November  2015 - Reports
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Manchester City 3 Southampton 1    Saints Sunk
Saturday 28th November 2015 : GYKO at the Etihad


Perhaps Manchester City prove little by swatting aside lesser sides on their own turf, but they remain very good at it. After a chastening week that included defeats to Liverpool and Juventus, they produced a characteristic rejoinder. Emphatic in attack, if brittle in defence, a team with a solitary goal in their previous three outings struck three times. “It was a very important reaction,” said their manager, Manuel Pellegrini.

Southampton arrived at the Etihad Stadium boasting an unbeaten away record. They battled valiantly to preserve it departed defeated.

If a 13th win in 15 home league games rendered this the same old City, a first league victory in November was nonetheless fashioned by newcomers. Summer signings starred. Raheem Sterling emerged from a personal slump to make the opener. Kevin de Bruyne had endured the longest barren run of his time at the Etihad Stadium, his previous four games yielding neither a goal nor an assist, but the he broke the deadlock and created Aleksandar Kolarov’s clincher.

Fabian Delph’s City career had lasted four months and encompassed two hamstring injuries before his maiden competitive start. It produced a goal. The blight on City’s day came with the sight of their top scorer hobbling off. Sergio Agüero has not completed a game since September. He was never due to finish this, but the manner of his exit was worrying, if not for his manager. “He was not going to play more than 65 minutes,” said Pellegrini. “He had a pain in his heel but it was nothing important.”

City must hope their often vague manager is right. It looked as though Agüero, who returned only a week ago from a month on the sidelines, had landed awkwardly on his ankle. He will be assessed on Sunday.

If City seem disproportionately dependent on Agüero, they could at least savour the return of substitute David Silva, following a nine-game absence, and further proof they can source goals from other departments of the pitch. A winger, a midfielder and a full-back scored.

Sterling almost supplied the breakthrough in the first minute and, when it did come, the manner of it was instructive.

City had been unsettled by Liverpool’s relentless pressing seven days earlier. They borrowed a trick from their tormentors’ handbook. It proved equally effective. Bacary Sagna had had his pocket picked by Philippe Coutinho when Liverpool struck first last weekend. This time the visiting right-back, Maya Yoshida, was robbed by Sterling. He accelerated clear and centred. De Bruyne was afforded a tap-in.

Delph drilled in the second, aided by a sizeable deflection off Virgil van Dijk, but Southampton could not, and did not, pronounce themselves unfortunate.

Seconds earlier, Steven Davis had escaped a red card. Fernandinho had met De Bruyne’s corner with a powerful header. Lurking on the line, the Northern Ireland captain seemed to use his left arm to turn the ball past the post. The referee, Roger East, awarded a corner. His haplessness proved a recurring theme.
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“There were strange decisions,” the Southampton manager, Ronald Koeman, said. “I had a talk with Pellegrini and we were both surprised about the referee.” Not that odd decision-making was confined to the official. Koeman omitted his first-choice right-back, Cédric Soares, for the blundering Yoshida.

“If you lose the ball to players like Sterling, you know they will punish you,” the Dutchman said. “Maybe we were lucky to be only 2-0 [down] after 20 minutes because we lost every ball.”

Southampton’s carelessness was compounded as they neglected to select a trump card. Dusan Tadic was introduced at the break and looked a catalyst for a comeback. Sadio Mané, who was then shifted to the right flank, crossed for Shane Long to deliver a bullet header. Tadic sashayed his way through as the City defence parted obligingly. An equaliser beckoned.

“We had the best chance to score the 2-2,” said Koeman, but his side were twice denied. Willy Cabellero clawed Tadic’s shot away. Fernandinho seemed to handle Long’s follow-up effort. Consistent if nothing else, East again refused to award a penalty.

City threatened to squander their lead. “I was concerned, of course,” Pellegrini said. Kolarov allayed his fears, drilling in City’s third goal after De Bruyne, as if using a sand wedge, chipped the ball to the far post. “That killed the game,” Koeman accepted.

Manchester City:Caballero, Sagna, Demichelis, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Delph (Fernando 70), Toure, De Bruyne, Sterling (Silva 75), Aguero (Bony 64)       Unused subs: Wright, Clichy, Navas, Iheanacho       Bookings: Demichelis

Southampton: Stekelenburg, Bertrand, Fonte (Caulker 36), van Dijk, Yoshida, S Davis, Wanyama, Romeu (Tadic 46), Ward-Prowse (Juanmi 76), Mane, Long        Unused subs: K Davis, Clasie, Martina, Ramirez    Bookings: Ward-Prowse

Referee: Roger East            Att:54,102

Juventus 1 Manchester City 0     The Old Lady Sinks City
Wednesday 25th November 2015 : Stuart Warburton for GYKO at the

Manchester City’s hopes of winning the group and obtaining an attractive last-16 draw are remote following this reverse. They must defeat Borussia Mönchengladbach and hope Sevilla beat Juventus in the final round to do so.

