND another, I'm a very happy blue. Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

LEAGUE CUP CAMPAIGN

September 21st 2011 and Manchester City start their League cup campaign against Championship side, but current cup holders, Birmingham City. I thought long and hard about whether i should go to this game or not on a cold wet Wednesday Night but in the end i decided to attend. I got there early because i was unable to buy my ticket over the phone due to complications, so i went down to the ground in good time so i didn't have to queue so much. After purchasing my ticket i then killed a bit of time with a Macdonalds and a wander around Asda before returning to the ground just in time to see the team arrive, and it was a much changed team that exited the coach.

video


Pantilimon, the big Romanian goalkeeper bought in August would make his debut in goal. The back four was Onuoha getting his first start since returning from loan at Sunderland last season, Savic and Kolo Toure making his return to the side after his 6 month drugs ban and Champions League hero Kolarov. Youngster Razak got a start in midfield along side Owen Hargreaves making his City debut. Hargreaves was picked up on a free transfer after he was released by Manchester United at the end of last season due to his lack of games for them through constant injury. He had worked hard to regain his fitness over the summer and became a shock transfer day deadline purchase for the blues. The front 4 was a strange one. Full backs Zabaletta and forgotten man Wayne Bridge would act as wingers and Tevez and Balotelli were the strikers. So a squad of debuts and returning players but the most pleasing return was the sound of Supra's version of blue moon belting out rather than the weak Beady eye version they had opted to play for the first 2 home games.



The game started and in all honestly Birmingham didn't really offer much in the first half, City had a lot of the ball and passed it around for fun. Razak and Hargreaves seemed to have more touches of the ball as anyone as they ran midfield. It was good to see Hargreaves back on a football pitch, because when fit, there is no doubting his quality, but his fitness had been the problem. It wasn't long though until his quality shone through, when he picked up the ball on the edge of the area and fired in an unstoppable shot into the Brum net for the opening goal on 17 minutes. He looked like he really enjoyed it to, and this prompted a chorus of "Fergie fergie, sign him up" from the city faithful. Mario, who was getting some much needed game time, made it 2-0 in the 37th minute and pretty much put the game to bed.



The second half was Man City just going through the motions really and there wasn't really much to write home about. Hargreaves left the pitch to a good ovation to be replaced by Milner on 57 minutes. A fantastic debut and a good 57 minutes to get under his belt for Hargreaves. Rekik made his City debut on 80 minutes, replacing Bridge and slotting in at left back, meaning Kolarov played the last 10 minutes as a winger, and then on 87 minutes, another debut, this time for Italian youngster Scapuzzi, replacing Razak who was struggling with what looked like cramp. Tevez should have made it 3 near the end when he was through one on one with the brum keeper, but the keeper made a good save, first stopping Tevez's attempt and then Stopping Toure's follow up attempt.



The final whistle came and the FA cup holders had knocked the League cup holders out and were in the draw for the 4th round, something we didn't manage to do last season as we went out to WBA at this stage. The season before had seen us reach the semi final and go out to United, but after last seasons tastes of Wembley, maybe this season we'd want this a bit more ? Be nice to see if we had enough in our reserves to take us on a nice League cup run this year, but that remains to be seen. Else where, our opponents for the coming Saturday, Everton, had to go into extra time, with many of their first team players having to play, so maybe when we meet our bogey team this weekend, they will have tired legs while Mancini will be able to field a completely rested team. Good to have a big, quality squad at last.

Monday, 19 September 2011

TYPICAL CITY ?

Sunday the 18th of September started slowly as i was Nursing the massive hangover from a night out to celebrate my daughters 18th Birthday. Zoe's birthday is actually today, but we went out last night to celebrate and Celebrate we did. Maybe, just maybe, Man City were suffering the same sort of Hang over from the midweek Champions league party, who knows.



Today was away to Fulham and as i was hung over and there was no TV coverage of our game I didn't get to watch the game unfold, I just followed the match on the match day centre on MCFC.CO.UK and watched the highlights. Now a lot of City fans were getting very carried away with our start, and a lot of City fans are very happy having not lost in 4 games in the premier league and scoring a bag full of goals, but did any City fan really think that we weren't gonna drop any points all season ? I didn't, I've been telling everyone that would listen that last year Chelsea won all 5 of their first games and scored 20 plus goals and it didn't end with them winning the league so it was far to early to get carried away.



