Borussia Monchengladbach 1
Manchester City 2 Germans Gunned Down
Tuesday 29th September 2015 : Hans Gruber for
GYKO at Borussia Park
Manchester City continue to confound. They appeared to be
heading for a night of frustration and a mere draw until the final minute.
Then, the misfiring Sergio Agüero won a penalty after being felled by Fabian
Johnson. Up the striker sprang to slot past Yann Sommer and Manuel
Pellegrini’s team had got out of jail on a major scale.
It meant that despite not performing as they should from front to back – the
outstanding Joe Hart apart – they ended with three points and their Group D
qualifying campaign is up and running.
The XI Pellegrini fielded was about the only one he could choose. The
injuries to Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala, the first choice
centre-backs, meant Nicolás Otamendi and Martín Demichelis were again
paired. The captain’s failure to recover was the biggest miss as Kompany had
been in imperious form before limping out of the opening group game against
Then, a 1-1 score turned into a 2-1 loss and City had again failed to get
off to a flying start in the competition. As with last year’s opening match
defeat at Bayern Munich, this placed heightened emphasis on the second
match. Twelve months ago Pellegrini’s side had drawn with Roma, this time
victory was the aim.
This was achieved, but only just. As Hart said: “We always take the scenic
route in Europe. We didn’t play well today, we were disjointed as we had
been in the last few games. But we deserved to win, we had some really good
chances. It may have come late but Sergio Agüero is a cool guy and he will
After Hart’s goal had twice been threatened by balls in behind the defence,
City showed the intent Pellegrini promised. Aleksandar Kolarov threaded a
pass into Raheem Sterling who in turn squared across Sommer. It found Agüero
expertly. Less expert, though, was the striker’s attempt which was hit
straight at the keeper as he scrambled along his line.
City can be crisp and slick in their play. They can also be sloppy. Kolarov
delivered a corner that illustrated the former. On his return to German
soil, Kevin De Bruyne’s air-shot from his delivery illustrated the latter.
It was compounded by the Belgian’s slip, which allowed Raffael to launch a
counter-attack and the Brazilian raced towards Hart and slipped the ball to
Patrick Herrmann, but his effort went wide.
On Saturday Otamendi was part of a defence that conceded four at Tottenham
Hotspur. Tonight he conceded an 18th-minute penalty for fouling Raffael, the
forward skipping into the area before being brought down. If there was doubt
here – Raffael may have waited for the challenge – Clément Turpin, the
referee, had none. Otamendi was about to have Hart to thank. The goalkeeper
delayed Raffael by taking a drink, and when the Brazilian stepped up, Hart
made a fine save diving to his right.
As Borussia Mönchengladbach rued the miss, Hart remained focused. After a
corner came to nothing he launched a kick down the right to Agüero. It gave
the centre-forward the opportunity to race clear, but for the second time,
he spurned his chance.
De Bruyne was the next to miss an opening. He should have continued his run
towards goal as Sterling crossed from the left. Instead, the Belgian moved
towards Agüero, who was near the penalty spot, and the ball was delivered
into the space De Bruyne had vacated.
Hart was City’s best player in the first half, Raffael the home side’s
equivalent. As the clock ticked towards the break the keeper made a sharp
save from the No11. Then, Raffael waltzed through the City defence, rolled a
reverse pass to Hermann, and this time Hart’s stop was even better as he
rushed out to narrow the angle.
For the second half Yaya Touré, who had been quiet and was lacking match
fitness according to Pellegrini, was replaced by Fernando. The game
continued to be the Raffael-Hart show. Seconds after the break the Brazilian
was again through on City’s goal and again Hart saved his team.
He was the only member of the rear-guard who was functioning as expected.
Borussia seemed able to wander through it at will. There was a corner from
which the ball dropped dangerously inside City’s area forcing Fernandinho to
desperately charge a shot down.
Borussia Mönchengladbach v Manchester City: Champions League – as it
Minute-by-minute report: A wonderfully entertaining game of end-to-end
nonsense, City coming from behind to record a victory that sets their
Finally, André Schubert’s side got the opener they had threatened. Julian
Korb was allowed to go unchallenged before he crossed from the right.
Further slipshod marking meant Lars Stindl was in yards of space, and this
time Hart was given no chance and City were in serious trouble.
Could they respond? Would a difficult month end with another defeat? The
answers came within 10 minutes. De Bruyne swung over a corner from the right
which struck Demichelis’s knee and appeared to cross the line before being
cleared. The officials failed to award a goal but Otamendi did finish via
Andreas Christensen – the on-loan Chelsea player adjudged to have scored an
own-goal – and City were level and relieved. After Agüero rediscovered his
poise at the death from the spot, relief turned to joy.
Borussia Monchengladbach: Sommer, Korb (Traore 78), Christensen,
Herrmann (Hahn 74), Wendt, Dahoud (Nordtveit 84), Xhaka, Raffael, Stindl,
Dominguez, Johnson Unused subs:
Drmic, Hazard, Schulz, Heimeroth Bookings:
Stindl, Korb, Dominguez
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Otamendi, Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho,
Yaya Toure (Fernando 46), Sterling (Zabaleta 90+2), De Bruyne, Silva (Navas
64), Aguero Unused
subs: Caballero, Maffeo, Barker, Evans
Referee: Clement Turpin
Tottenham Hotspur 4
Manchester City 1 Spurs Humble City
Saturday 26th September 2015 : Harry Roberts
for GYKO at White Hart Lane
For a couple of seconds, Harry Kane felt the
crowd go quiet and everything turn to slow motion. The only sound
was the thump of his heart. It was not an easy chance and the
Tottenham Hotspur striker relied upon instinct to steer the
half-volley towards goal.
Kane reacted after Christian Eriksen’s 61st minute free-kick had
come back off the crossbar and it was one of those efforts that
could have gone anywhere. In the weeks gone by it would have flown
off target but, this time, it was drifting towards the far, top
Willy Caballero, the Manchester City goalkeeper who played because
Joe Hart had been deemed unfit, was beaten and all anybody could do
was wait. Kane had waited 687 minutes for his first Tottenham goal
of the season. What were another couple of heartbeats?