A disappointing evening was summed up by the excellent Joe Hart having to be replaced near the end by Willy Caballero. “It is impossible to know how serious. He has a problem with his hamstring,” said Manuel Pellegrini – although the Englishman indicated after the game that it was nothing serious. “He has been carrying a problem in his back. If for some reason he cannot play I have trust in Willy. It is impossible to know at the moment.”
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Of the result the manager said: “Both teams played well and we were unlucky to lose. The group is not finished. We have to wait on Juve playing Sevilla away from home. That is a difficult game.”

Before kick-off, the fare was pure theatre. To the sound of a booming PA, the tifosi waved black and white flags and one stand of the soberly named Juventus Stadium spelled out Juve in a bout of Broadway-standard stage management.

A first opening emerged when Mario Mandzukic was found but his header was misdirected. Paul Pogba produced a drag-back and pass with his heel but Felix Brych blew for offside, and then City had the best chance thus far.

Kevin De Bruyne crossed and Yaya Touré tangled with Giorgio Chiellini. The ball broke to Fernandinho who should have scored but he blasted over.

Immediately, City paid. Juve moved up the other end, Alex Sandro curved the ball in from his left corridor, and Mandzukic volleyed beyond Hart. Nicolás Otamendi appealed to Brych for a foul but he had allowed the striker to move the wrong side so had himself to blame for the tumble that followed the pair’s grapple.

The ease with which City had fallen for a sucker punch was similar to Saturday’s debacle at the Etihad Stadium, where Liverpool were 2-0 ahead inside 23 minutes and City ended up on the wrong end of a 4-1 drubbing. At least they were only one behind after 24 minutes here.
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Yet moments later Juve’s advantage was nearly doubled. The excellent Pogba was again the visitors’ tormentor. This time he zipped into a yard of turf along the left and flashed the ball past Hart; when Gaël Clichy tried to clear the ball stuck and he was fortunate no opposing player was near.

It has become a hoary chestnut because it is true: when Vincent Kompany is absent City can be disorganised and hapless at the back. The next illustration came when Stephan Lichtsteiner had time to cushion a header into Mandzukic and the Croat’s instant hit forced a fine save from Hart.

This was now a test for City. They had been second best so could they soak up the punishment and find a way back into the contest? As long as it remained 1-0 there was every chance, though the corollary was they had to take any opportunity.

When De Bruyne sent a free-kick straight out from an advanced position on the right this was wasteful. But the closing minutes of the half were spent near Juve’s goal, which was an encouragement, though Lichtsteiner again exposed the defence when racing clear of Clichy. Eventually, he ran out of space.

Just before half-time, Sergio Agüero was put in by a loose back pass from Claudio Marchisio and the 37-year-old Gianluigi Buffon showed his enduring class by smothering the peril.

For this penultimate Group D match, Pellegrini had retained the strategy that damaged Sevilla in the previous outing. This has Touré released to operate further ahead and two holding players behind him, Fernando and Fernandinho.

Now, City came close to the equaliser. De Bruyne’s corner was headed by Fernando at Buffon, who mishandled on to his left post before recovering as Touré closed in.

Massimiliano Allegri made the first change. To be able to swap Álvaro Morata for Mandzukic is a sweet option, and there was nearly an instant dividend. The No9 chipped Hart and Stefano Sturaro’s attempt rebounded from the right post.

As the hour passed Pellegrini had made one switch but this was hardly an attacking one, as Fabian Delph entered for Fernandinho.

Sterling was introduced with around 20 minutes left – replacing Agüero – and he spurned a late chance. It was the story for City throughout but at least they had already qualified.

Teams
Juventus: Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner, Sturaro, Marchisio, Pogba, Alex Sandro (Evra 78), Mandzukic (Morata 56), Dybala (Cuadrado 82)      Unused subs: Neto, Rugani, Lemina, , Zaza

Manchester City:Hart (Caballero 81), Sagna, Demichelis, Otamendi, Clichy, Fernando, Toure, Fernandinho (Delph 60), Navas, De Bruyne, Aguero (Sterling 69)        Unused subs: Maffeo, Adarabioyo, Kolarov, Celina        Bookings: Fernandinho, Navas, Sagna

Referee: Felix Brych (Germany)         Attendance 50,363

Manchester City 1 Liverpool 4     Mauled by the Scousers
Saturday 21st November 2015 : GYKO at the Etihad

Jürgen Klopp stated the next challenge for Liverpool was to dismantle a team at Anfield as convincingly as they did Manchester City on their own patch in this memorable display on Saturday.

