Manchester City 1
Crystal Palace 0 Hart the
Saturday 28th December 2013 : GYKO
at the Etihad
Manuel Pellegrini may have a point about festive
fixtures. The Manchester City manager is in his first year in
England, and simply refuses to accept that playing two games in less
than 48 hours is a good idea. He saw his side climb to the top of
the Premier League with this victory, for which Yaya Touré, Samir
Nasri and Álvaro Negredo were rested, but it was easily City's most
unimpressive home win of the season.
After the Boxing Day banquet, this was about as appetising as
two-day-old leftovers, and Crystal Palace came close to spoiling
City's Christmas by sneaking off with a point. While it might have
been imagined that City have reserves of sufficient quality to see
off relegation strugglers, that turned out not to be the case. The
home side were in danger of spending all day in search of a goal
until Pellegrini relented and sent on reinforcements from the
"I always knew this game would not be easy," the City manager said.
"We were not fresh; it is impossible to play two games in so little
time, and it is always difficult when only one team is trying to
"The other team just wanted to play for 90 minutes in front of their
own goal. I understand why they chose to do that, and sometimes it
is very important to know how to win 1-0."
Palace were not quite as negative as that sounds, otherwise Joe Hart
would not have been named man of the match for important saves at
three crucial moments in the second half, but the pace was slow, the
entertainment value low and the crowd restless. The highlights of a
stodgy first half came right at its close.
Fernandinho twice came close to scoring at one end, sending a shot
over the bar then bringing a save from Julián Speroni with a header
from James Milner's cross, while at the other end Palace won a
corner to bring a semi-ironic ovation from their travelling support.
Apart from Hart taking a boot to the face, the rest of the first 45
minutes was completely forgettable, just a mountain of home
possession resulting in a steady trickle of mostly uninspired goal
attempts in the Palace half, where almost all the action took place.
Yannick Bolasie did manage a couple of shots for Palace, on the
infrequent occasions the visitors ventured across the halfway line,
but it was mostly a rearguard action from Tony Pulis's side and,
perhaps feeling the effects of their Boxing Day exertions against
Liverpool, City were surprisingly short of ideas about how to break
it down. A goal was required to open up the game, yet neither side
appeared to have enough urgency to create one.
David Silva's attempt five minutes before the interval was typical.
Having shown tremendous balance to keep the ball in play on the
goal-line and evade Barry Bannan's challenge, he then elected to
shoot from a narrow angle when the obvious option was to look up and
find a teammate in the middle.
It was as if City thought a goal was bound to arrive eventually,
which is probably just what Pulis wanted them to think. Jason
Puncheon possibly showed his hand a little early in bringing a
diving save from Hart early in the second half, because after that
Pellegrini sent on the cavalry in the form of Negredo and Nasri. He
took off two defensive players, kept Edin Dzeko on the pitch and
moved Milner to right back, so his intention to win the game could
not be doubted.
After Mile Jedinak forced another save from Hart, the strategy
worked. Nasri instantly gave City more penetration, and he started
the move from which Jesús Navas picked out Dzeko close to the
penalty spot with a returned cross from the right. Dzeko crashed the
ball home and all Palace's elaborate time-wasting was undone.
"We created some good opportunities and looked quite dangerous on
the break," Pulis said. "It's just the final pass or the finish that
keeps letting us down. We have done quite well away from home, we
just need to turn 1-0 defeats into draws, something that might have
happened today but for Joe Hart."
Dzeko almost had another right at the end, again from a cross from
the industrious Navas, but his header from a tight angle landed on
the roof of the net. A two-goal win would have flattered City: they
really were not that good. Whether their present league position
flatters City will be shown in the second half of the season. Once
they have Touré and Sergio Agüero back, and the benefit of a bit
more rest, they should look more like their old selves.
Manchester City: Hart, Boyata (Negredo 54), Clichy, Nastasic,
Kompany, Garcia, Fernandinho (Nasri 54), Silva, Milner (Kolarov 75),
Navas, Dzeko Unused subs: Pantilimon, Lescott,
Rodwell, Yaya Toure Bookings: Silva
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Mariappa, Parr, Gabbidon,
Bannan (Gayle 81), Delaney, Puncheon, Jedinak, Bolasie (Williams
76), Jerome (Chamakh 35) Unused
subs: Campana, Phillips, Moxey, Price
Referee: Jon Moss
Manchester City 2
Liverpool 1 Christmas Cracker at the Etihad
Thursday 26th December 2013 : GYKO at the
Manchester City preserved their 100% home record at the expense of
Liverpool's attempt to climb back to the top of the table, coming
from a goal down to secure the points that took them past their
north-west rivals to go second behind Arsenal.