Kevin De Bruyne and lavish Manchester City left chasing Tottenham’s
The explosion of joy and relief when the ball sailed in told its own
story. Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, puffed out his
cheeks while up in the stands, Roy Hodgson, the England manager,
beamed broadly. Kane charged off towards the crowd, the emotion
“Maybe I shut up a few people who have been talking over the last
few weeks,” Kane said. “A few people said: ‘One-season wonder.’
People will big you up when you do well and when you are not doing
so well, they are the ones who talk you down.
“It is frustrating but I use it to get my juices flowing and to
prove these people wrong. It is great to score. When you score like
I did last season, it becomes a drug and when someone takes it away
from you, you want to get it back.
“It was a harder chance than it looked, it came quick towards me and
it seemed to be slow motion. I was delighted. Sometimes you need a
bit of luck. I probably have not had that this season.”
When the ball found the net, it was confirmation that this was
Tottenham’s day. And not that of City. Kane had been marginally
offside when Eriksen struck the free-kick but not as blatantly as
Kyle Walker when he had crossed for what would be their equaliser.
After Caballero blocked from Son Heung-min, Kevin de Bruyne played a
loose pass and Eric Dier fizzed home from 25 yards.
Cabellero had a poor game. He failed to set himself before Dier’s
effort; he came for but did not reach Érik Lamela’s free-kick which
Toby Alderweireld headed in for Tottenham’s second, and he was
out-manoeuvred by Lamela for the fourth.
“Two offsides and a set-piece,” Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager,
complained, as he sought to play up the freakish nature of the
result and absolve his goalkeeper and central defenders. With
Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala out injured, Martín Demichelis
and Nicolás Otamendi did not look convincing.
But it was shocking to see how City capitulated after Dier’s
equaliser. Previously, they had been in charge. De Bruyne took his
goal well, even if he had looked offside to begin a trend while Yaya
Touré dragged a 15th-minute chance wide and Hugo Lloris saved from
Sergio Agüero, Raheem Sterling and Aleksandar Kolarov.
Tottenham, though, dominated after the interval, with City’s woes
compounded by the loss of Touré to a hamstring injury. He becomes a
doubt for Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Borussia
Mönchengladbach and Pellegrini said that Kompany would probably not
make it. David Silva is also out while Agüero did not look fully fit
here. Hart, at least, should return.
Manchester City’s perfect start to the season – five Premier League
wins, all without conceding a goal – has been overtaken by three
defeats in four matches in all competitions and there are questions,
rather abruptly, over the quality of the back-up players and the
“Maybe we have shown too much confidence,” Bacary Sagna, the City
full-back, said. “We know we have quality players, we know we can be
champions but you also have to work well. We had to keep playing as
a team, keep some composure and we didn’t have it.
“We were too nice, we lost too many duels and we have to be killers.
It was the same against Juventus in the Champions League defeat. We
had the chance to score goals and we didn’t. The offside goal [for
Tottenham’s equaliser] changed the game but it’s not an excuse. We
should have killed the game.”
It was a glorious afternoon for Tottenham, one to reinforce their
belief that they can beat anybody on their day and there was a sight
for sore eyes beyond Kane’s goal when Lamela was withdrawn to a
standing ovation. The club’s record signing has driven fans around
the bend but there had been flickers from him in his previous three
appearances and it all came together in a driving and decisive
“He’s never let the criticism affect him,” Kane said. “He’s worked
hard on his own, after training, so he deserves what he gets. I’m
very pleased for him. Hopefully, he can keep building his
Spurs: Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Alli, Dier, Eriksen
(Chadli 68), Son (Clinton 77), Lamela (Carroll 87), Kane
Unused subs: Vorm, Rose, Trippier, Townsend
Bookings Dier, Lamela, Kane, Alli, Eriksen
Manchester City: Caballero, Sagna, Demichelis, Otamendi,
Kolarov, Fernando, Fernandinho (Nasri 69), De Bruyne, Sterling,
Toure (Navas 56), Aguero (Roberts 86)
Unused subs: Hart, Evans, Zabaleta, Barker
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Sunderland 1 Manchester
City 4 Machems Mugged
Tuesday 22nd September 2015 : Len Johnson for
GYKO at the Stadium of Light
A soothing night for Manchester City; anything but for
Sunderland. One caused trauma, the other experienced it but the
fallout was not of the drama expected when Sunderland collapsed to
4-0 down 36 minutes in. Dick Advocaat remains the Sunderland
manager. It would have been understandable had he been in the dugout
reconsidering his summer decision to return to the Wearside club as
first-half errors piled on bad luck and City enforced their
superiority with some ease.
Advocaat, however, informed his subdued players at half-time that it
was about individual and mutual commitment and the 67-year-old
Dutchman, for now, is displaying his. Sunderland, it might be argued
by Wearside’s supreme optimist, wherever he or she is, won the
Ola Toivonen scored in the 83rd minute, a header from a cross by the
on-loan debutant DeAndre Yedlin, but the theme of Sunderland’s
season to date is first-half goals. They have now conceded 17 of
them in eight matches. Every match is turning into a game of
retrieval. This is not a sport at which Sunderland excel and it is
back to last season for a clean sheet. Next up it is a trip to Old
Trafford on Saturday.
Against a Manchester City side who have lost their previous two
games – at home to Juventus and West Ham – there was an opportunity
to rattle the visitors early. Believe it or not, Sunderland were
almost City’s equals for the first 25 minutes. Admittedly, they were
1-0 down then – Sergio Agüero converting a ninth-minute penalty
after Patrick van Aanholt’s clumsy challenge on Jesús Navas.
With Fabio Borini sprightly, though, Sunderland came close to making
it 1-1 on 17 minutes. Borini had the ball in the net then but it was
ruled out for an alleged foul on Nicolás Otamendi, a 50-50 decision
from the referee, Roger East.
Then Toivonen ran on to a centre from Yedlin and had a free header.
Toivonen’s effort was straight at Willy Caballero and while Joe
Hart’s stand-in had to tip the ball over, it was from the resulting
Sunderland corner that City broke away to make it 2-0 and
effectively end the contest.
After the corner had been cleared, near the halfway line Agüero
found Kevin De Bruyne who found Sterling who refound De Bruyne. It
was as quick as that. Sunderland’s players were spectators.