The 4-1 score line might have been 8-1 as City suffered what their manager, Manuel Pellegrini, labelled a “collective failure”, yet Klopp urged his men to show they can be consistent and produce a performance like this before their own supporters when Swansea City visit on Sunday.

Liverpool have now beaten Chelsea (3-1) and City away and Klopp said: “I would love to win a game like this at Anfield. That’s the next challenge. We have Swansea coming but I don’t know that much about them yet. We lost to [Crystal] Palace so we have to find a solution and we will.”

That defeat came in Liverpool’s last home match. Since the German became manager on 8th October the Reds have played eight times and lost only that once. There have been three draws, though, and no league victories at Anfield.

This victory over City was a triumph for Klopp’s pressing ethos – the quick switch from attack to a high press – as City were cast as hapless patsies who made countless errors and gave up possession cheaply.

For Liverpool the only sour note was the hamstring injury to Philippe Coutinho which the Brazilian, who was substituted, suggested may be serious. The club will decide on Monday if he requires a scan.

Klopp feels his players are starting to believe in themselves but have to keep on believing. He said: “If you are stuck in the forest and it’s dark and you are afraid and someone tells you not to be then it doesn’t work. It’s your own mind. Only you can affect that. We need the confidence in ourselves – we cannot switch the lamp on and off, on and off. So it’s very good against City but we have to work [more]. We are not satisfied. At 3-1 the game could have changed. They went 4-4-2 in the second half and it was difficult.”

Sergio Agüero’s sweetly curled 25-yard strike had pulled the contest back to 3-1 just before the break. Yet Eliaquim Mangala’s own goal and finishes from Coutinho and Roberto Firmino – both of whom were excellent – had allowed Liverpool to race 3-0 ahead after 32 minutes.

Klopp was correct about the course of the match potentially changing at 3-1, except that his side continued to dominate and Martin Skrtel emphasised that superiority when he made it four as the end neared.

Liverpool’s next eight league games are against Swansea City, Southampton, Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion, Watford, Leicester City, Sunderland and West Ham United. This takes them to the 13 January when Arsenal visit Anfield. If Klopp’s side can replicate this form they could take all or the lion’s share of the 24 points available. They stand ninth, eight points behind the leaders, Leicester. The title may well be beyond Liverpool but the Champions League is surely a realistic possibility.

“It’s only OK that you ask this if you ask it as well after we lose,” said Klopp. “We can’t change our targets just because we have won. We don’t have to think about this. Our situation is difficult enough. But we played very well [against City].

“We have to be very careful. If something serious happens [to players] then we have a big problem. We have to work, that’s all. Somebody asks us if we can go to the top then it’s not my problem. I don’t think that way. The money is in the Champions League but I can’t promise it now. It’s hard work. They changed the manager here. It wasn’t because of the weather and it wasn’t a problem with Brendan Rodgers because he is a brilliant manager. But they had to change something. Only two weeks ago we lost to Palace. I can’t say that we are good enough but if you want to write it you can.”
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Pellegrini was left baffled by his side. “Yes, absolutely it’s a collective failure – it’s strange, because we never played in this way before,” he said. “Really unbelievable the way we played. Sometimes you can be sat defending and concede easy goals and you lose the game. But to make it all wrong in attacking, defending and possession. It’s not the team we know.”

City were the proverbial bunch of strangers, and at half-time Pellegrini withdrew the anonymous Yaya Touré, though the manager played this down. “I know it was not a problem of just Yaya or [Jesús] Navas [also substituted]. We tried to change in the way we were playing, we tried to press high, and we continued playing in exactly the same way that we did in the first half.”

The injured Vincent Kompany and David Silva missed this hammering and are most unlikely to be available for the Champions League Group D match against Juventus in Turin. “I don’t think any of them will be ready for Wednesday,” said Pellegrini. He must now hope the rest of his players have recovered from this mauling by then.
 