Two sides attempting to win produced an enthralling contest, even if
all the goals came in the first half along with most of the
controversy. Brendan Rodgers was so annoyed at Liverpool having a
valid goal disallowed he appeared to question Lee Mason's integrity
in wondering why a Greater Manchester (Bolton) referee had been
appointed to the match. Liverpool's manager can expect to be charged
by the Football Association for his comments.
"I was surprised to see that the referee came from Greater
Manchester," he said. "If it was City v Liverpool at Anfield I don't
think we would get a referee from the Wirral." He thought Mason was
not alone in his ineptitude. "It was a horrendous performance from
all the officials. Nothing went our way at all."
Gamely Rodgers withdrew Lucas Leiva towards the end to get another
forward on in search of a point, while City ended up sending on
Javier García as extra insurance. It was a close contest that could
have gone either way, though City had the stand-out performer in
Álvaro Negredo and made a much better job of shackling Luis Suárez
and Raheem Sterling in the second half.
Ultimately the game was decided by what was either a sublime finish
by Negredo or a basic goalkeeping error, depending on your point of
view. Certainly Simon Mignolet did not appear to be expecting
Negredo to attempt to score in the way he did.
Joe Hart, on the other hand, made a first-half save at a crucial
point and seems to be back in Manuel Pellegrini's good books. "It
was good for Joe to have a rest," the City manager said. "He is back
to his best now. The team showed personality in coming back from
one-nil down. We could not afford to lose to Liverpool, it would
have been like losing four points."
City were at Liverpool right from the start, with Jesús Navas
heading against a post after five minutes and Vincent Kompany and
Yaya Touré seeing goal attempts flash narrowly wide. Negredo missed
the target from close to the penalty spot after Aleksandar Kolarov's
cross from the left before Suárez reminded the home side of the
danger of pressing too far forward with a slick pass that played
Sterling into the empty space behind City's high defensive line.
It was a pass worthy of bringing about the opening goal and in fact
should have done, since Sterling rounded Hart with ease to pass the
ball into the net, only to be brought back for an offside flag that
replays showed to be incorrect.
"It wasn't even a difficult decision," Rodgers fumed. "It was a
perfectly timed run and at this level you have to get those calls
While Suárez too showed visible indignation when news of the error
was relayed to him on the pitch, his reaction was to remain calm and
repeat the formula to create a goal that did count. Taking a pass
from Jordan Henderson the Uruguayan again picked out Sterling's run
with a first-time flick, and though Hart this time forced him wide
of the goal Philippe Coutinho was in support and stepped in to
sidefoot past the goalkeeper.
City needed to strike back quickly and did, Kompany cancelling
Liverpool's advantage by beating Martin Skrtel to a David Silva
corner on the half hour, though it still needed a smart close-range
save from Hart to prevent Coutinho restoring the visitors' lead
before the interval. Again Suárez and Sterling had been involved in
the build-up, finding space in the City half and making good use of
it, yet the home side produced some incisive and inventive passing
of their own to finish the first half ahead.
Negredo might have scored a couple of minutes earlier than he did
when a strong run and measured pass from Fernandino gave him a sight
of goal that a combination of Skrtel and Mignolet snuffed out.
Undeterred he scored with his next attempt, when precise passing by
Samir Nasri and Navas sliced open the Liverpool defence and Negredo
shot early and not particularly powerfully with the outside of his
right boot, yet his effort from the edge of the area surprised
Mignolet, who got a weak hand to the ball that only helped it over
the line. If Negredo had spotted that the goalkeeper was slightly
off his line and deliberately attempted to chip him it was an
audacious, almost Suárez-like finish, though having managed to reach
the ball Mignolet should not have been beaten by a shot with so
little behind it.
Liverpool had a brief chance to draw level at the start of the
second half, when Henderson was correctly judged to be offside in
getting in the way of a Suárez shot, before Negredo demonstrated
some impressive ball skills in the centre circle then tried to chip
Mignolet again, without success. Once in the lead City sensibly
restrained their attacking ambitions, pulling Touré and Fernandinho
further back to deny Liverpool's strikers space and leaving just
Silva and Navas to help Negredo forage up front. Hart still needed
to make saves from Glen Johnson and Henderson to keep his side in
front, though the threat from Suárez, in particular, was reduced in
the second half.
On the one occasion the Liverpool captain did break free he found
Sterling in front of goal with an inviting pass, only to discover
the teenager's finishing does not quite match his positional sense.
Sterling put the chance over the crossbar. Had the roles been
reversed, one could not help but feel, Suárez would have made more
of the opportunity. Frustrated, Suárez ended the game with a
ludicrously optimistic goal attempt from a 30-yard free-kick then an
absurdly exaggerated dive in the penalty area when his shirt was
being pulled. He missed out both times, then picked up a slightly
harsh booking for a foul on Hart. Suárez will not stop trying, but
evidently he cannot perform miracles every week.