Now in the home area, De Bruyne saw Vito Mannone had left a gap at
his near post. De Bruyne drilled in a low shot. Mannone slapped the
turf. Mannone had been one of the heroes of the 2014 League Cup run,
when Sunderland lost to City in the final at Wembley, but this was
altogether different. Nine minutes later, as City made it 3-0, the
Italian was grimacing again.
Flapping at a Bacary Sagna cross, Mannone could only palm away the
ball. It ran to Raheem Sterling. His shot beat the keeper but hit
the post. When your luck’s out, though, it’s out: the rebound
cannoned off Mannone’s back and deflected in: own goal.
Advocaat’s predecessor Gus Poyet frequently bemoaned the number of
own goals. Sunderland managed three in that 8-0 humiliation at
Southampton last October. That’s a reminder that this is not a
unique situation for the club.
Three minutes on from that misfortune, with home defenders again
bewildered, Sterling ran on to a simple, if effective, De Bruyne
pass and bent a shot around Mannone into the far corner. It was 0-4
and some fans made their way to the bar.
Opposite Advocaat, Manuel Pellegrini was a satisfied man. This was
about getting Juventus and West Ham out of City’s system and
allowing De Bruyne and Sterling time together on the pitch.
Missing Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Wilfried Bony among others,
Pellegrini had named a very strong team. The way the game unfolded,
he was able to watch De Bruyne and Sterling gel with Agüero. Agüero
had two reasonable chances before his penalty and should have made
it 5-0 close to the interval – a combination of John O’Shea and
Sebastián Coates scrambling the ball clear after Mannone had been
Advocaat introduced Lee Cattermole for Jack Rodwell at half-time but
it was a token change. City had no need to search for more goals and
with Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Saturday lunchtime on their
minds, they were content to knock the ball around.
Pellegrini was able to bring on the £12m 18-year-old signed from
Fulham, Patrick Roberts, for his debut. The teenager was neat and
Towards the end, Borini had a shot saved by Caballero and then
Toivonen scored his first goal for Sunderland. Unfortunately for
him, and Sunderland, it was a footnote in a drama that ended more
than an hour earlier.
Sunderland: Mannone, Yedlin, Van Aanholt, Coates, O’Shea,
M’Vila, Rodwell (Cattermole 46), Johnson, Lens, Toivonen, Borini
Unused subs: Pantilimon, Brown, Larsson, Gomez, Defoe, Fletcher
Bookings: Rodwell, Coates
Manchester City: Caballero, Sagna, Otamendi, Demichelis, Kolarov,
Fernando, Toure (Evans 89), Navas (Roberts 55), De Bruyne, Sterling,
Aguero (M Garcia 74) Unused subs:
Wright, Maffeo, Fernandinho, Barker
Referee Roger East
Manchester City 1 West Ham
United 2 City Flops
Saturday 19th September 2015 : GYKO at the
Slaven Bilic’s West Ham are turning into away
specialists. Three of their four victories this season have been on
their travels, and as the wins have come at the Emirates, Anfield
and now the Etihad, no one could accuse them of going about it the
This was not quite as gobsmacking as the first two, except that
Manchester City did happen to be top of the league with a 100%
record before kick-off, and did not actually play that badly. West
Ham spent much of the second half penned back defending their
penalty area doughtily while their opponents played pinball around
them. On another day, perhaps with David Silva, City might have
managed to salvage something.
They certainly had enough possession in inviting areas, but the
visitors held out to take the points thanks to the lead they took in
the first half, before the league leaders had fully awoken to the
“We didn’t nick it,” Slaven Bilic said. “If City had managed an
equaliser I would be the first to admit they deserved it, but we had
our goal chances too. This was different to our other wins. We knew
we would have to score here, because with all respect to Liverpool
and Arsenal, this is the best team in the league.”
West Ham are up to second but Bilic is not setting any targets.
“Only the big clubs have targets,” he said. “We are just going to
try to play good football and win all our games. Where it will take
us I don’t know, but it should be a good journey.”
City’s perfect start to the Premier League season included five
clean sheets in their opening five wins, yet it took West Ham just a
fraction over five minutes to put a dent in that record. Taking a
pass from Dimitri Payet and turning towards goal, Victor Moses was
allowed to size up his options from 25 yards before beating Joe Hart
with a low drive. It was not the start City would have been hoping
for after losing in the Champions League here in midweek, especially
as they had already lost Silva to a calf injury sustained in the
warm-up. Jesús Navas was hastily promoted to the right wing before
kick-off and Kevin De Bruyne made his first City start in the centre
of the advanced midfield trio behind Sergio Agüero.
The Argentina striker had missed most of the Juventus game with a
knee problem but started here and could have put his side back on
level terms just three minutes after West Ham took the lead. Agüero
seemed to have done all the hard work in pouncing on Aaron
Cresswell’s mistake and reaching the ball before Adrián, who had
raced out of his area in an attempt to intercept, yet with the
goalkeeper stranded and only a couple of defenders guarding the line
the City forward still contrived to miss the target.
City responded as they knew they must, with Yaya Touré beginning to
exert himself in midfield and De Bruyne showing up well under close
pressure, though little was created and West Ham extended their lead
just past the half hour when the home side were unable to defend a
corner. Winston Reid met Moses’s cross from the right with his head,
Pedro Obiang did well to turn the ball back across the face of the
goal, and with the defence ball-watching, Diafra Sakho seized his
chance to poke in from close range.
City were adamant that the ball had not fully crossed the line when
the corner was given in the first place, though that could hardly be
offered as an excuse. “We conceded two easy goals,” was Manuel
Pellegrini’s terse verdict.
Agüero was having something of an off-day, falling over when De
Bruyne found him in space, shooting wastefully high on a couple and
finding only Adrián’s arms when Bacary Sagna set him up with a cross
to the near post from the right. He made some amends on the stroke
of the interval, however, striding purposefully forward before
squeezing out the pass from which De Bruyne scored his first City
goal. The £55m Belgian did not hang about, beating Adrián with a
crisp shot from just outside the area to reduce the interval deficit
to a single goal.
City could count themselves slightly fortunate that Sakho had not
widened West Ham’s lead moments earlier. He evaded Aleksandar
Kolarov’s challenge to leave himself with only Hart to beat, then
waited a fraction of a second too long and allowed Eliaquim Mangala
the chance to get back and rescue the situation.
