Manchester City 5 AS Monaco 3
Crazy Night At The Etihad
Tuesday 21st February 2017 : GYKO at the
When Radamel Falcao skipped past John Stones and
lifted his second goal, Monaco’s third, over a helpless Willy
Caballero, any suggestion that Manchester City might still be in
this competition beyond March felt preposterous. For all the ‘Road
to Cardiff’ banners outside the Etihad Stadium City were looking as
unserious a Champions League prospect as they ever have done.
Of course City tore back into Monaco and won 5-3. It was one of the
greatest games in the history of Manchester City and could transform
how the club feels about the competition. But was it the performance
of potential European champions?
Before Tuesday night there was a sense that the Champions League
could be opening up for City. Paris Saint-Germain’s demolition of
Barcelona did not go unnoticed. Bayern Munich are not the same team
they were under Pep Guardiola. Atletico Madrid are coming to the end
of their cycle. Real Madrid are the best team in it but City have a
better manager. So could a path open up for them?
Looking selectively at the evidence of Tuesday night, you can make a
persuasive case. City have one of the best midfielders of his
generation in David Silva, brilliant again against Monaco, and a
dynamic colleague in Kevin De Bruyne. They have two electric young
wingers, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, who contributed one goal
and one assist each. They have Sergio Aguero, back to his best and
now desperate to prove a point.
More importantly than any of that they have one of the best managers
in the world in Guardiola, Champions League winner in 2009 and 2011.
From him they have an identity, a way of playing, which the players
now understand and which is vital to European success. They could
have scored six, seven, eight or nine goals against a strong Monaco
side. So why not against one of the European elite?
Because Champions League football is not usually this open. Top
teams manage the game better than Monaco did. Once 2-1 or 3-2 up,
they would slow the game down, not keep it open, preserving their
advantage and taking it back to the second leg. Guardiola spoke of
Monaco’s European experience afterwards, but a truly canny team
would not have folded in the second half as Monaco did.
And, crucially, they could have scored more. The reality is that
City were lucky to get away with conceding just the three away
goals. Willy Caballero saved a Falcao penalty and made another
harder save from the same striker.
This was another game which underlined how far City’s centre-backs
are from Champions League class. Nicolas Otamendi lost Mbappe for
Monaco’s second and gave away the penalty. Stones lost Falcao for
the first and third.
It was all very reminiscent of when Diego Costa came to the Etihad
Stadium in December. He too gave Stones and Otamendi a chasing,
dragging them around the pitch, holding them off, toying with them
before pouncing when he had to. The way Falcao beat Stones for his
second goal, in fact, looked like how Costa beat Otamendi to score
That never used to happen to Vincent Kompany but the sad reality is
that Guardiola has to try to build a defence without City’s captain
and rock. He has had to make do with Aleksandar Kolarov and it says
everything about City’s options that the Serbian left-back, who
nearly joined Besiktas last summer, is the centre-back who Guardiola
trusts the most.
Guardiola had no option than to play Stones and Otamendi and he
cannot have been too surprised by what he saw. But he will be keenly
aware that if City do get through the second leg next month, there
are some very serious players lying in wait. Robert Lewandowski,
Antoine Griezmann, Edinson Cavani and Gareth Bale will all have
watched this game and seen how many chances City give up. They will
score as many goals as Monaco did, and will not be as generous with
their own defending. City’s quest for the European Cup may need one
more transfer window.
Man City Team: Caballero, Sagna, Stones,
Otamendi, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sane, Silva (C), De Bruyne,
Sterling, Aguero Subs: Bravo,
Zabaleta, Fernando, Nolito, Navas, Delph, Iheanacho
Monaco Team: Subasic, Sidibe, Glik, Raggi, Mendy; Silva, Fabinho,
Bakayoko, Lemar, Falcao, Mbappe
Subs: De Sanctis, Diallo, Toure, Dirar, Moutinho, Carrillo, Germain
Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz
Huddersfield Town 0 Manchester
City 0 Stale Mate
Saturday 18th February 2017 : John Murray for
GYKO at the Kirklees Stadium
Manchester City face an FA Cup replay after held
by an impressive Huddersfield Town display despite the Championship
side making seven changes.
On a flat day for Pep Guardiola’s side, unused substitute Raheem
Sterling had a drinks bottle thrown towards him by a fan as he
warmed up in the second half.
Guardiola’s main concern, however, was his side’s inability to
breach the stubborn defence of Huddersfield, who created chances of
their own and gave the Premier League side some real scares.
However, Terriers manager David Wagner is unlikely to relish a
replay any more than Guardiola after the German signalled his
attitude towards the Cup by protecting a host of first-team regulars
for his side’s Championship clash with Reading on Tuesday.
City, though, were less than impressive as a pedestrian display from
many of Guardiola’s stars helped Wagner’s men pull off a memorable
Huddersfield failed to make the most of an early chance as Rajiv van
la Parra fired straight at Claudio Bravo in the City goal.
But they should have been behind moments later, only for some solid
goalkeeping and excellent defending to deny Guardiola’s men.