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Lescott, Kompany,
Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Nasri (Milner 72), Silva (Garcia 87),
Negredo (Dzeko 77), Navas Unused subs:
Pantilimon, Clichy, Nastasic, Boyata Bookings:
Mignolet, Cissokho, Skrtel, Sakho, Johnson, Lucas (Iago Aspas 82),
Allen, Henderson, Sterling, Coutinho (Moses 68), Suarez
Unused subs: Jones, Toure, Agger, Alberto, Smith
Referee: Lee Mason
Fulham 2 Manchester
City 4 A Cruise on the Thames
Saturday 21st December 2013 : Brian Caldwell
for GYKO at Craven Cottage
Manchester City moved into second spot in the
table with a thrilling 4-2 win over battling Fulham at Craven
Cottage. Manuel Pellegrini's men appeared to be coasting to victory
after racing into a 2-0 half-time lead thanks to goals from Yaya
Toure and Vincent Kompany.
But Fulham battled back bravely in the second half to level matters
through Kieran Richardson's goal and Kompany's comedy own goal.
However, City responded in style as substitutes Jesus Navas and
James Milner struck late on to save their captain's blushes and
maintain their good run of form.
Fulham started brightly and they went close to breaking the deadlock
on 12 minutes when Adel Taarabt capitalised on a slip from Gael
Clichy and drilled in a low left-footed shot which the returning Joe
Hart did well to keep out.
A minute later City were inches away from scoring when Edin Dzeko
teed up David Silva inside the box and he saw his shot come back off
Taarabt, who was playing as Fulham's lone front man, was looking
lively, and he had another sight of goal on 19 minutes, but his
effort from the edge of the box was straight down the throat of
City broke the deadlock on 23 minutes with a sublime free-kick from
set-piece specialist Toure. The big Ivorian brilliantly curled his
free-kick from the edge of the box in off the underside of the
crossbar past a stranded Maarten Stekelenburg after Steve Sidwell
was adjudged to have fouled Silva.
Dzeko wasted a great opening to double City's lead just past the
half-hour mark when he saw his shot blocked inside the box when the
unmarked Fernandinho was probably the better option for a pass.
Taarabt continued to offer Fulham their best hope of getting back
into the contest and he fired in a shot which forced Hart to turn
his effort round the post.
Dzeko had a chance to score on 35 minutes when Aleksandar Kolarov
found him inside the box, but the striker's low shot was well saved
City doubled their advantage two minutes before the break when
Vincent Kompany reacted quickest to prod home from close range after
Martin Demichelis saw his header kept out by Stekelenburg.
City looked to put the game beyond Fulham at the start of the second
half when Silva played in Kolarov down the left and then got on the
end of his cross in the box, but on the stretch he could not
generate the power on his shot to beat Stekelenburg.
Fulham reduced the arrears on 50 minutes when Taarabt beat Clichy
down the left with a powerful run and crossed for the unmarked
Richardson to sweep the ball home from close range.
The home side had their tails up and they fashioned a great chance
to draw level on 57 minutes when Ashkan Dejagah sent over a deep
cross from the right which Sidwell flung himself at to head wide
when he would have been better off leaving it for the unmarked
The game was becoming stretched and substitute Navas wasted a great
chance to score just past the hour mark when the ball broke to him
inside the box, but the winger dragged his shot well wide of the
Fulham drew level on 68 minutes in the most bizarre of circumstances
with a comical own goal from Kompany.
Sascha Riether got down the right from Scott Parker's pass and fired
over a cross which Kompany somehow sliced up into the air and over
Hart before nestling into the corner of the net.
City regained the lead 12 minutes from time when Silva sent Navas
racing clear and the winger drilled his shot through the legs of
Stekelenburg much to the relief of Kompany after his own goal.
The visitors made the game safe seven minutes from time when Alvaro
Negredo picked out substitute Milner with a brilliant pass with the
outside of his foot and the midfielder swept the ball past
Stekelenburg to give City all three points.
Fulham: Stekelenburg, Riether, Senderos (Amorebieta 37mins),
Hughes, Riise, Dejagah (Kasami 63mins), Karagounis (Bent 82mins),
Parker, Sidwell, Richardson, Taarabt
Unused subs: Ruiz, Kacaniklic, Stockdale,
Duff Bookings: Karagounis 59mins
Manchester City: Hart, Clichy, Kompany (c), Demichelis,
Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Nasri (Milner 75mins), Silva
(Garcia 83mins), Negredo, Dzeko (Navas 57mins)
Unused subs: Pantilimon, Boyata, Rodwell, Guidetti
Bookings: Demichelis 45mins
Referee: Kevin Friend
Leicester City 1 Manchester
Tuesday 17th December 2013 : John Henderson
for GYKO at the King Power Stadium
The Manchester City goal machine rolls on. On a
night when Leicester City supporters were treated to an impressive
performance from the X Factor winner Sam Bailey at half-time, it was
Manuel Pellegrini's side who hit the right notes on the pitch. A
superb free-kick from Aleksandar Kolarov and two goals from Edin
Dzeko sealed their passage into the Capital One Cup semi-finals and
took the club's tally for the season to a staggering 75 goals from
Although Lloyd Dyer pulled a goal back for Leicester 13 minutes from
time, any hopes that the Championship club had of causing an upset
had long been extinguished. Dzeko's second goal, eight minutes after
the restart, put the Premier League club 3-0 up, after which they
started to ease off and became a little complacent, giving Leicester
the encouragement to believe they could finish with something to
show for their efforts.