That turned out to be Mangala’s last involvement, for he failed to
appear for the second half, with Martin Demichelis taking the field
to join his compatriot Nicolás Otamendi in central defence. City
looked sharper after the break, with Touré rolling an early shot
just wide and Adrián preventing what would have been an own goal
from Reid, under pressure from Agüero.
Raheem Sterling, almost anonymous in the first half, looked livelier
in the second period but kept being caught in possession.
Although Sakho had a brief chance after staying onside and sliding a
shot wide of the target, West Ham were living dangerously by the
hour mark. When Touré turned a tired looking defence he seemed
certain to score, yet with the whole of the goal to aim at he
drilled his shot past a post. De Bruyne was practically running the
game by this stage, showing marvellous touch and vision, generally
to find Navas in particular incapable of delivering a decent final
Lacking any other wing options Pellegrini sent on Wilfried Bony for
Sterling for the final quarter, doubling the central threat but
increasing the reliance on Navas to produce a telling cross. He did
not manage it. Agüero and Bony were becalmed in the middle, so it
fell to Otamendi to produce a late fingertip save from Adrián, and
West Ham had their win. They deserved it too, for a committed all
City have effectively done a Chelsea in reverse. José Mourinho now
has the back-to-back wins he demanded last week to steady a lurching
ship. Pellegrini and his players, after a month of plain sailing,
are suddenly looking at back-to-back defeats. While Pellegrini
claimed De Bruyne’s outstanding debut “didn’t matter, because
winning was more important”, supporters are unlikely to judge the
matter quite as harshly. City crowds like their heroes, and the
Belgian looks to be made of the right stuff.
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Otamendi, Mangala (Demichelis
46), Kolarov (Iheanacho 84), Toure, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Sterling
(Bony 66), Navas, Aguero
Unused subs: Caballero, Maffeo, Fernando, Roberts
West Ham United: Adrian, Reid, Tomkins, Jenkinson (Collins 85),
Cresswell, Noble, Obiang, Moses (Antonio 60), Lanzini (Jelavic 69),
Payet, Sakho Unused subs:
Randolph, Carroll, Zarate, Collins, Oxford
Bookings: Lanzini, Obiang
Referee: Robert Madley
Manchester City 1 Juventus 2
Undone by the Old Lady
Tuesday 15th September 2015 : GYKO at the
For Manchester City, the sense of history repeating itself must feel
suffocating. They have been exhilarating in the Premier League but
then the Champions League anthem plays, the insecurity floods back
and suddenly they look vulnerable. It has become a recurring theme
and in their fifth season of trying to find the right formula they
still look conspicuously short of being a team who understand
European football at the highest level.
It certainly must have been startling for Manuel Pellegrini to see
the way his team crumpled during those moments when a winning
position became a losing one and the same old nagging doubts
returned to make it feel like City have plainly not learned a great
deal from previous ordeals in this competition. Juventus were simply
too streetwise and too experienced, playing with the tenacity and
knowhow that took them to last season’s final, while breaking the
resolve of a team who have just established a club record of winning
11 consecutive league games.
Juventus may not have won a single match in Serie A this season but
the team who have reeled off four scudetti in a row produced a
wonderfully robust response to the injustice of Giorgio Chiellini’s
own goal, when a foul ought to have been awarded against Vincent
Kompany. If City are looking for some guidance about how to cope
with the Champions League they could start by looking at the balance
and structure of Massimiliano Allegri’s team.
Juventus chased the ball down with great urgency but also knew how
to slow the pace against a team who like it fast and frenetic. It
was mix of stout defending, some exceptional goalkeeping from
Gianluigi Buffon and, when it really mattered, ruthless finishing
from Mario Mandzukic and Álvaro Morata.
City could reflect on several chances that would have changed the
complexion of the match but Raheem Sterling, with two of them, had
still to develop a clinical edge. City never look as threatening
when Sergio Agüero is unfit – the Argentinian was restricted here to
a late substitute role – and it was rare to see their attacking
quartet play with so little cohesion. The link-up play we have come
to expect was only sporadically there. Yaya Touré and David Silva
struggled to exert their usual influence and Samir Nasri cannot
expect to keep his place when he is so subdued. Wilfried Bony
provided a couple of the game’s outstanding moments, deceiving
Leonardo Bonucci with a nutmeg and setting up a later attack with a
brilliantly executed dummy, but when he had a sight of goal from the
first of those moments his finishing was wild. “I don’t think this
result is just because of Raheem,” Pellegrini lamented, reflecting
on the difference between the sides’ finishing and fooling no one by
saying his team had controlled the match.
For Juventus, Juan Cuadrado showed more in one match than he managed
during five listless months at Chelsea. Paul Pogba demonstrated why
City thought strongly about trying to sign him in the summer and
their two goalscorers worked indefatigably. Kompany’s calf injury
compounded a bad night for City, conceding their first goals in over
10 and a half hours of play and leaving themselves with the now
familiar game of catch-up. If nothing else, it is not a new
experience for them.
City had opened the scoring 12 minutes into the second half, just at
the point of the match when it seemed like Allegri’s team were
taking control, and it was a goal laced with controversy. Chiellini
was outraged, and justifiably given the way Kompany had been using
the defender’s back to gain a few inches, pinning him to the ground.
Chiellini could not get out of the way and Silva’s corner struck him
flush in the face, bounced off his nose and flew past Buffon.
A couple of minutes later, Buffon produced a double save that had
Allegri describing him as the best goalkeeper there has ever been.
The first was to keep out Sterling but it was the speed to get off
the ground and turn away Silva’s follow-up effort that was
breathtaking. Buffon would later tip away a curling effort from
Touré that was heading towards the top corner, but it was the double
save that had the greatest impact bearing in mind what happened in
the 70th minute.
Pogba, denied an 11th-minute goal because of a marginal offside
decision, delivered the cross from the left and Mandzukic had peeled
away from Eliaquim Mangala, jutting out one of his long legs to turn
the ball past Joe Hart for the equaliser. It was a neatly worked
goal and Morata’s finish was an even more accomplished piece of
centre-forward play. By this stage, Kompany had left the pitch and
Morata was sharper than the substitute, Nicolás Otamendi, after a
long ball forward had struck Aleksandar Kolarov on the back of his
shoulder. Morata was brilliantly decisive and curled an elegant
left-foot shot into the net, starting outside the far post but
bending in to complete the recovery.