Goalkeeper Joel Coleman dived bravely at the feet of Nolito to block
the Spaniard’s low shot and captain Mark Hudson then made a crucial
clearance off the line from a follow-up by Jesus Navas.
City dominated possession early on but Coleman was able to watch as
Nolito sliced the visitors’ next shot high and wide.
Sergio Aguero was handed a public dressing down by Guardiola with
the City boss urging his striker to close down defenders more
But a minute later the Argentine had the chance to put his side
ahead as his brought down a high ball and wriggled free of two
Huddersfield defenders but lofted a shot over the crossbar from the
edge of the area.
The home side then handed a couple of warnings to City about their
potency, first when Jack Payne saw his long-range effort turned over
by Bravo and then when Philip Billing had the ball in the visitors’
net but was denied the opening goal by an offside flag.
Nolito then had a shot for City deflected wide but Huddersfield were
holding their own and creating chances, with Collin Quaner crossing
to Van la Parra, whose effort was held by Bravo.
It was City’s turn next as a clever series of passes ended with
Aguero drawing a smart save from Coleman.
Just a few second into the second half, Aguero weaved his way into a
shooting position but saw his effort turned away by the diving
Some more fine footwork by the Argentine then took him away from two
Huddersfield players but his pass for Fernandinho was overhit and
There was little happening on the field as the second half
progressed, with the main talking point occurring on the touchline,
where a bottle was thrown from the home supporters in the direction
of Sterling as the substitute went through his stretches.
Back on the field, Navas reached the byline by beating full-back Jon
Gorenc Stanko but his cross from the right evaded all of his
City forced a corner which was delivered by substitute Kevin De
Bruyne but John Stones’ header looped harmlessly over.
Huddersfield (4-2-3-1): Coleman; Cranie, Hudson, Stankovic,
Holmes-Dennis; Whitehead, Billing; Lolley (Wells 59), Payne (Brown
72), Van La Parra (Kachunga 59); Quaner. Subs not used: Ward, Smith,
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Bravo, Zabaleta, Stones, Otamendi,
Kolarov (Sagna 78); Fernando, Delph (De Bruyne 69); Navas,
Fernandinho, Nolito (Sane 69); Aguero. Subs not used: Caballero,
Sterling, Iheanacho, A Garcia.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)
Bournemouth 0 Manchester City 2
Saturday 11th February 2017 : George Power for
GYKO at the Vitality Stadium
If anyone is going to push Chelsea for the title,
it will be Manchester City. They are unlikely to do it, of course,
and are still eight points behind Antonio Conte’s big blue
with just 13 games left. But City, on this evidence, are easily the
second best team in the country.
This was City’s fourth win in a row, an impressing 2-0 seeing-off of
a competitive energetic Bournemouth side in the bitterest coastal
cold. Maybe they did not play quite as well as in their recent wins
at Selhurst Park and the London Stadium. But at this stage of the
season no-one is turning their nose up at an away win.
City did not just have to overcome Bournemouth but the disruption of
Gabriel Jesus, their new talisman, limping off after just 14
minutes. He injured his foot and will be assessed on Tuesday,
although his injury did open up the door to Sergio Aguero, not a bad
Plan B, and the man who helped to deliver the second goal, via a
deflection off Tyrone Mings.
But even without Gabriel City still cut through Bournemouth,
creating enough chances to win the game by a distance. It was all
orchestrated by David Silva, performing at his brilliant best,
playing as well as he ever has done this season. He controlled the
whole game, seeing space, moving into it, always two steps ahead of
every Bournemouth opponent. He was roared off by the City fans at
the end and grabbed in a hug by Pep Guardiola, clearly still at 31
playing as well as he ever has, which after his career is saying
After City’s early rhythm was disrupted by Bournemouth’s pressing
and the injury to Gabriel, it was Silva who took control of the game
and made sure City stayed on top.
Pep Guardiola wanted Leroy Sane running at Adam Smith, and David
Silva’s job was to give Sane the ball. The third time he did it,
Smith slipped and Sane pulled the ball back to Raheem Sterling. He
took a touch but Cook read his shot, diving to deflect it onto the
post. The next time City tried that move they scored. Again, Silva
found Sane, bursting forward. His low cross hit Cook and bounced up
to the far post. Sterling read it fastest, putting the ball in
before anyone else could react.
Bournemouth thought they had hit straight back when Josh King
whipped in Jordon Ibe’s cross only for Neil Swarbrick to belatedly
flag for a foul by King on Stones which was far from obvious in
Bournemouth continued to pin City back at the start of the second
half and with Benik Afobe now up front alongside King, they had real
presence to their press. City were forced to defend, which they do
not like doing, while they hoped for a second on the break.
Just when City were starting to get anxious, when Willy Caballero
had to save from Harry Arter, they finally scored their second.
After so much joy with Sane running at Smith, this time it was
Sterling, one on one with the right back, beating him down to the
by-line with a brilliant step-over. Sterling pulled the ball back to
the near post where Aguero and Tyrone Mings slid for it, jointly
diverting the ball into the net. It was an own goal, although Aguero
celebrated with the enthusiasm of a man who had proven his value to
the team once again.