If Dzeko's opportunist goals were a highlight for City – the Bosnian
may sense a chance to get a rare run in the team with Sergio Agüero
sidelined for up to eight weeks with a calf injury – the downside
for Pellegrini was the sight of Pablo Zabaleta leaving the pitch
with a suspected pulled hamstring in the early moments. With Micah
Richards already sidelined with the same problem, City will go into
the festive programme without an orthodox right-back.
Otherwise this was a routine win for a Manchester City team playing
with supreme confidence and, once again, provided a demonstration of
the remarkable strength in depth of Pellegrini's squad. The City
manager made eight changes from the side who thumped six past
Arsenal on Saturday yet the starting XI, who featured Vincent
Kompany and David Silva, was full of quality and provided a measure
of how seriously Pellegrini views a competition that represents his
first opportunity to win silverware in England.
"I think it was a very professional performance," Pellegrini said
before expressing his satisfaction at City's average of three goals
per game this season. "It's what we try to do. I said some months
ago, when I arrived here, that I like my team to play in an
attacking way and try to score goals everywhere."
James Milner again showed his worth, setting up two goals in a
typically energetic display on the flank. He may yet emerge as a
short-term solution at right-back having played in that position for
England. On the other flank, Kolarov was playing more like a winger
at times and it was his goal, brilliantly curled into the top corner
from 25 yards, that got Manchester City on their way in the eighth
minute. The only surprise was that it was not until four minutes
before the interval that the visitors added a second.
Kasper Schmeichel, playing against the club where he started his
career, made decent saves to deny Jack Rodwell and Dzeko before the
striker got the goal that he deserved. Having skimmed the upright
with a vicious left-footed shot from the edge of the area in the
39th minute, Dzeko prodded home Milner's deflected cross moments
later, finishing a fine counterattack started by Jesús Navas.
Dzeko's second owed more to Leicester's lack of concentration. A
quick throw-in caught the defence napping and Milner, close to the
byline, pulled the ball back for Dzeko to nonchalantly side-foot
inside the near post from about 12 yards. Dzeko, who spends more
time on the bench than the pitch, now has nine goals for the season.
"Every time Edin plays he plays well," said Pellegrini, who named
only six substitutes because Stevan Jovetic felt ill on the eve of
While the game was effectively over when Dzeko grabbed his second,
Leicester never surrendered and their persistence was rewarded when
Dyer drilled a low angled shot that deflected off Kompany and beyond
Joe Hart. "We were beaten by a very good side, punished for one or
two mistakes," Nigel Pearson, the Leicester manager, said. "The
players deserve a bit of credit for trying to put them under
pressure and getting a goal back. It would be very easy to let a
side of Manchester City's quality dominate and rub salt in the
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Wasiewski, Morgan (c), Miquel,
Konchesky, Knockaert (James 45mins), Drinkwater, King, Dyer,
Taylor-Fletcher (Vardy 45mins), Nugent (Schlupp 68mins)
Unused subs: De Laet, Hammond, Moore, Logan
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta (Boyata 12mins), Lescott,
Kompany (c), Kolarov, Milner, Garcia, Rodwell, Navas, Silva (Nasri
Unused subs: Pantilimon, Demichelis, Fernandinho, Negredo
Bookings: Navas 21mins, Boyata 33mins
Referee: Roger East Att:31,319
Manchester City 6
Arsenal 3 Gunners
Saturday 14th Dec 2013 : GYKO at
The most telling part of Manuel
Pellegrini's summary of the destruction of Arsenal was
the assessment that Manchester City are still searching
for a style.
Those who witnessed this rout and who saw the 6-0
thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur, the 4-1 humiliation of
Manchester United, the 4-0 dispatch of Newcastle United
and the 7-0 hammering of Norwich City, would suggest
City's modus operandi is already firmly in place.
Instead, Pellegrini mentioned the quest three times in a
statement that should frighten other title contenders.
"We have the players and we have to find a style of play
which is good for this team," the City manager said.
"It's a style of play we are trying to work on every
day, to be an attacking team. We are a good attacking
team but we are a good defending team also. In other
games we have also played well – maybe not as well as we
played [against Arsenal] but we will continue trying to
find a style."