“The last two seasons we started the same way, losing the first
game, and qualified for the next stage,” Pellegrini said. “We are
just starting. We never want to lose at home and we never want to
lose important points but we have 15 more points to play for.”
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany (Otamendi 75), Mangala,
Kolarov, Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri (Aguero 82), Silva, Sterling (De
Bruyne 71), Bony
Unused subs: Caballero, Demichelis, Fernando, Navas
Juventus: Buffon, Lichsteiner, Chiellini,Bonucci, Evra, Pogba,
Hernanes, Cuadrado, Sturaro, Mandzukic (Dybala 78), Morata (Barzagli
85) Unused subs:Neto,
Zaza, Sandro, Lemina, Pereyra
Referee: Damir Skomina
Crystal Palace 0 Manchester
City 1 City in Raid on Palace
Saturday 12th September 2015 : Des Wilkins for
GYKO at Selhurst Park
This was evidence Manchester City’s match-winners
are not all household names whose lofty reputations precede them.
This bruising contest had lurched into stoppage time when Samir
Nasri eked out rare space in the Crystal Palace penalty area and
spat away a shot which Alex McCarthy could not hold. From the
confusion within the six-yard box emerged Kelechi Iheanacho, a
teenager introduced as a substitute seconds earlier, to clip home
his first senior goal and establish this club’s best start to a
top-flight campaign in more than a century.
At the final whistle Iheanacho flung his No72 shirt into the joyous
away support, the lucky beneficiary perhaps glancing at the name
emblazoned across the back just to check who had pilfered his team’s
winning goal. The 18-year‑old Nigerian had previously featured for a
few minutes as a late replacement for Raheem Sterling against
Watford in August. Having been signed from Taye Academy in Owerri in
2014, he does not even qualify for the B list for City’s Champions
League campaign, which begins against Juventus on Tuesday. “He’s a
very important player for the future for us,” said Manuel
Pellegrini. “He’s one of the reasons I didn’t bring in another
striker when we sold Edin Dzeko.”
Palace might have thought the worst had passed when Iheanacho, the
star of his country’s victorious involvement in the Fifa U17s World
Cup two years ago, had replaced Wilfried Bony, particularly given
Sergio Agüero had long since departed with a knee injury.
“I had to look at his shirt to check who he was,” said Alan Pardew.
“But then City have so many players. It’s a problem going forward.
People forget that not only are they building a very strong first
XI, but they’re snapping up a lot of young players from around the
globe making it very difficult for everyone else.”
It came at a cost. Agüero had not seen out the opening quarter,
felled by Scott Dann near the halfway line as City sprang on the
counter and Palace bemoaned the non-award of a penalty for
Fernandinho’s trip on Yohan Cabaye. There was contact to the
Argentinian’s right knee and he landed awkwardly on the same limb.
It took him five minutes before he opted to hobble off to sit,
scowling, in the dugout with his involvement against Juve in doubt.
Sterling was loitering a few rows further back and David Silva
absent altogether. Those are Pellegrini’s immediate concerns, though
he was impressed by the debut of Kevin de Bruyne, the leaders’ £54m
record signing. The Belgian was tidy enough. He will click back into
the rhythm of this frenetic division in the weeks to come.
That strength in depth will alarm those who aspire to claim this
title. This is the first time City have won their first five
top-flight games of a season since 1913 – they have won 11 in a row
stretching back to the last campaign – and the gulf from the
champions gapes at 11 points five games into Chelsea’s slapdash
City had to grind out this latest success, initially scorched by the
pace of Yannick Bolasie, Wilfried Zaha and Bakary Sako and grateful
to Joe Hart’s flying save to deny Jason Puncheon after the interval.
Palace had started the day in second place and with Cabaye imperious
and James McArthur just as impressive at the Frenchman’s side they
are no longer pushovers.
Yet once Yaya Touré’s lunge at McArthur had prompted a spat between
Pardew and Pellegrini on the touchline – the home manager
subsequently offered a handshake to acknowledge he had encroached
into his opposite number’s technical area – City steadily imposed
some order. They were much improved after the interval when Palace’s
lack of a natural target man was exposed and should have led when
Cabaye lost possession to Nasri following a period of home pressure.
He found De Bruyne who darted down the line and swept a pass
in-field for the galloping Jesús Navas, outpacing Puncheon and
Martin Kelly, to collect through the centre. The winger rounded
McCarthy but presented with an open goal could only scuff a
left-foot shot into the side-netting.
Palace were relieved when Mike Jones did not spot Cabaye’s trip on
Nasri in the penalty area, only for the 18-year-old from Nigeria’s
Imo State to claim the spoils.
“Everybody in the league will look at City and say that was a great
result for them given the way we’ve been playing,” said Pardew,
whose side had triumphed at Stamford Bridge just before the
international break. “They’ve put themselves in a great position.
Chelsea and the others have it all to do now to make up the gap, but
this will be a very unpredictable year in this division.”
Therein lies the chasing pack’s hope but, already, City boast
Crystal Palace: McCarthy, Kelly, Dann, Hangeland, Souare, McArthur,
Cabaye; Zaha, Puncheon (Lee-Chung-yung 83), Sako (Gayle 68), Bolasie
(Jedinak 80) Unused subs: Hennessey, Mariappa, Mutch,
Campbell Bookings: Dann, Hangeland
Manchester City:Hart, Sagna, Mangala, Kompany, Kolarov, Fernandinho,
Yaya Toure, Navas, Nasri (Demichelis 90+4), Bony (Iheanacho 89),
Aguero (De Bruyne 25) Unused subs: Caballero,
Garcia, Otamendi, Roberts Bookings:
Yaya Toure, Mangala, Nasri
Referee: Mike Jones
Manchester City 2 Watford 0
Hornets shot down
Saturday 29th August 2015 : GYKO at the Etihad
The month of August will close with Manchester City flying and
hardly wanting the impending international break. Four wins, four
clean sheets, 10 goals scored, a club record 10th consecutive league
win, and 12 points accrued is one story of their start. The other is
a ripping yarn of sublime football in all departments, from defence,
midfield and attack, which is shredding teams at will and is
particularly entertaining to watch.
