Manchester City 1 Liverpool 1
A Tale of Penalty Decisions
Sunday 19th March 2017 : GYKO at the Etihad
Sergio Aguero's equaliser claimed a vital point
for Manchester City, who remain above Liverpool in third in the
Premier League after the sides drew 1-1 at the Etihad Stadium on
City were looking to bounce back from Wednesday's surprise Champions
League exit at Monaco and they had to come from behind to extend
their unbeaten league run to seven games.
James Milner opened the scoring from the spot shortly after
half-time, picking out Willy Caballero's bottom-right corner to
score his seventh penalty of the season on his Etihad return.
John Stones should have converted a free header as a substandard
City tried to improve a dire head-to-head record against Liverpool
that had seen them lose five of the previous six meetings between
Aguero equalised for City with a close-range finish from Kevin De
Bruyne's right-wing cross and the Belgian hit the post as Pep
Guardiola's side cranked up the pressure in search of a winner.
But it was Adam Lallana who should have scored the decisive goal,
the England international somehow mishitting his shot from eight
yards after sublime Liverpool build-up play as both teams lost
ground on Tottenham in the race for the second – with Manchester
United now just four points behind Jurgen Klopp's fourth-placed
Simon Mignolet blocked Leroy Sane's cross-shot with his left boot
after 19 minutes, David Silva slicing the rebound over the crossbar
to spurn City's first real chance of the game.
Penalty appeals were rejected at both ends, with Aguero challenged
by Joel Matip as the Argentine tried to connect with Fernandinho's
low cross, before Sadio Mane collided with Nicolas Otamendi as he
shaped to shoot.
Matip headed Milner's deep free-kick wide after 37 minutes and the
game finally exploded into life before the interval.
Milner had to make a brilliant challenge to stop Raheem Sterling
from tapping home Silva's cross, with Fernandinho unable to convert
at the back post, before Caballero palmed Roberto Firmino's curled
shot over his crossbar.
Caballero elected to punch the resulting corner but he could only
pick out Lallana, whose powerful volley was beaten away by the
Chances continued to flow in the second half, with Mane's goal-bound
effort deflected over by a Stones block, but Liverpool were awarded
a penalty when Clichy clumsily bundled over Firmino.
Former City player Milner tucked away the spot-kick, sending
Caballero the wrong way to put the visitors in front, extending
City's run without a clean sheet against Liverpool to 13 games.
Stones had a big chance to rapidly respond for City but he headed De
Bruyne's corner wide. Caballero then did well to save from Firmino
after a superb Philippe Coutinho reverse pass sent his fellow
Brazilian into the box.
But after 68 minutes City levelled the scores when Aguero tucked
away De Bruyne's cross to continue his record of scoring in all five
of his home league games against Liverpool.
Aguero's one-two with Sane freed the striker for a chance to
complete the turnaround but he could not find a finish after losing
his balance, De Bruyne slamming the loose ball against the woodwork,
then Lallana's opportunity to claim the points arrived.
Emre Can and Firmino combined beautifully to set Lallana up for a
golden chance but the midfielder failed to convert and despite a
breathless finale - with Aguero unable to turn in Silva's centre and
blazing over De Bruyne's chipped cross - the points were shared.
Man City: Caballero, Fernandinho, Stones,
Otamendi, Clichy, Yaya Toure, Sane, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling,
Aguero Subs: Sagna,
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Klavan, Milner, Can, Wijnaldum,
Lallana, Mane, Coutinho, Firmino.
Subs: Origi, Lucas
Referee: M. Oliver • Attendance: 54449
AS Monaco 3 Manchester City 1
Away Goals Defeat
Wednesday 15th March 2017 : Denis Greggory for
GYKO at the
For seven giddy second-half minutes Manchester City thought they
would get away with it. They had snuck back into the game, ahead in
the tie, and back into the quarter-final draw.
But they were one goal from disaster and sure enough that disaster
struck. Tiemoue Bakayoko got on the end of a free-kick and headed it
in. Monaco won the game 3-1, the 6-6 tie on away goals. They are
still in Europe and City are not.