As in those previous demolitions, Arsenal often seemed
like spectators as Yaya Touré, Fernandinho, David Silva,
Sergio Agüero, Samir Nasri and Álvaro Negredo gave an
exhibition of their fast-paced, hypnotic
passing-and-movement game, toying with the Premier
It took only 14 minutes to create City's opening goal,
finished by Agüero's hooked volley. When Theo Walcott
equalised, his shot wandering past a stationary Costel
Pantilimon, it jarred with the flow.
By half-time City's ascendancy was restored with
Negredo's 13th goal of an outstanding debut season. The
scoreline swiftly became 3-1 when the impressive
Fernandinho slotted his first goal for the club yet when
Walcott managed a second, a question was briefly raised
over whether City might crumble. Instead, Silva and
Fernandinho gave them a three-goal cushion. In the last
minute Per Mertesacker bundled in a header but Touré's
penalty gave the scoreline a true reflection.
The rejuvenated Nasri said: "We are really confident but
we always seem to perform when we play one of the big
teams. We did it against United, Tottenham, against
Bayern in midweek and now we've done it against
City's travails have been away from their Etihad
stronghold, losing four of their opening six matches
before the victory over West Bromwich Albion and the
draw at Southampton.
"Now we have to do it away from home because we have
struggled from the start of the season to perform,"
Nasri said. "When we play a big game it is easy to get
motivation. Big players will always respond when it is a
big game but now we know the title race is open. We've
come back to three points behind Arsenal and next week
they play Chelsea so we have to keep the pressure on."
Pellegrini said: "I can't say what our rivals will be
thinking but I am sure we are improving. If you asked me
before the game if we would score six against Arsenal,
seven against Norwich, six against Tottenham, I would
say no. It's not normal."
He again preferred Pantilimon to Joe Hart, although the
England No1 had hoped for a recall after playing in the
victory at Bayern Munich. In a World Cup season Hart
needs regular football to secure his place but
Pellegrini said the goalkeeper is responding well to the
"Joe Hart doesn't have any problem. He's not playing at
the moment but he's improving a lot. He needs a rest. He
knows exactly the way I think about him – and that he
will return to the team," Pellegrini said. "So we don't
have a problem in that sense. He is always supporting
the team and is a great professional.
"It's not a question of waiting for him [Pantilimon] to
make mistakes. It's about waiting for the right moment
for Joe to come back. We have a lot of games in December
and January. I am sure Joe will have his opportunity
again because he's a very good goalkeeper."
While Hart should play in night's Capital One Cup
quarter-final at Leicester City, Pellegrini is unlikely
to have Agüero available for several weeks following the
calf injury he suffered in the 50th minute.
The striker, who has scored 19 goals in 20 matches, left
the stadium on crutches with Pellegrini talking about
how many "weeks" he may be missing. It is the only cloud
on a very sunny City horizon.
Manchester City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Clichy,
Demichelis, Kompany, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Nasri
(Garcia 90), Silva (Milner 71), Aguero (Navas 49),
Unused subs: Hart, Lescott, Dzeko, Kolarov
Bookings: Silva, Kompany
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna. Mertesacker. Koscielny
(Vermaelen 42), Monreal, Flamini (Gnabry 72), Wilshere,
Ozil, Walcott, Ramsey, Giroud (Bendtner 76)
Unused subs: Fabianski, Rosicky, Arteta, Santi
Cazorla Bookings: Szczesny
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Bayern Munich 2
Manchester City 3
Glorious City Stun Europe
Tuesday 10th December : Heinz Burt
for GYKO at the Allianz Arena
Manchester City staged a remarkable turnaround in
Bavaria, not only coming from behind to beat Bayern
Munich but producing a performance of great assurance
against a Bayern team that began like aristocrats but
faded terribly as City took the points to finish second
on goal difference in Group D.
James Milner made two and scored one in the home of the
European champions in a final hour that saw a weakened
City team come from 2-0 down to win deservedly 3-2. It
is a result and a performance that will give Manuel
Pellegrini great confidence for the knockout stages.
The Allianz Arena was its usual boisterous midweek self
on a chilly Bavarian night, with City's travelling
minority – no doubt still warmed by the mass tactical
Glühwein ingestion staged from mid-morning in Munich's
Marienplatz – crammed into the top tier of another full
house. Cast before kick-off as at best a half-dead
rubber, this was a match in which City needed to reverse
the 3-1 deficit from the Etihad to top Group D. A good
start seemed essential.