It was looking good though when Aguero scored (Again) to put us 1-0 up after 19 minutes. Now i know we paid A LOT of money for Sergio, and you should expect a player that cost's that much to score goals, but did any City fan think he'd get as many goals in his first 5 games in the premier league ? I for one thought he'd need games to settle in and thought the debut against Swansea was a one off, i was wrong as he continues to impress me. Great to get to see quality players such as him play in City blue. The second half started well when Aguero netted again on 46, 8 goals in 5 games, an amazing return from the little Argentinian. 2-0 up and Augero on a hatrick for the second game running and we switch off. Typical City raises it's ugly head again.



2-0 Is always considered to be a dangerous scoreline and when Zamora rifled in a screamer on 55 minutes i got that "here we go" feeling. Has to be said that he was afforded far to much time and space to get his shot away but I'm not gonna point any fingers, It was a good Fulham move. The equalizer came on 75 minutes, a powerful shot from Murphy that took a wicked deflection off Kompany to beat hart, but it was a goal that never should have been allowed because the move all started from a foul on Dzeko that should have obviously been a free kick to us but it wasn't given.



Now I'm not going to lose all hope just because we've drawn a game, you have to be happy with a point away from home, maybe not from 2-0 up, but a point is a point and a draw is better than getting beat. From what I've seen it could have been worse, Hart making some great saves and Richards with a last ditch tackle. We are not going to be perfect every week and we are going to lose some games, yeah shock horror, we will not go all season unbeaten so I'm not going to start slagging the team off or looking for any bridges to jump off either. Yes from 2-0 up we should be winning and yes we went to sleep, but we didn't get beat and this will be a wake up or a kick in the arse that will keep us grounded and maybe make us see that we aint world beaters just yet and it isn't going to be like watching Barcelona every week.  Bit disappointing but what is more important, I had a fantastic night out for my Daughters 18th with friends and family. Happy birthday Zoey Marie Scott, I love ya x Thanks for reading

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

HISTORICAL




The anticipation for this game has been building for weeks, well it was in my case anyway. I'd never been to a champions league game before, obviously as this was our first ever one, so it felt good to be able to say that i was there on this historical night. Outside the ground I met some very friendly Italians who asked if i could take a pic of them, which i did, so it only seemed right to take one my self.



The atmosphere outside the ground was good and it only improved inside the ground. Looking around the Etihad stadium adorned in the Champions league logo's, watching the team warm up with their Champions League bibs on, and the noisy Italian Fans booing and whistling as our team was announced. The very first Manchester City 11 to have a crack at the competition. Hart in goal, Kolorov, Kompany, Lescott & Zabbaletta in defence, Barry & Toure as holding midfielders, and Nasri, Silva, Aguero and Dzeko in attack. Good to see Zabba starting and the squad being put to use, but the goose bumps really kicked in when that music started to play, the teams on the pitch, and the champions league music belting out. This was a special night to be a city fan, and as i said, i was so glad that i can say i was there.




So the match kicked off and as you would expect, City had a lot of possession, passing around, creating a few chances and looking the better team early on, but you know what you are going to get from Italian teams, sitting in and staying tight and waiting to hit you on the attack, after all, we witnessed a lot of this type of football last season, so even for all our possession and attacking, I was weary of the Italian counter, and it was a classic Italian counter that saw Napoli hit the crossbar on 20 minutes. This signaled a spell of Napoli pressure and they came back into the game for a spell, but then on  35 minutes a classic City counter, started by Yaya see's the ball swept up field and ends with Yaya hitting the crossbar. So for all our possession and all our chances we didn't manage to put any of them away and we were level at the break.



Second half continued the same way, City dominating possession but not putting the ball in the net. We'd talked about having to be patient in these games, waiting for our opportunity to come, but from where i was sitting, the movement of the front four didn't seem to be as fluid as it had been in premier league games and that Italian counter threat was always on, we'd had a warning of it when Zabba had to slide in to send a shot deflecting over the bar but on 68 minutes Napoli made one count. Barry trying a flicked pass to Nasri that didn't come off in their half of the pitch, and before you know it, the ball is driven between Joe Harts legs and the Etihad witness the first ever Champions league goal to be scored there, unfortunately scored by Cavani for Napoli. This was a test now. We'd had it pretty much our own way this season so far, brushing teams aside and scoring for fun, now we found ourselves 1-0 down at home against what was quality opposition. I will admit i didn't really know much about Napoli before the game, but i do now, and they look like a decent team. Would we have the character to fight back and get something from this game ? Aguero struck the bar again, and Clichy and Johnson were preparing to enter the fray when Zabba was bundled over for a free kick just outside the Napoli box. Kolorov eyed it up, probably knowing that Clichy was waiting to replace him. The Etihad held its breath and then burst into life as Kolorov  coolly dipped the free kick over the wall and into the net. Manchester City's first ever Champions league goal, right in front of me, Happy that we are now level, Happier that i can say i was there.