That was the end of the game and City’s only regret is that they did
not add a deserved third when they started to turn the screw on a
tiring Bournemouth in the final 10 minutes. Sane blasted one against
the bar and then ran in behind zipping his shot just wide. He should
have scored a goal given how well he played but that can wait. City
take the points back to Manchester, trying to keep the pressure on
Chelsea if they can.
AFC Bournemouth (4-1-4-1): Boruc; Smith, Francis (Mings, 22), Cook,
Daniels; Surman; Ibe, Wilshere (Afobe, 45), Arter, Fraser; King.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Caballero; Sagna, Stones, Kolarov,
Fernandinho; De Bruyne, Toure, Silva; Sterling, Gabriel (Aguero,
. Referee: N. Swarbrick
Manchester City 2 Swansea City
1 Jesus Late Show
Sunday 5th February 2017 : GYKO at the Etihad
There used to be a banner at Anfield: “Jesus
Saves – Rush Scores from the Rebound”. Here, just when Manchester
City needed it most, Gabriel Jesus scored from the rebound to ensure
Manchester City’s second successive victory since his arrival.
It was, however, nothing like the 4-0 evisceration of West Ham with
which the 19-year-old from Sao Paulo had announced himself on
Wednesday night. It was an afternoon which Manchester City dominated
then squandered before Jesus rescued the game in stoppage time with
a header that was directed straight at Lukasz Fabianski.
In a first half Manchester City had dominated the Swansea keeper had
pulled many more difficult saves but he was unable to hold to the
ball and Jesus did the rest. Manchester City clambered back into the
Champions League places above Arsenal and point behind Tottenham but
fully 10 adrift of Chelsea.
When the final whistle sounded, Gylfi Sigurdsson, who had scored
Swansea’s equaliser from the edge of the area and had struck the
post with a free-kick, shook his head and looked distraught. Had you
asked anyone who had travelled from south Wales their expectations
at half time, the majority would have hoped Swansea would escape
complete humiliation so dominant were Manchester City.
Sigurdsson had almost pulled off the kind of sporting upset he and
his band of Icelandic warriors had inflicted on England on the Cote
d’Azur. A first-half heat map of the Manchester City area would have
resembled a piece of Siberian tundra. Willy Caballero did not have a
shot aimed at his goal. The City keeper might have finished on the
Whenever Pep Guardiola was asked about what reinforcements
Manchester City could expect in the January transfer window, he
would smile and say “Jesus is coming”. Since the question was asked
rather a lot in the run-up to Christmas, it was quite a good line
from the City manager.
And yet with his players struggling to regain any kind of rhythm it
seemed Guardiola was pinning an awful lot of hopes on a Brazilian
teenager. After two matches, which have produced three goals, three
assists and two victories you could understand what lay behind
Guardiola’s smile. The boy from Sao Paulo carries with him the
electricity that must have accompanied Colin Bell’s first games for
Manchester City half a century before.
As he drove home, Guardiola would have asked himself why his team
had not finished off this match before the interval and why they
were so sluggish after it. Swansea, demonstrating the kind of
resilience that Paul Clement has begun to instil, did not just
threaten through Sigurdsson. A header from Alfie Mawson also flashed
past Caballero’s post.
Manchester City’s emphatic start to the season under Guardiola that
comprised of 10 straight victories, culminated with a 3-1 win over
Swansea. After that came a frantic 3-3 draw with Celtic at Parkhead
in the Champions League and, bit by bit, the aura that surrounded
Guardiola began to be chipped away.
It was just Swansea’s luck that their return fixture against
Manchester City should coincide with the return of Manchester City
swagger and for 45 minutes they were pulled and pushed apart. Jesus’
first attempt at goal, a side-footed shot over the bar, arrived
after one minute and 58 seconds.
After 11 minutes, David Silva had squeezed his way through a
sandwich of Kyle Naughton and Federico Fernandez and played the ball
back for Raheem Sterling. His shot was blocked but Jesus anticipated
the rebound quicker than Jack Cork and City were ahead.
Sterling might have had a penalty rather than a booking for diving
when he clattered into Fabianski but it seemed this was a game City
were bound to win. A free-kick from Yaya Toure, placed languidly
over the wall drew a very fine save and one moment saw Jesus
surrounded by seven white shirts as he advanced with the ball. There
is a photo of Diego Maradona playing against Belgium in the 1986
World Cup that looks very similar and right now the comparisons do
not seem that outrageous.
Manchester City (4-1-4-1): Cababllero; Fernandinho, Stones, Kolarov,
Clichy; Fernandinho, Toure; Sterling (Aguero 83), De Bruyne
(Zabaleta 78), Silva (Fernando 90), Sane; Jesus.
Substitutes: Bravo, Kompany, Navas, Delph.
Swansea City (4-5-1): Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson,
Olsson; Routledge (Narsingh 65), Fer, Cork, Carroll (Dyer 75),
Sigurdsson; Llorente (Baston 83).
Substitutes: Nordfeldt, Amat, Britton, Baston, Kingsley.
Referee: M Dean (Merseyside)