Instead City dished up a terrible one, giving the ball
away to Franck Ribéry from the kick-off and allowing
Bayern to open the scoring after six minutes with a
horribly simple goal. Dante's lofted pass found Thomas
Müller all alone, his chest control took him away from
Aleksandar Kolarov and the finish was rolled past Joe
Hart. Müller styles himself as Der Ramdeuter, or "the
space interpreter" and City's early marking suggested he
was in for a gruellingly thorough night's
investigations. Five minutes later Ribéry hit the post
from an acute angle and from the corner that followed,
Mario Mandzukic was left in so much space he had time to
control, turn and side-foot past Hart.
At this stage it looked as though the final scoreline
would depend on how far Bayern were willing to press the
point, making a mockery of Pep Guardiola's fears in the
build-up that his players would treat this match as a
Freundschafts-speil-charakter (the excellent German term
for "friendly") with the group all but won.
It is a measure of Bayern's state of almost embarrassing
good health that guarding against complacency is as much
Guardiola's brief as fine-tuning his team. On Sunday
Bayern had held their annual Christmas Party at the
swanky Teatro restaurant – complete with "top musicians"
and 200 very special guests – and celebrated what
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge called "a year of superlatives".
Next week they travel to the Club World Cup in Morocco
before resuming in the Bundesliga on 25 January. Little
wonder training was said to have something end-of-term-ish
about it this week.
There was even something startling about Bayern's
line-up here: essentially a back four with Mario
Mandzukic up front and in between whatever the
collective term is for an excess of attacking
midfielders (a feast? a debauchery?), with Thiago
Alcântara and Toni Kroos filling the more defensive
And yet nothing should take away from City's efforts
here. Pellegrini's men regrouped as Javi García and
Fernandinho began to get a decisive grip on that
revolving midfield. City's manager had also made
tactical changes, playing Edin Dzeko as a lone striker
in front of a five-man midfield with Milner and Jesús
Navas on the flanks – it was City's width that
increasingly stretched Bayern – and with Micah Richards
and Hart also included. One can tell it is a weakened
team at City when the Englishmen get a game.
For Hart this was an important night. If he was never
likely to keep a clean sheet he came through without
making any obvious errors, handled the ball well and
played a part in a famous result, possibly even the
greatest in City's European history, despite the result
having no effect on the final group standings.
As the half wore on City's possession was rewarded.
First Milner drew a save from Manuel Neuer with a fine
volley. Then on 28 minutes the visitors pulled a goal
back, Milner heading down a cross from Navas for David
Silva to prod home.
City were no doubt encouraged at half-time, if not by
the 2-1 scoreline, then by the manner of its arrival and
by the sight of Guardiola gesticulating on the touchline
as the visitors pressed higher up the pitch, leaving
space behind, but getting closer to Ribéry who had been
almost alarmingly unhurried on the ball in the opening
After the break City continued to press, with Silva
playing up alongside Dzeko and showing that Bayern by no
means had the monopoly on craft. City were awarded a
penalty on 58 minutes as Milner ran on to Silva's pass
and was bundled over by Dante, reward for a prolonged
spell of possession. Kolarov rolled the kick into the
corner and City were level.
Within four minutes, as Bayern continued to look oddly
dazed, they were in front. Navas crossed from the right
again, Jérôme Boateng air-hacked his attempted clearance
and Milner finished brilliantly, taking the ball down on
the run and passing it back into the far corner with
wonderful ease. City had scored three times without
reply in the space of 26 minutes at the home of the
European champions. "Football's coming home," sang the
travelling fans, drolly. And by the end it was noise
from the City end that filled the stadium as Bayern's
European wonder-year ended on a false note.
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm, Dante, Boateng, Alaba,
Thiago, Kroos, Ribéry, Müller, Götze (Martinez 54),
Mandzukić (Shaqiri 66)
Unused subs: van Buyten, Rafinha, Pizarro,
Starke, Contento Bookings: Dante,
Manchester City: Hart, Richards (Zabaleta 16),
Kolarov, Lescott, Demichelis, Fernandinho, Garcia,
Milner, Silva (Negredo 73), Navas, Dzeko (Rodwell 88)
Unused subs: Pantilimon, Kompany, Aguero, Boyata
Bookings: Milner, Dzeko, Fernandinho, Zabaleta
Referee: David Fernández
Manchester City 1 Cityitus Strikes Again
Saturday 7th December 2013 :
Mathew Capper for GYKO at St Mary's Stadium
Manchester City’s shortcomings on
their travels were again exposed as they had to settle
for a point at St Mary’s. City were looking for a fourth
straight win to maintain the pressure on main title
rivals Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, and it looked a
straightforward enough task against a Saints side
smarting from three successive defeats.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini could hardly have asked for
a better start as Sergio Aguero shot the visitors in
front after 10 minutes. But despite their recent
setbacks, Saints are made of sterner stuff these days.
They gradually began to produce the eye-catching
football that has become commonplace under Mauricio
Pochettino, and a superb individual goal by Dani
Osvaldo earned them a deserved point.