Teams
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Mangala, Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernando, Yaya Toure (Fernandinho 46), Navas (Delph 46), De Bruyne, Sterling, Aguero (Iheanacho 66)       Unused subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Clichy, Otamendi

Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno, Lucas, Can, Milner, Lallana (K Toure 90), Coutinho (Ibe 64), Firmino (Benteke 77)    
Unused subs:Bogdan, Sturridge, Allen, Randall            Bookings: Clyne, Lucas, Can

Referee: Jon Moss          Att:54,444

Aston Villa 0  Manchester City 0      Bore Draw
Sunday 8th November 2015 : Bob Simms for GYKO at Villa Park

 The Rémi Garde era is up and running and, at the very least, some hope has returned to these parts after Aston Villa produced a performance full of endeavour and spirit to end a run of seven successive defeats and frustrate the league leaders. Villa remain anchored to the bottom of the table but there were some positive signs for the home supporters to cling to on an afternoon when Manchester City paid a high price for their profligacy.

Rémi Garde’s first game in charge of Villa saw an organised, focused and confident display, earning a point against a City side who took a half to get going and then missed the chances that they created

Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne were guilty of squandering excellent opportunities early in the second half, with both players unmarked in the six-yard box, and the sense that this was not going to be City’s day was confirmed in injury-time when Fernando’s thumping header from the substitute Kelechi Iheanacho’s cross cannoned off the bar.

There was still time for a few frantic goalmouth skirmishes, with Villa desperately hanging on during a chaotic finale in which City laid siege to their opponent’s goal, but through a mixture of good fortune and resilient defending Garde’s team survived to collect only their second point since winning at Bournemouth on the opening day.

For City it was a case of what might have been. The loss of Wilfried Bony, who limped off with a hamstring injury in the first half, forced a reshuffle but City should still have had more than enough attacking talent on the pitch to take the game away from Villa.

Manuel Pellegrini left it up to others to decide whether it was a case of bad luck or poor finishing that had cost City victory and refused to criticise De Bruyne for over-complicating what appeared to be a simple chance. The Belgian, trying to backheel an inviting centre from Jesús Navas, inadvertently kicked the ball against his other leg and the home fans breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“Those are decisions that the player has to make in one second,” the City manager said. “It is difficult to try and tell him to do it another way. Maybe if he had scored that goal we would be applauding him.”

Pellegrini made the point, with some justification, that City’s chances extended beyond the opportunities that Fernando, De Bruyne and Sterling wasted, and the Chilean also highlighted the fact that Villa, for all their commitment, failed to register a shot on goal in the entire 90 minutes.

While Bony now faces a spell on the sidelines, Pellegrini offered some better news about Sergio Agüero, whom he suggested could return to feature against Liverpool on Saturday week. “I hope that this week he, Silva, Nasri and Zabaleta will work with the physiotherapist and next Monday they will start working with the squad. We will see in the way Agüero improves but I think there is a chance he can be fit for Liverpool.”

For Garde, the absence of a cutting edge is arguably his biggest problem, yet this was not the day to bemoan their toothless attack. With confidence so low and the league leaders in town, Villa were entitled to cherish the fact that they had stopped the rot.

Garde has wasted no time in making his mark on the team and it came as no surprise that the Frenchman restored all four signings from Ligue 1 – Jordan Ayew, Jordan Amavi, Jordan Veretout and Idrissa Gueye – to the starting XI. Not so expected was the sight of Charles N’Zogbia among the substitutes, with the Frenchman coming on to make his first appearance since the FA Cup final.

A little flat in the first half, City dominated after the interval and but for an almost comical save from Brad Guzan would have taken the lead in the 54th minute, when Sterling, who was only four yards out, met Navas’s perfect cross with a powerful header that hit the Villa goalkeeper on the head.

De Bruyne then made a pig’s ear of his gilt-edged opening after Navas had once again exposed Amavi’s defensive limitations – the 21-year-old looks much better with the ball than he does without it – and by the time Fabian Delph came on in the 78th minute, to a chorus of boos and abuse, City’s search for a goal had become increasingly desperate.

It was another substitute, Rudy Gestede, who threatened to cause havoc. After City had kicked the ball out to allow N’Zogbia to receive treatment, Gestede took the throw-in and returned it to Joe Hart at some pace. City’s goalkeeper was unable to control the ball and conceded a corner from which Gestede, of all people, swept a first-time left-foot shot that skimmed the roof of the net.