Raheem Sterling has made a telling difference to this Manuel
Pellegrini side. Yet he is the sole summer recruit to have started
any of the team’s matches. So what the manager has done to a band of
elite yet seasoned footballers who appeared short of ideas and steam
in the second half of last season must be applauded.
The XI who started on Saturday were unchanged for a third
consecutive outing. Pellegrini has so far made only one change,
standing down Wilfried Bony for Sergio Agüero following the opening
match, a 3-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion.
Kevin De Bruyne will become City’s fifth major signing imminently.
He will complete a highly successful window of trading for
Pellegrini. Yet the Belgian may struggle for a place given how City
are performing. Fabian Delph, who cost £8m and made his debut as a
late replacement, may also wonder how he will establish himself in
In last Sunday’s 2-0 victory at Everton, City required an hour
before scoring, via Aleksandar Kolarov. This time, 47 minutes had
ticked by. The player who did the trick was Sterling. This maiden
strike for his new club was also his first since Liverpool’s 2-0 win
over Newcastle United on 13 April.
City had been the dominant side and deserved the lead. A string of
passes led to Bacary Sagna down the right. Along with the rest of
his team-mates, the Frenchman has begun the campaign as if reborn,
and the cross he put in was a delight, landing plum on Sterling’s
right boot. Delightful, too, was the run that took the forward into
space near Heurelho Gomes’s goal.
A light and clinically directed volley followed that gave the
Brazilian no chance and the sense was that a goal glut may ensue.
At the break Pellegrini brought on Samir Nasri for Jesús Navas and
afterwards the manager indicated he had been in a patient mood. “It
was not frustrating in the first half,” he said. “You can’t expect
to win the game inside 45 minutes against a team who defend well.”
Of the strike from Sterling, who cost £49m, Pellegrini said: “Raheem
played very well. He worked very hard and I’m sure he’ll score more
goals. He’s not just a scoring player, he works a lot in the game
and is good at one-v-ones which is something we perhaps needed to
improve on. He’s demonstrating that he’s not an expensive player,
he’s a good player.”
Nine minutes after that finish City had their second. Yaya Touré had
thus far been quietly efficient, turning up the gears at will. From
around 25 yards the midfielder pummelled a free-kick into the
Watford wall. This rebounded to David Silva and on the half-turn he
rolled a slick pass to Fernandinho.
It removed the Watford rearguard, it gave the midfielder a clear
shooting chance. This was on the angle, to the right of goal. What
followed was a rocket that zoomed past Gomes and City were two
Those Watford fans who arrived hoping for a damage limitation
exercise at the Etihad Stadium would have been heartened by the
start to the match. City hogged possession as was to be expected,
yet when Quique Flores’ team had the ball there was a zip and
confidence to the promoted side’s one-touch, pass-and-move style of
football that convinced.
In José Holebas, José Manuel Jurado, Étienne Capoue and Valon
Behrami, Flores has a quartet of players from the continent whose
experience and technical excellence meant they nor their team were
intimidated at a venue where Chelsea had been beaten 3-0 in the home
side’s previous outing.
On 22 minutes City moved on to the differing plane they can occupy.
Touré took charge, barrelling at the heart of Watford. He was
stopped, though it required two Watford players to repel him. The
ball squirted to Navas and when Fernandinho received possession he
swept a majestic pass out to the left. The move broke down but
Watford were warned.
They may have wanted to take heed but they could not materially do
so. It is proving tough for all opposition against this City
incarnation. In the ensuing minutes Sterling twice cursed his luck
at not opening his account.
Each time he was in on Gomes and a corner was the result. The
goalkeeper made a particularly impressive save from the second
chance, smothering the shot to turn the ball out.
At the close Kelechi Iheanacho made a first City appearance, the
18-year-old coming on for Sterling. As with all of his colleagues,
the latter had been supreme. And with Chelsea losing to Crystal
Palace – the champions now trailing by eight points – this was close
to a perfect day for City.
Manchester City:Hart, Sagna, Kolarov, Mangala, Kompany, Yaya Toure,
Fernandinho, Silva (Delph 75), Sterling (Iheanacho 88), Navas (Nasri
46), Aguero Unused subs: Caballero,
Roberts, Demichelis, Maffeo
Watford: Gomes, Nyom, Prodi, Jurado, Behrami, Capoue (Watson 76),
Ighalo (Layun 72), Abdi (Anya 63), Holebas, Cathcart, Deeney
Unused subs: Arlauskis, Vydra, Diamanti, Hoban
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Everton 0 Manchester City
2 Merseyside Pride
Sunday 23rd August 2015 : Reece Coverley for
GYKO at Goodison Park
For once it was not hyperbole from Roberto
Martínez when he previewed Manchester City’s arrival at Goodison
Park and declared Manuel Pellegrini’s team had announced their
championship credentials after two games. The argument remains
persuasive after three.
City maintained their flawless start to the campaign with
another display of defensive solidity and attacking ingenuity
polished by fine second-half goals from Aleksandar Kolarov and Samir
Everton posed Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala greater problems
than West Bromwich Albion or Chelsea managed previously but they
found the solutions, reducing the impact of Ross Barkley and Romelu
Lukaku as the game wore on to record a third consecutive clean
sheet. The hosts also worked tirelessly to contain David Silva’s
influence and prevent Sergio Agüero devastating their defence as he
did John Terry and co the previous weekend.
Again City’s class told with Raheem Sterling and Yaya Touré
producing superb assists for the goals. Crucially, given last term’s
indifferent title defence, their appetite to fight for every second
ball, every challenge and every point was equally impressive. Agüero
typified the industry by dispossessing Gareth Barry in central
midfieldto the delight of the travelling support. It is very early
days, of course, but City already appear a level apart. Sterling has
settled in a manner few who witnessed his final months at Liverpool
would have anticipated while Mangala looks more assured than at any
point in his brief Premier League career. The prospect of more to
come is an ominous signal to their rivals.
This was an absorbing affair that demonstrated the early-season
promise of both sides, although only the visitors could sustain it.