Pellegrini said: “Southampton played very well. Our
major problem was possession – we couldn’t keep the
ball. We played well for the first 25 minutes, but after
that we lost too many balls. That was dangerous and it
allowed Southampton to play.
“Overall it was a good result for us. I don’t feel we
lost two points, unlike other away games where we
deserved more. A draw was fair for both teams.”
He added: “Osvaldo’s was a beautiful goal. Credit to
Southampton, they were positive in possession and
deserved their point.”
Pochettino agreed: “Osvaldo scored a great goal, and
overall it was an amazing performance.
“We have been on a bad run of late but the team keeps
believing. The bad run has been because we have been
unfortunate in a few games. But the players keep
believing and despite recent results we are playing
With his side ravaged by injury, and with City able to
keep no fewer than seven full internationals on the
substitutes’ bench, Pochettino must have sensed the
enormity of the task, which got even greater in only the
Alvaro Negredo had already passed up a decent chance
when Aleksandar Kolarov raced away down the left, cut
effortlessly past young Calum Chambers, deputising for
Nathaniel Clyne, and delivered the perfect cross for
Aguero to beat keeper Paulo Gazzaniga with a sweet
With Yaya Toure controlling midfield, City looked well
in command, but Saints have already shown this season
that they are no longer a team that just submits after
they have fallen behind.
They showed patience and composure as they began to
stamp their authority, almost inevitably inspired by
skipper Adam Lallana, who seems to be strengthening his
claims for a place in the England World Cup squad with
But it was Osvaldo, an Italian whose fellow countrymen
are in the same group as Three Lions in Brazil, who
produced a touch of genius to equalise a few minutes
before the interval.
Saints had already shown their intent when Chambers
headed Luke Shaw’s immaculate cross from the left just
wide of the target with City’s defence floundering.
And the visitors were then caught out as Steven Davis
played a ball down the line for Osvaldo, who initially
looked to be posing no real threat. But the striker
neatly sidestepped challenges from both Vincent Kompany
and Pablo Zabaleta before measuring a curling cross-shot
to perfection, lifting it over 6ft 8in keeper Costel
Pantilimon and into the far corner.
Both sides had opportunities to claim full points in a
lively second period.
Aguero tested Gazzaniga before Osvaldo blazed
hopelessly over after clever play from Jay Rodriguez.
It nearly went Saints’ way in the 72nd minute when Jose
Fonte reached James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick from the
right only to head just off target.
Southampton: Gazzaniga, Chambers, Shaw,
Ward-Prowse, Fonte, Lovren, Lallana (Ramirez 85), Cork,
Osvaldo (Lambert 77), Davis (Reed 90), Rodriguez
Unused subs: Yoshida, Hooiveld, Gallagher,
Manchester City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany,
Demichelis, Kolarov, Milner (Garcia 62), Yaya Toure
(Dzeko 79), Fernandinho, Nasri, Aguero, Negredo (Navas
Unused subs: Hart, Lescott, Clichy, Richards
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Albion 2 Manchester City 3 Close Shave
at the Albion
Wednesday 4th Dec 2013 : GYKO at
The hope will be that a sizeable monkey is off
Manchester City's back with what is only their second
away win of the season. There was a jittery finish as
West Bromwich Albion scored two late goals though even
then the result hardly felt in doubt.
As Manuel Pellegrini said: "It was not as close a match
as the score says but all of us were maybe thinking of
the next game before we had finished this one and in
football you are never finished. They scored two goals
in last four minutes and that's why it's 3-2."
With Vincent Kompany completing a first game since early
October owing to a thigh injury this was a satisfying
evening for the manager. "It was very important – he is
our captain and he played with no problems during the 90
Before coasting to these three points against a largely
insipid West Brom, City's record away from home was four
defeats and a draw to go with the lone victory, the 3-1
triumph at West Ham United two months ago.
Delays on the M6 meant the match began a quarter of an
hour late. The surprise team news came in Pellegrini's
decision not to start with Álvaro Negredo, the Spaniard
who is flying through a debut season for City, having
accrued 15 goals.
It was his replacement Edin Dzeko who proved the linkman
in City's opener. The forward slid the ball to Pablo
Zabaleta before the right-back pulled it back for Sergio
Agüero to slot an outstanding 17th goal in 18
appearances past a helpless Boaz Myhill.
City's second arrived on 24 minutes and was the latest
illustration of the fast and thrilling play that can be
the division's most attractive. Agüero began the move.
He passed to the rejuvenated Samir Nasri who pin-balled
possession on to Aleksandar Kolorov. The left-back, in
for Gaël Clichy who was apparently not injured but not
among the reserves, weighted a perfect delivery for Yaya
Touré and he made it 2-0.