This was never going to be as good as the 5-3 first leg but it was
still an enthralling back-and-forth. City were going through, then
Monaco, then City, then Monaco. But there was no doubt that the
right team made it in the end.
Monaco’s first-half display was one of the best seen in the
competition this season. Pep Guardiola said on Tuesday night that
Monaco were the “best team in the world at scoring goals”, and that
City would have to score to progress. Here Leonardo Jardim’s side
did everything to prove him right. They raced into a 2-0 lead,
enough to send them through, but that alone does not tell the full
story of their dominance. They won every 50-50 and looked like
scoring with every attack. With a bit more luck they would have
killed this game long before City could get back into it.
That first half, ultimately, was where City lost this tie. That 5-3
lead was not ideal but it should have been enough to see them
through. But City chose the worst moment of the season to go
missing, to get on the wrong side of a game this one-sided.
For all the inevitable attention on City’s defence, who conceded six
goals over two legs, they lost this game in midfield. In the first
half Fernandinho, David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne were utterly
absent, losing every loose ball and looking, in basic terms, far
less up for contest than Monaco.
Pep Guardiola’s big decision to play Fernandinho ahead of Yaya Toure
in holding midfield was a bust. Toure is their biggest, strongest,
most experienced and most consistent midfielder. He has been at the
heart of everything City have done well since November. But tonight
he watched from the bench as Fernandinho, whose place Toure has
taken, was back in the team and powerless to stop Monaco’s attacks.
Ultimately this defeat was collective more than individual, and it
belongs to the players as much as it does to Guardiola. They were
caught off-guard and as soon as Monaco started to play it was clear
only one team was being serious.
Even without Radamel Falcao, Monaco played with so much speed,
energy and bristling intent that City could not live with them.
Kylian Mbappe and Valere Germain set the tempo up front, pressing
and harrying in a way City’s front three failed to do. How much
talent City had on the pitch was irrelevant when they could not get
a foothold in the game. Whenever they tried to string three passes
together a Monaco player forcibly intervened. City looked weak,
soft, tired and complacent.
So it was no surprise when Monaco took the lead. Mbappe had just
forced a good save from Willy Caballero after Fernandinho was pushed
off the ball. The ball went left, Mendy’s cross was blocked, but
Bernardo Silva’s flew to the near post, where Mbappe put it in.
Monaco were half-way there and there was no letting up in their
tempo. Mbappe had a second disallowed for offside and Germain put
one just over the bar. But the barrage continued and, on 30 minutes,
Monaco had their second. Another sharp move gave Mendy the ball on
the left. Against he was free to get his cross in. It flew to
Fabinho, unmarked in the box, and he slotted his first-time finish
in. Monaco were 2-0 up and had turned the tie around already.
Guardiola needed to change things and he moved De Bruyne back
alongside Fernandinho, giving City more stability in midfield.
Monaco sat back to play on the break, City pushed up and for the
first time controlled the game.
De Bruyne, nowhere in the first half, started to dictate play. He
found Sterling whose cross to Aguero was intercepted by Andrea Raggi.
Then Aguero put one over before firing straight at Danijel Subasic.
Sane grew into the game, shooting into the side netting from Silva’s
But there was a sense of inevitability building and sure enough City
got their goal. De Bruyne darted another diagonal out to Sterling on
the right. He cut inside and shot, and Subasic could only palm it
into Sane’s path, and he did the rest.
That made it 2-1 to Monaco, 6-5 to City and would have been a smash
and grab on the balance of play, if only City could hold onto it.
But they never looked in control for that seven minutes, not against
a team so much stronger and hungrier than them. City were giving
away silly free-kicks and it was dramatic, but not surprising, when
they were punished.
De Bruyne pulled down Fabinho and Monaco had their chance. Thomas
Lemar whipped in the free-kick and Bakayoko got behind Kolarov,
unmarked, to head in the ball at the near post. City tried to get
their second but never had enough. They never had enough all night.
Monaco (4-4-2): Subasic; Sidibe, Raggi (Almamy Toure, 70), Jemerson,
Mendy; Bernardo Silva, Fabinho, Bakayoko, Lemar; Germain (Dirar,
90), Mbappe (Moutinho, 80). Subs not used: De Sanctis,
Jorge, Cardona, Diallo.