Teams
Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Richards, Clark, Amavi, Gana, Veretout, Sanchez, Gil (N'Zogbia 65), Ayew (Gestede 84), Sinclair (Bacuna 72)  
Unused subs: Bunn, Lescott, Richardson, Grealish

Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernando, Fernandinho, Toure (Delph 82), De Bruyne, Sterling (Iheanacho 84), Bony (Navas 25)          Unused subs: Caballero, Demichelis, Mangala, Clichy      Bookings: Otamendi

Referee: Craig Pawson            Att:36,757

Sevilla 1 Manchester City 3        Euro Top Guns
Tuesday 3rd November 2015 : Richard Cole for GYKO in Spain

This impressive victory took Manchester City into the last 16 of the Champions League with two games to spare and created a sense of a significant step taken in the quest to become a force in the competition.

Borussia Mönchengladbach’s draw with Juventus confirmed City’s passage with six points still available in Group D. Having leapfrogged the Italian club, they now have a real chance of finishing top and facing a group runner-up in the knockout stage.

Manuel Pellegrini said: “It is very important to qualify for the next stage, now we will try to qualify in first position. I’m happy with the way we played, we scored three goals, missed three or four clear chances and defended well.

“We played a compete game. Physically, technically, tactically. We defended very well, we had good possession of the ball, we scored three goals and we missed five clear chances.”

Vincent Kompany was equally enthused. “The first feeling is ‘finally’. It’s a difficult group and to qualify with two games to spare is an incredible achievement. We now have to try to finish first in the group.”

Against a Sevilla team who had won their last 10 matches in Europe City managed the contest expertly to the delight of their fans, who booed the Champions League anthem once more.

City required 11 minutes to give their support cause to break into a raucous rendition of Blue Moon. By then they were 2-0 ahead and rampant. Both goals came from the dazzling Raheem Sterling as he scored the opener for his first Champions League goal and tore Sevilla’s defence open for the second. The 20-year-old was bought for nights like these. A criticism has been he does not score enough but this charge against Sterling’s claim for a place among Europe’s elite players fades with each goal.

A sixth for the club showed a dead-eyed finishing ability as Sterling took Fernandinho’s pass and fired beyond Sergio Rico with his weaker left foot. Another three minutes had elapsed when Sterling skated beyond the defence and passed to Wilfried Bony. His shot was parried by Rico and Fernandinho scored.

This silenced the home support and had the City fans singing their favourite ditty. They were still doing so when the team roved forward again and City might have doubled the advantage.

Aleksandar Kolarov forced Rico into a save as the left-back advanced, then the former Sevilla favourite Jesús Navas smacked the ball against the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.

Soon, City would rue this lack of ruthlessness. The slackness that plagues their defence was an issue again as Coke looped the ball over a helpless Joe Hart and Benoît Trémoulinas headed into the empty net.

This had become a riveting Champions League tie. When pouring forward City created problems and chances at will, as Fernandinho snapped into tackles and grabbed possession, and Bony, Sterling, Navas and Yaya Touré posed a threat to Unai Emery’s team.

When Sevilla moved into City territory they continued to lack conviction but a Yevhen Konoplyanka corner from the left was dropped by Hart, who was relieved to recover the ball.

Bony had come into the game requiring a goal for his confidence, the City manager had said. Nine minute before the interval he had one. This was simple stuff as Navas waltzed beyond Trémoulinas down the right, rolled the ball to Bony, and he beat Rico.
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Kevin De Bruyne was dropped to the bench from the side who beat Norwich City 2-1 on Saturday. In came Sterling and Fernando, to play alongside Fernandinho, as Touré pushed into a forward role.

Emery brought on Michael Krohn-Deli for Vincente Iborra and he slotted into the latter’s midfield berth. This stiffened Sevilla as they camped near City’s goal. Here was a test of the visitors’ ability to soak up pressure as is required at times in European games. They came through and were soon threatening Rico’s goal.

Fernandinho, who turned in a storming display, fired at the keeper, who did well to repel the shot. Then Sterling slipped Bony in and he scuffed a shot wide.

As the match entered its final stages the requirement was to jam the door shut. In doing so City served notice of a growing maturity in the Champions League, as they become a proposition few opponents will relish facing.
 
Teams
Sevilla: Rico, Coke (Ferreira Filho 56), Rami, Kolodziejczak, Trémoulinas, Krychowiak, Iborra (Krohn-Dehli 46), Machín, Vitolo, Banega, Konoplyanka, Llorente (Immobile 64)             Unused subs:   Reyes, N'Zonzi, Escudero, Soria Solís     Bookings: Krychowiak

Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Otamendi, Kompany, Kolarov, Fernando, Fernandinho (Demichelis 90+1), Toure, Navas, Sterling (De Bruyne 73), Bony (Delph 84)          Unused subs: Caballero, Clichy, Mangala, Barker

Referee: Svein Moen

 

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