Everton were pinned back frequently and had to be patient without
the ball as City, through the mesmerising double act of Silva and
Agüero, wove their intricate patterns on the edge of the home
penalty area. Yet Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka and the focused John
Stones held firm for an hour and, as in the 3-0 win at Southampton
last weekend, Martínez’s side carried a potent threat on the
counterattack. Tom Cleverley’s quick feet and thinking allied to
Aroune Koné’s tireless running ensured Lukaku was not the only
preoccupation for City’s diligent defence.
Agüero began in the same menacing fashion that broke Chelsea last
Sunday. Only 80 seconds had elapsed when he forced Howard to save
with his legs with a blistering shot from a tight angle. He was
again denied by the Everton goalkeeper after peeling away from
Jagielka to meet an inviting cross from Jesús Navas with another low
drive. Howard also saved from Silva and saw Sterling just miss the
Spaniard’s pass across the face of goal, and all before Everton had
orchestrated an attack of their own.
Barkley posed the first test to Joe Hart and was instrumental in
carrying the game to City whenever Everton broke. The England
international’s confidence appears visibly improved after two goals
in the opening two games of the season and it was his pass that led
to Lukaku sidestepping Hart and converting past two City defenders
on the goal line. Unfortunately for the Belgium international, an
eagle-eyed assistant referee spotted he was fractionally offside.
Seamus Coleman went close, Barkley wastefully skied a dangerous
free-kick from 20 yards and Lukaku shaved the crossbar with another
set-piece attempt with Hart rooted to the spot.
Pellegrini’s team controlled much of the contest despite Touré being
in evident discomfort. The Ivory Coast international required
lengthy treatment to his groin in the warm-up and was restricted in
his movement – though not his touch – throughout. But in Navas and
particularly Sterling, afforded the inevitable Liverpool-ex
reception by the Everton faithful, City had the pace to penetrate
and force the home defence deep.
The former Anfield man made an influential mark on his Merseyside
return. With an hour gone City turned the tables on Everton and hit
on the counter. Agüero released Sterling down the left and the
winger waited for Stones to commit himself in the area before
rolling a perfectly weighted pass into the overlapping Kolarov on
his blind side. The left-back, played onside by Jagielka, shaped to
cross but steered a fine finish inside Howard’s near post instead.
The USA international was beaten far too easily for both City goals.
But for a brief flurry, when Vincent Kompany cleared off the line
from a Barry header, Everton failed to produce a convincing
response. The game was settled with two minutes remaining when the
substitute Nasri played a neat one-two with Touré and, with the
struggling James McCarthy guilty of ball watching, raced on to the
midfielder’s glorious flick to loft the ball over Howard. It was
another impressive statement of intent by the men from the Etihad
Everton:Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Galloway (Browning 45+1),
McCarthy, Barry, Kone (Naismith 64), Barkley, Cleverley (Deulofeu
Unused subs: Robles, Mirallas, Besic, Osman
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Kolarov, Mangala, Kompany, Yaya Toure,
Fernandinho, Silva (Delph 89), Sterling (Nasri 76), Navas, Aguero
Unused subs: Caballero, Denayer, Demichelis, Iheanacho
Bookings:Mangala, Fernandinho, Nasri
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Manchester City 3 Chelsea
Battered and Bruised
Sunday 16th August 2015 : GYKO at the Etihad
In a tremendous all-round display from Manchester
City, it was a toss-up between Sergio Agüero and David Silva, the
two central attacking players, as to who was their star performer.
Agüero’s acceleration bamboozled Gary Cahill and John Terry in the
opening stages, while Silva continually found pockets of space
between the lines, relentlessly playing clever passes for onrushing
Agüero and Silva’s qualities hardly came as a surprise but both were
particularly prominent here – indeed, Silva created a good chance
for Agüero within the opening minute, a sign of things to come.
poor organisation and a slightly new attacking format from City
contributed to their huge influence on the game.
Chelsea were unusually open without possession, primarily because
José Mourinho took the surprising decision to play Cesc Fàbregas in
the deep midfield position next to Nemanja Matic. As always,
Fàbregas’s poor tactical understanding caused problems: he left too
much space behind him and Silva drifted laterally across the pitch
into space. Matic tried to follow but could not get close enough to
mark Silva out of the game.
Chelsea were simply too open between the lines, and Mourinho must
have considered moving Ramires back into that midfield role to
provide Matic with more support. Nevertheless, Fàbregas lasted the
entire game in that role – and was not even able to compensate for
his poor defensive play with moments of magic in possession.
Manuel Pellegrini deserves his share of the credit, however. In
previous seasons, City have very rarely played with this much
natural width, because both Roberto Mancini and Pellegrini have
favoured “drifting” players on the flanks, like Silva and Samir
Nasri. Here, however, City had proper dribblers on both sides: Jesús
Navas on the right, trying to get down the outside of his compatriot
César Azpilicueta, and the left-winger Raheem Sterling taking on the
increasingly immobile Branislav Ivanovic. Therefore, City stretched
the play and forced the Chelsea full‑backs out towards the
touchlines, allowing Agüero and Silva more room to manoeuvre in the
centre. Their movement caused constant problems, and it was fitting
that Silva orchestrated the opener, with Agüero finishing – the two
combining via the marauding Yaya Touré.
Many questions have been asked about Sterling’s suitability for City
and in itself this was not a £49m performance. However, if his
inclusion changes City’s attacking structure and allows their two
best attackers more space, the knock-on effects could be even more
significant than Sterling’s own contribution.
City were rarely troubled defensively. Diego Costa attempted to roam
the channels but was thwarted by solid performances from Vincent
Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala, who enjoyed arguably his best game for
Kompany continues to frustrate with his rash tackling – the booking
he received for fouling Costa near the touchline was entirely
unnecessary – but that was perhaps part of City’s overall strategy,
winding up Costa through physical pressure. This threatened to spill
over towards the end of the first half, and Fernandinho’s ugly
aerial challenge was dangerously close to a red card, but it’s rare
to see Costa provoked without managing to punish his tormenters with
quality in the final third – he was unusually subdued, although can
legitimately complain about a lack of service.
That suggests other City players did their job effectively. At
right-back Pellegrini selected Bacary Sagna rather than Pablo
Zabaleta, who had previously struggled against Eden Hazard’s speed,
and City rarely had problems in that zone. The left-back Aleksandar
Kolarov is a less assured defender, but offered a consistent
attacking threat which pushed back Willian, who had probably been
Chelsea’s brightest attacking player in their two previous games.