Manchester City (4-1-4-1): Caballero; Sagna, Stones, Kolarov, Clichy
(Kelechi, 73); Fernandinho; Sterling, De Bruyne, David Silva, Sane;
Aguero. Subs not used: Bravo,
Zabaleta, Delph, Otamendi, Navas, Yaya Toure.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (ITA)
Middlesbrough 0 Manchester City
2 Stroll by the Riverside
Saturday 11th March 2017 : Keith Roland for
GYKO at the Riverside Stadium
Pep Guardiola will mark his first season in
English football with a return to Wembley, where he won the
Champions League with Barcelona in 2011.
The Manchester City manager will have more troubled afternoons than
Middlesbrough could muster. Guardiola and his players cantered to
the capital and an FA Cup semi-final place.
That did not stop the delight or the celebration afterwards, but a
goal in each half, from David Silva and then Sergio Aguero did not
tell the story of a one-sided game at the Riverside Stadium. Only
wayward finishing and an excellent display from Brad Guzan stopped a
rout. By the finish, those players in blue were queuing up to extend
the two goal margin.
CIty’s lead came early, and it was remarkably simple. Yaya Toure
lifted the ball down the right handside, to Pablo Zabaleta, who
fired a low cross into the heart of the home penalty area. Raheem
Sterling, its intended target, missed the ball and in doing so
allowed it to carry through to David Silva and the Spanish forward
stabbed the ball past Brad Guzan with the outside of his left foot.
The clock read two minutes and eight seconds and Middlesbrough’s
noisy supporters gulped. Their side had scored just nine goals all
year before the visit of Guardiola’s men but the FA Cup had offered
solace during that run. That at least offered hope. Indeed all of
their victories in 2017 (not to mention seven of those nine goals)
had come in the competition.
The decisive goal for the visitors would come, but not until midway
through the second half. Before then it was largely one way traffic,
but the home side could reflect on two opportunities that had caused
Midway through the first half, Grant Leadbitter’s left wing corner
found the head of Rudy Gestede and Claudio Bravo in the City goal
could only parry the ball to his left, where it struck Zabaleta on
the goal line and the visiting captain hacked clear.
The aerial route looked the most likely to unsettle Manchester City
and in the 37th minute Marten de Roon crossed from the right this
time and Alvaro Negredo, on for the injured Gestede headed
powerfully and Bravo parried then saved.
That was as troubled as City would be. Just past the half hour mark,
Sterling’s low cross found Leroy Sane but the finish, from close
range, was weak and easy for Guzan. Silva would do the same, in the
38th minute, with Guzan this time saving to his left. The lead
should have been doubled again in the 42nd minute. Kevin de Bruyne’s
right wing free-kick was perfect for Toure but the free header went
narrowly wide and the player berated himself for the miss.
The second half became an onslaught. There was simply no respite for
either Karanka or his team. It was simply a matter of time until the
game clinching second came. In the 48th minute Toure again chipped a
ball down the right, De Bruyne crossed, Sterling missed it and Silva
smashed over the crossbar.
Guzan then tipped an Aguero clipped shot from a Sterling cross onto
the post and seconds later Zabaleta shot wide. Sane was denied by
the feet of the Middlesbrough keeper in the 62nd minute and two
minutes later Guzan was again at full stretch, this time to tip a
Silva shot around his post.
By now it was relentless. Sane’s curling, left footed shot was
tipped away by Guzan until finally, in the 67th minute, the same
player crossed from the left and Aguero stole in ahead of Fabio to
finally beat Guzan.
The chances kept coming. Aguero saw a shot parried by Guzan, the
Middlesbrough goalkeeper then stopped from Silva and then in the
80th minute Sterling cut inside Ben Gibson and through he had scored
with a left foot shot, only for Guzan to deny City once more, this
time to his left.
That had Guardiola sinking to his knees, but victory was still his
and he will return to Wembley.
Middlesbrough (4-1-4-1): Guzan; Fabio, Bernardo (Fry 51), Gibson,
Barragan; Clayton; Traore, de Roon, Leadbitter (Ramirez 66), Stuani;
Gestede (Negredo 26).