During the opening stanza any threat Steve Clarke's team
carried came from aiming direct balls in on Costel
Pantilimon's goal. Only once did this concern the
visiting defence – when Zabaleta dallied in the area but
a cool touch allowed him and Kompany to clear the
West Brom certainly began the second half like they
believed and gave City a scare when Chris Foy turned
down a loud penalty appeal after Shane Long went down
following a coming together with Kompany. Moments later,
Long again fell in the area when Martín Demichelis
challenged him but this was less of a close call.
It was Touré who scored from the spot, his penalty
following Claudio Yacob's foul on Kolarov, confirming
the win. Then came what proved only consolations for
West Brom through Pantilimon's late own goal before
Victor Anichebe's finish in added time.
It is just under a year since City managed consecutive
league wins on the road, last December's 4-3 victory at
Norwich City and the 2-0 win at Arsenal in January. They
can now end that sequence at Southampton on Saturday.
Pellegrini said: "For our team it was very important to
try to win away and we will try and do that also on
Saturday before we play Arsenal at home [the following
West Brom: Myhill, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell,
Yacob, Brunt, Amalfitano, Morrison (Vydra 64mins),
Berahino, Long (Anichebe 64mins)
Unused subs: L Daniels, Gera, Lugano, Popov,
Sessegnon. Bookings: Olsson
Manchester City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany (c),
Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure (Rodwell
87mins), Navas, Nasri (Garcia 75mins), Aguero (Milner
Unused subs: Hart, Richards, Lescott, Negredo
Bookings: Pantilimon 83mins
Referee: Chris Foy
Manchester City 3
Swansea City 0 Easy Swansong
Sunday 1st December 2013 : GYKO at
With this win Manchester City moved
smoothly into third place. Manuel Pellegrini's team have
a test in Wednesday's trip to West Bromwich Albion but
at home they cannot stop winning.
The record stands at a perfect seven victories and if
City can overturn their miserable away form – four
defeats and one win from six attempts – they will pose
the greatest threat to Arsenal, who remain six points
ahead of them.
Before kick-off Pellegrini had said: "I would like to
arrive at the new year in first place but if that is not
possible then no more than three points from the number
one position." Afterwards he was asked if he was still
confident of doing so. Referencing the upcoming trips to
West Brom and Southampton, Pellegrini said: "I can
answer your question when this week has finished, after
the two games we are going to play away. I have a lot of
trust in this team. We have six games in December. We
hope we can do it."
On what awaits at the Hawthorns, he said: "It's a big
challenge because they are a strong team at home."
In perhaps a clear signal that Joe Hart is going to
endure a lonely festive period Costel Pantilimon was
again Pellegrini's preferred choice. The two saves in
quick succession from Jonjo Shelvey – each stretching
his 6ft 8in frame to the right – suggested it may be a
long wait for Hart.
Pellegrini said: "Costel Pantilimon did very well, he
didn't have too much work but when he needed to be there
he really did well."
Shelvey came close to creating his side's equaliser when
he ran at the City defence before finding Alvaro Vázquez
with a reverse pass that Swansea's lone striker should
Earlier Álvaro Negredo had claimed a 12th in 19
appearances for his new club. The Spaniard drew a
free-kick when José Cañas clipped him, then stepped
forward to thump it beyond Gerhard Tremmel.
At the end of the half Martín Demichelis, who had
earlier headed against the Swansea bar, was deposited on
his backside by the slick turn of Jonathan de Guzman but
Swansea's midfielder blasted over.
The near miss, though, signalled the danger for City of
sitting back and Pellegrini will have reminded his team
during the interval of the need to wake up. He spent
most of the second half prowling the technical area,
hoping to see the further goals that would confirm his
side's 100% winning record before their own crowd.
After 58 minutes the manager's mood brightened. Yaya
Touré slipped in Samir Nasri who produced a finish of
which Sergio Agüero would have been proud, zipping the
ball past Tremmel before later adding a third with a
similarly calm strike.
In response to Real Madrid's reported interest in buying
Agüero in January, Pellegrini said: "I don't know
anything about that. I don't think Sergio wants to
leave. That is not a problem for us. I don't believe in
that." His squad could be bolstered by the return of his
captain Vincent Kompany, who has not played since 5
October owing to a thigh injury. "We will see [on
Monday]. He works normally the last three days with the
whole squad. Maybe he will be fit on Wednesday," said
Manchester City: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Lescott,
Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Navas
(Kolarov 76), Nasri, Negredo (Milner 63), Aguero (Dzeko
Unused subs: Hart, Richards, Garcia, Rodwell
Swansea City: Tremmel, Tiendalli, Chico Flores,
Williams, Davies, Canas, de Guzman, Shelvey, Pozuelo
(Dyer 67), Hernandez (Routledge 62), Vazquez
Unused subs: Vorm, Taylor, Amat, Lamah, Donnelly
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
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