The only problem was in the centre of midfield, where City lost
compactness in the second half and replicated Chelsea’s mistake of
leaving too much space between the lines. Touré continually pushed
forward, while the cautioned Fernandinho was inevitably reluctant to
risk a second booking. With Fabian Delph and Fernando both out
injured, Martín Demichelis was summoned to play a central midfield
role, and helped shut down the game by sitting solidly in front of
Mourinho protested that 3-0 was not a fair scoreline, because
Chelsea mounted a fightback in the second half – but, in truth, with
Agüero’s early chances City could have been 3-0 up by half-time
Manchester City:Hart, Sagna, Kompany (C), Mangala, Kolarov, Yaya
Toure, Fernandinho, Navas (Navas, 65), Silva, Sterling (Demichelis,
79), Aguero (Bony, 85)
Unused subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Clichy, Iheanacho
Bookings: Kompany, Fernandinho, Toure, Mangala
Chelsea:Begovic; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c) (Zouma, 46),
Azpilicueta; Ramires (Cuadrado, 64), Matic; Willian (Falcao, 79),
Fabregas, Hazard; Diego Costa
Unused subs:Blackman, Mikel, Loftus-Cheek, Remy
West Bromwich 0
Manchester City 3
Boing Boing City
Monday 10th August : Martin Austwick for GYKO
at the Hawthorns
Among all the superlatives that Manchester City’s performance
deserves, perhaps there should be a note of caution attached given
we are only in the embryonic stages of the Premier League season.
Too much can be read into one match, the warning goes, but it was
still a thrilling way to start. City already look better than last
season and it is certainly going to be fun finding out if they can
continue to play with so much vibrancy.
When they pass the ball with this kind of expertise they certainly
make it tempting to believe they must have an outstanding chance of
taking the title back from Chelsea and the frightening thing,
perhaps, for their rivals is that Sergio Agüero played only a
peripheral role in this victory.
Agüero was restricted to a substitute’s place because of his lack of
match fitness but, even without their goal-scorer extraordinaire,
City delivered a performance that was utterly compelling.
They were two ahead inside the first 24 minutes and, if anything, it
was probably just a surprise there were no more goals once Vincent
Kompany added the third just before the hour. David Silva was
exhilarating and there was the hard evidence here why City were so
determined Yaya Touré should not be cut free when the Ivorian’s
agent was noisily speculating about a transfer last season.
His second goal was a beauty and when Touré plays with this almost
nonchalant brilliance it makes it feel slightly bizarre his
involvement was ever in doubt. Touré looked jaded at times last
season, a legacy of back-to-back tournaments in the World Cup and
the Africa Cup of Nations but he appears to have been rejuvenated by
a lengthy summer break.
Silva tormented his opponents even when Tony Pulis brought on
Claudio Yacob in the second half to man-mark him and, presumably,
the Premier League’s dubious goals panel will award him the opening
goal. Touré strolled around imperiously, making everything look so
preposterously easy, and the only minor disappointment for City,
perhaps, was that Raheem Sterling could not mark his debut with a
goal. The most expensive Englishman in the league ran clear at the
end of the first half only for Boaz Myhill to deny him with a fine
one-handed save. Ultimately, though, it did not matter a great deal.
Sterling played his part and no one should be left in the slightest
doubt he has had a summer upgrade. He and Jesús Navas flitted in
dangerously from the wings, stretching the play with their width and
speed. Aleksandar Kolarov and Bacary Sagna pushed forward from the
full-back positions and Pulis must have been startled how
straightforward it was for City during those passages of play when
the statistics showed the away side had 80% of possession. West Brom
were demoralised by the superiority of their opponents and it must
have been a sobering evening for Salomón Rondón, watching from the
stand after completing his £12m transfer from Zenit St Petersburg
earlier in the day.
The breakthrough came after nine minutes when Navas cut the ball
back into Touré’s path and the Ivorian’s shot flicked off two
players before trundling past Myhill almost in slow motion. The
public announcer was too quick to declare Touré as the scorer. Silva
had applied the subtlest of touches as the shot flew under his foot
and that little nick took the ball through Craig Dawson’s legs, with
the second deflection wrong-footing Myhill.
Touré was substituted before the end because of a slight twinge in
his groin but Pellegrini did not seem too concerned it might prevent
his midfielder from playing against Chelsea on Sunday. José
Mourinho’s team will provide much more robust opponents than West
Brom but, on this evidence, the champions may need to put on one of
their defensive masterclasses.
It was too much, plainly, for West Brom and Pulis blamed himself for
operating with a 4-4-2 formation, in his desire to partner Saido
Berahino with Rickie Lambert, rather than having an extra man in
“It was the wrong choice and sometimes, as manager, you have to
accept the responsibility,” he said. “If anyone is criticised, it
has to be me.”
His system certainly played into City’s hands and Touré had far too
much space for his goal as he advanced into the kind of range, 20
yards from goal, where he can be so lethal on his right foot.
Touré’s clever little pass, with the outside of his boot, to set up
the one-two with Wilfried Bony, was played perfectly.
His shot was curled into the top corner and even at that early
stage, just past the midway point of the first half, it felt like
the match had already become an exercise in damage limitation for
West Brom. Kompany’s goal came from a Silva corner, going in off the
captain’s shoulder, and City looked like a team in a hurry to get
their title back.
West Brom: Myhill, Chester, Dawson, Lescott, Brunt, Gardner,
Fletcher, Morrison, McClean (Yacob, 46), Lambert (Anichebe, 74),
Berahino (McManaman, 80) Substitutes Olsson, Ideye, Anichebe,
McManaman, Sessegnon Rose Unused subs: Olsson,
Ideye, Sessegnon, Rose Bookings:
Chester, Gardner, Fletcher, McClean
Manchester City:Hart, Kolarov, Sagna, Kompany, Mangala, Fernandinho,
Toure (Demichelis, 80), Silva, Navas, Sterling (Nasri, 74), Bony
(Aguero, 63) Unused subs: Caballero,
Denayer, Zabaleta, Iheanacho Bookings:
Referee: Mike Dean