Subs not used: Valdes, Fischer, Forshaw, Husband.
Manchester City (4-1-2–3): Bravo; Zabaleta, Stones, Otamendi,
Clichy; Toure (Fernando 86); De Bruyne, Silva; Sterling, Aguero
(Iheanacho 90), Sane (Nolito 70).
Subs not used: Caballero, Kolarov, Delph, Fernandinho.
Referee: Mike Dean
Manchester City 0 Stoke City 0
Bore Draw against the Potters
Wednesday 8th March 2017 : GYKO at the Etihad
The recent momentum gained by Manchester City in
the tall task of overhauling runaway leaders Chelsea at the top of
the Premier League was brought to a juddering halt by a resilient
and determined Stoke City at the Etihad.
Pep Guardiola gambled on his team selection and, for once in recent
weeks, the City manager’s magic touch deserted him as his side
lacked conviction in their efforts to break down Mark Hughes’s
Considering the stakes - potential second place in the table and
closing the gap behind first place to eight points - it was a
strangely subdued performance by City and one reflected in the team
selection made by Guardiola.
As the first half wore on, the decision to leave David Silva on the
bench and Raheem Sterling out of the squad altogether looked
increasingly questionable although at least City were not trailing
by that stage, for they could have been.
Three times in the opening 16 minutes, a Stoke team looking to
improve on a dreadful run of five defeats in their previous six away
games might have taken the lead.
Just five minutes had gone when Erik Pieters’ cross was met by Mane
Biram Diouf, who might have taken an advantage of a slip by Gael
Clichy, but could only steer a difficult chance directly at keeper
After 16 minutes Saido Berahino, making his first start since his
controversial move from West Brom in the January window, played in
Ramadan Sobhi whose dangerous cross was intercepted by Caballero’s
And a minute later, Phil Bardsley’s free-kick found Bruno Martins
Indi unmarked in the City area but the big defender was unable to
control the ball.
It was an ambitious start from Stoke, a reward for manager Hughes’s
bold selection and decision to play two up front, although after
those early chances, City began to take control.
Leroy Sane, the German winger really hitting his stride in the
second half of the Premier League season, was a constant threat down
City’s left wing.
But the closest City could come to beating Lee Grant in the Stoke
goal was a 24th minute free-kick from defender Aleksandar Kolarov
which the keeper did well to punch to safety as it threatened to
sneak inside his post.
In the dying moments of the first period, Kevin De Bruyne came
within an inch of gathering a well-weighted long ball from Nicolas
But the second half opened with Silva still on the bench and City
again lacking any real killer instinct close to the Stoke goal.
Indeed, it took a strong covering block from Otamendi to make sure
Berahino’s shot did not test Caballero after Jonathan Walters had
been allowed to flick on a long punt from Grant.
The frustration being felt - and, increasingly, voiced - by home
supporters increased when Sane was booked for simulation just
outside the Stoke area after an attack came to nothing.
And Sane almost made amends by spearheading a fast break which ended
with him squaring to the unmarked Aguero whose 18-yard shot struck
Pieters and flew over.
Well before the hour, Guardiola had seen enough and finally threw on
Silva, to replace the ineffective Navas.
Almost immediately, there appeared more urgency about City with
Silva sparking a move which ended with De Bruyne crossing and Sane
mistiming badly with a 12-yard shot.
City continued to improve, with Yaya Toure shooting over, Sane
almost turning in Aguero’s touch at the far post and Silva playing a
superb one-two with Fernandinho and sending a low shot narrowly wide
of the post.