Johnson provided some spark and some width that was missing and then Tevez, replacing Dzeko provided some urgency but we were unable to force the winner and this Historical game ended, honours even, 1-1. Did we deserve to win this match ? Probably if you looked at the stats you would say yes, but this was always going to be difficult and nervous first game to get out of the way and Napoli do look like they are going to be hard to beat in this group, so i guess I'm happy that we didn't lose, especially after being behind. Our feet as City fans are now back firmly on the ground after the dream start to the season that we've had. Mancini says we'll just go to Bayern next and win, let's hope he's right. Attention now turns back to Fulham this coming weekend and even though we only drew tonight, I'm still a happy blue, happy that we have now arrived on the big stage and haven't lost. Happy to be a part of it. Thanks for reading.



Saturday, 10 September 2011

KUN - Believable

So after an international break we finally get back to some football. City at Home to Wigan, but on the eve of the game it is announced that Garry Cook has resigned. Now i started this blog to speak my Views on the games i watch and the team that i follow. No politics, No bull shit, so all i will say on the subject is, he did some good work for this club and that should be appreciated. So, onto the matter at hand, Manchester City vs Wigan.



Never did i think I'd see the day when a Manchester City striker, who has scored 6 goals in 3 games, is left on the bench, and still be confident that we could win the game. Tevez  preferred to the free scoring Dzeko. Before the match i did honestly question this decision, and i do wonder what that does to the confidence of the man left out, but I guess this game is played with our Champions League game to come in mind and the fact that certain players have just come back from International duty. Nasri also left on the bench after breaking a bone in his finger playing for France. So the formation of 4-2-4 with Tevez, Aguero, Silva &  good to see Johnson getting a start in the attack. Platt said before kick off that we no longer operated on a first 11 system, we were now operating with a starting 22 with the quality and depth we have available and I guess after he has proved himself now, In Mancini we trust.



Game started and we picked up where we left off vs Spurs. Creating lots of chances but not taking them. Tevez was his usual busy self and the front 4 was working well together, even if Johnson did balloon a few chances over the bar that he should have done better with and Lescott was defending as good for them as he was for us, heading a goal bound effort from Kompany over the bar, Ok he was trying to redirect it i guess, but he redirected it into the crowd. Lescott has had his critics but i think a run in the team is doing him well and he looks better game by game. Kompany who was named as permanent captain before the game bringing the best out of him maybe ?



14 Minutes gone and the deadlock is broken, a flowing move, started by one Argentinian (Tevez) assisted by the magician, Silva, and Finished by the other Argentinian with  low shot, back across goal into the bottom corner of the Wigan net and Aguero has his first goal of the game and his 4th of the season. It was the highlight of the first half and the only chance taken from the hat full we were creating. Wigan did venture into our half a few times but nothing really to threatening. The other talking point of the first half was the penalty, awarded when the macurial Silva was brought down in the box and wasted by Tevez, a weak effort saved well by the Wigan stopper. So at half time the 1-0 score did rather flatter Wigan and in days of old i would have worried about being punished for chances missed, but not today. 0-0 Vs swansea at half time on the opening day i was, but i was confident today, with the football played, and the chances created, that we would score again.



I wasn't wrong. City Vs Wigan turned into the Sergio Aguero show. 61 Minutes and Samir Nasri makes his home debut from the bench, replacing Tevez and he immediately makes an Impact, an assist to set up Aguero who cooly slots home his, and City's second. 69 Minutes and It's 3-0 and Aguero completes his first City Hatrick. A brilliant piece of skill from David Silva, who is rapidly becoming my Favourite player with his amazing performances, sets up Aguero for yet another cooly taken finish. 6 goals in 4 games with a 6 goals in 4 games striker sitting on the bench, I have to pinch myself sometimes. Balotelli replaced the little Argentinian on 71 minutes, good to see Mario getting some match time to. I had wondered how long it would be until the "City rely to much Dzeko" stories surfaced in the press, but today's match has maybe put a stop to that, but then maybe "City rely to much on Aguero" is on the cards next ?



Overall a fantastic result again, 4 games unbeaten in the league with 15 goals scored. I won't mention the table, because i myself believe the table means nothing until maybe December, but having said that, it is nice to be up the right end of the table and keeping in touch with the usual front runners. Feels like we have finally gate crashed the premier league party, the noisy neighbours turning up without an invite. Now thoughts turn to Wednesday and gate crashing the Champions League party, with an opening home fixture vs Napoli. Mancini must be kept awake at night by team selection problems, but i guess he'll get used to it. All i will say is today, and our start to the season, has been KUN-Believable.