Silva also won a corner, somewhat fortunately, after a dangerous
20-yard shot passed just wide and took the flag kick himself,
crossing for Otamendi to head narrowly over. There were also late
chances for Aguero and substitute Kelechi Iheanacho but City could
not break down a dogged Stoke rearguard
Manchester City: Caballero, Clichy, Sagna, Kolarov, Otamendi, Sané,
Navas (Silva 57’), De Bruyne, Touré (Iheanacho 76’), Agüero
Unused subs: Zabaleta, Bravo, Delph, Agudo Durán, Stones
Stoke City: Grant, Pieters, Bardsley, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Allen
(Imbula 85’), Sobhy, Ahmed, Diouf (Afellay 69’) , Cameron, Berahino
(Whelan 79’), Walters, Luiz Rosa
Unused subs:Muniesa, Crouch, Given, Adam,
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)
Sunderland 0 Manchester City 2
Machems Going Down
Sunday 5th March 2017: Frank Delaney fro GYKO
at the Stadium of Light
The question of Sergio Aguero’s future provoked a
prickly response from his club manager on Friday. “He is so happy, I
am so happy, 10 times I answer,” Guardiola had said. “No more
That will not prove easy, the Argentinian forward once more proving
pivotal, scoring his 115th Premier League goal for the club and
ensuring a fourth straight league victory. He also turned the
direction of a game. For 41 minutes yesterday Manchester City had
their hands full. Sunderland had missed chances and then struck a
post, through Jermain Defoe.
It looked a struggle, an effort to rise to the Premier League’s
bottom team, and then Aguero struck, almost in the blink of an eye,
a move that saw the ball swept from left to right, starting with
Yaya Toure, then to David Silva, quickly to the overlapping Raheem
Sterling, and while the low cross took a slight deflection of the
leg of Brian Oviedo, it was the response of Aguero that changed the
direction of the game. The forward was behind Lamine Kone and fired
the ball past Jordon Pickford before the Sunderland goalkeeper could
flick out a right hand to stop the opening goal.
It changed the game and it finished Sunderland. It will lend
strength, if it was needed, to Aguero's hand if discussions about
his future, which have been suggested, take place.
“We’ll take it one game at a time,” Guardiola had said before the
game. He is learning the English way, but when the goal was followed
by another, just before the hour mark, through the lightening quick
pace of Leroy Sane, he may have allowed himself a private glance at
a league table that is softening in his debut season in the country.
Much will rest on whether West Ham can do anything against their
London rivals Chelsea on Monday night, but the gap was down to eight
points to the division’s summit when the City bus left the North
Importantly too, there is now just a five point cushion to fifth
place and Arsenal and the unthinkable prospect of missing out on a
Champions League place. City and Guardiola have found a way at just
the right time. Victory was their fourth straight in the league.
They have not conceded a goal in any of those games, since the
humbling loss at Goodison Park.
It suggests a corner was turned that afternoon, when nothing seemed
to go right. If there was fortune at the Stadium of Light, perhaps
they carried it for it was not an afternoon without its problems.
Defoe striking a post and then Fabio Borini heading a difficult
rebound wide was not the only opportunity that Sunderland, now with
just one win in their last 10 games, had in the opening 45 minutes.
The right back Billy Jones was the culprit twice. In the 36th
minute, he lost Bacary Sagna and from eight yards his downward
header was stopped by Willy Caballero. Four minutes later, from the
opposite flank, he was again free, this time from a Seb Larsson
corner and headed wide. They were massive chances for a Sunderland
side as desperately short of firepower as the one David Moyes is
The entire outfield side to face Manchester City had scored 18
Premier League goals between them, with Defoe responsible for 14 of
them. They could not afford to miss and that was hammered home by
the clinical finishing of Aguero three minutes before half time.
Silva found Sane on the overlap for the second, in the 59th minute,
the ball again being moved from right to left and the forward
clipped a right foot angled shot past Pickford. There should have
been more. The substitute Kevin De Bruyne shot narrowly wide and
Pickford excelled to stop Aguero adding a second. It was all City by
They will face Stoke on Wednesday at the Etihad Stadium, knowing the
possibility of a late charge at catching Chelsea is alive, at least
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Jones, Kone, O’Shea, Oviedo;
Larsson, Gibson (Rodwell 69(; Januzaj, Ndong, Borini; Defoe.
Manchester City (4-1-4-1): Caballero; Sagna, Stones, Kolarov,
Clichy; Toure (De Bruyne 78); Sterling, Fernandinho, Silva; Aguero.
Ref: Mr M Atkinson Attendance: 41107
Manchester City 5 Huddersfield
Town 1 City on the March Again
Wednesday 1st March 2017 : GYKO at the Etihad
Pep Guardiola survived an early scare to remain
on course for possible success on three fronts in his debut season
at Manchester City, booking a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals
where they will visit Middlesbrough.
The evening was not without moments of anxiety but two goals from
Sergio Aguero, his first in seven domestic appearances for City,
were one of many plusses for the City coach who will have to rely on
the Argentinian heavily over the remaining months of the campaign
given the absence of the injured Gabriel Jesus.
City settled the tie with a devastating spell that brought three
goals in eight minutes after the half-hour mark although the anxiety
prior to that blitz had been palpable.
Huddersfield, indeed, had the audacity to take the lead, through a
seventh minute effort from former City academy player Harry Bunn, a
goal which yet again highlighted the weaknesses in the home team’s
goalkeeping and defence.
First, Philip Billing was allowed too much space to advance the ball
deep into the City half, eventually finding Bunn, via a touch from
Collin Quaner, whose low finish passed through the legs of
goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
The Chilean’s debut season at the Etihad has been one to forget, his
first team place having effectively been passed to Willy Caballero,
and by the time he made an unconvincing save to keep out Jack
Payne’s 43rd minute shot, the home crowd greeted him with sarcastic
Fortunately for those supporters, by that stage the tie was over
thanks to a devastating attacking performance from Guardiola’s team.
Leroy Sane had already struck the post, cutting in from the left and
striking a lethal shot against the right-hand upright, by the time
City fell behind.
And before they equalised, there were strong claims for a pair of
City penalties as Jon Stankovic, not once but twice, appeared to
stop shots with his hand.
However, there was no debate about the clinical manner of the
equaliser, scored on 30 minutes, as Kevin De Bruyne switched play
from left to right wing and Raheem Sterling crossed low through the
six-yard area and Sane tapped in.
Four minutes later City succeeded with a third penalty appeal after
Pablo Zabaleta’s chip into the area saw Stankovic wrestle Nicolas
Otamendi to the ground.
Aguero strode up and nonchalantly converted his 21st goal of the
season past Joel Coleman from the resulting penalty.
The forward was soon played clean through and should have claimed
goal number 22 only for his finish to strike the same post hit by
Sane earlier in the game.
But after 38 minutes Aguero was heavily involved in City’s third
after his shot was parried well by Coleman and the Argentinian
responded quickly to square the rebound for Zabaleta to shoot home.
The fact that David Wagner, watching from the stands as he served
the first of a two-game FA suspension, had made nine changes from
his last league selection indicated that the Huddersfield manager’s
thoughts were more on Saturday’s Championship encounter with leaders
And the scoreline should have looked even uglier for him soon after
the restart when Aguero launched a devastating counter-attack half
the length of the field before slipping through a pass for Sane who
Huddersfield regained a foothold impressively to demonstrate the
depth Wagner has in his squad with Quaner dispossessing De Bruyne
just inside the City half and sprinting into the area before his
shot was deflected behind.
Joe Lolley headed just over, from a well-worked short corner, while
Quaner appealed for a penalty after contact with John Stones.
But with the tie long since decided, it was a question of the two
teams winding down towards full-time. De Bruyne was denied by the
keeper from a 20-yard free-kick before Aguero scored his second, and
City’s fourth, after 73 minutes.
Zabaleta sent Sterling away down the right and the England forward’s
cross was met by Aguero who clinically swept the ball in from six
yards with the minimum of effort.
Substitute Kelechi Iheanacho wrapped up the scoring in injury-time
with a similar goal as Zabaleta’s pass to Jesus Navas was crossed
for the Nigerian to score from six yards.
Man City: Bravo; Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones, Clichy; Fernandinho,
Garcia; Sterling, De Bruyne (Delph 74 mins), Sane (Navas 81 mins);
Aguero (Iheanacho 78). Substitutes (not used) Caballero, Sagna,
Huddersfield: Coleman; Cranie, Hudson, Stankovic, Holmes-Dennis;
Whitehead, Billing (Hogg 67 mins); Lolley (Smith 61 mins), Payne,
Bunn (van La Parra 54 mins); Quaner.
Referee: P Tierney