Burnley 1 Manchester City 2
Tough Test at Turf Moor
Saturday 26th November 2016 : Harry Robinson
for GYKO at Turf Moor
Come the end of
the season Pep Guardiola may reflect on this victory as one to
cherish. Manchester City had to dig deep into their reserves here to
overcome a spirited and tenacious Burnley who were only denied
another home win thanks to two predatory Sergio Aguero goals.
After a midweek trip to Germany and doubts surrounding Aguero’s
fitness beforehand, City fought back after Dean Marney’s sublime
early volley and held firm to retain their pressure on Chelsea and
Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
Their goals were certainly not classics, but Guardiola will not
mind. Burnley have made Turf Moor a difficult place to come this
year but, while this display was a marked improvement on the
capitulation at West Brom, City’s quality just edged the admirable
endeavour of Sean Dyche’s men.
Not even the veteran goalkeeper Paul Robinson could keep Aguero out,
the Argentinian popping up in the right place at the right time to
extend City’s unbeaten league run to six matches.
The first half began with Burnley on top but ended with Dyche’s side
hoping for the whistle. City took time to get going on a cold and
crisp afternoon, lacking sharpness in defence during the early
minutes before their quality told.
Aguero started despite concerns beforehand that a foot injury would
keep him out, while Aleksandar Kolarov played alongside Nicolas
Otamendi at centre-half in the absence of Vincent Kompany.
That defensive pairing was severely tested in the opening 20
minutes, as the claret shirts pressed, hurried and made the most of
their own high defensive line. Robinson made his debut in the
Burnley goal, starting in the Premier League for the first time
since May 2012, and played a leading role at both ends.
The 37-year-old had already produced a fine low save to deny Aguero
in the seventh minute, before an almighty punt upfield resulted in
the opening goal. Out of nothing Robinson hoofed deep into the City
half, Otamendi half-cleared with a looping header only for Marney to
run onto the ball and release a precise volley past Claudio Bravo
into the bottom corner.
Burnley had earned their lead, putting both City full-backs under
concerted pressure and generally making life uncomfortable for their
opponents, but the goal was an unexpected piece of brilliance. It
was Marney’s first in the Premier League for 2558 days, since
scoring for Hull against Everton in November 2009.
It was the impetus that City needed to spark them into life.
Gradually they grew into the game and began to exert a period of
dominance, Aguero slicing wide from the edge of the area before Yaya
Toure ran free down the right and fired wide of Robinson’s near
But they did not wait long for an equaliser. Good work from Raheem
Sterling forced a corner and, after a scramble inside the six-yard
box, the ball squirmed to Aguero at the far post and he poked into
the net from close range.
Both Marney and Johann Gudmundsson were forced off in the closing
stages of the first half with injuries, meaning Burnley shuffled
their midfield and a makeshift central four including replacements
Scott Arfield and James Tarkowski hung on until half-time.
Burnley returned with renewed vigour and a crunching challenge from
Ben Mee forced Sterling off injured, but as the England winger
hobbled round the touchline in front of the City supporters – with
Lero Sane the replacement – Aguero put his side in front.
Again it was a close-range goal, and again Aguero got his
positioning just right. In the 60th minute City broke forward down
the left, the ball was played centrally and after Toure tumbled to
the ground amid half-hearted penalty appeals, Fernandinho hooked
back across goal from the touchline and Aguero scrambled it in.
Burnley fought hard as the minutes slipped away, Michael Keane going
close only to be denied on the line by Kolarov and Ashley Barnes’
late bicycle kick saved by Bravo, but City’s good form continues.
Burnley (4-4-1-1): Robinson; Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward; Marney (Arfield
40), Defour (Barnes 80), Hendrick, Boyd; Gudmundsson (Tarkowski 43);
Subs not used: Pope, Gray, Flanagan, Kightly.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Bravo; Sagna, Otamendi, Kolarov, Clichy;
Fernandinho, Fernando; Toure, Sterling (Sane 57), Nolito (De Bruyne
78); Aguero (Navas 89).
Subs not used: Caballero, Zabaleta, Silva, Iheanacho.
Referee: A Marriner Attendance: 21,794
Borussia M'gladbach 1 Manchester City 1
German Stale Mate
Wednesday 23 November 2016 : Dru Smeilhousen
for GYKO at Borussia Park
Given the breadth of his achievements, qualifying
Manchester City for the Champions League knockout stages was a
pretty low bar for Pep Guardiola. It has, however, been a rather
more troublesome journey than City’s manager might have anticipated,
especially away from the Etihad Stadium.
This was not on the scale of the debacle at the Nou Camp, nor did it
reach the frantic excitement of the 3-3 draw at Parkhead but it was
still a fiercely-competitive night that saw each team suffer a
Barcelona’s victory over Celtic meant Manchester City cannot top the
group, which may not be a disaster. As it stands, both Real Madrid
and Bayern Munich are on course to finish second. At Bayern,
Guardiola had never particularly enjoyed his games against Borussia
Monchengladbach and this was no different. The side who in
Manchester in September had suffered their heaviest European defeat
since a Sparta Rotterdam side featuring Louis van Gaal thrashed them
5-1 31 years before, proved they could still be a thorn in his
It had been a weird couple of days for German football. On Tuesday
night Borussia Dortmund had beaten Legia Warsaw 8-4 while before
this game kicked off, Bayern Munich had somehow contrived to lose
3-2 at Rostov despite having 21 shots on goal and more than
three-quarters of possession.
This match, too, did not follow an expected pattern, right through
to the two sendings-off. For a team that had performed so pitifully
over its last six matches that Monchengladbach’s manager, Andre
Schubert, remarked he was counting the days to the Bundesliga’s
winter break, Borussia began very well.
They tackled, they hassled and in Lars Stindl they had someone who
was not afraid to impose himself on Guardiola’s midfield. A few
minutes after the interval, already on a yellow card, Stindl imposed
himself rather too much on Nicolas Otamendi and was dismissed.
For someone supposedly skippering his team, it was ludicrously
stupid, especially as Borussia had already lost Ibrahima Traore to
injury. They now had to play a Guardiola team for 40 minutes with 10
men. In fact it was eight because Fernandinho, who was also on a
yellow card, pulled back Raffael and was sent off, to the fury of
his manager. The contest became a very open 10 vs 10.
Stindl's role in the opening goal was something for him to look back
on with something other than frustration. Midway through the first
half, John Stones had made a mess of trying to contain him. The
Monchengladbach captain squared the ball for Raffael, who had scored
against Manchester City here last season. The Brazilian appeared to
have taken one touch too many but appearances were misleading and
the 31-year-old's next touch was to send the ball thundering past
Monchengladbach had taken the lead last year but had made the
mistake of trying to nurse the lead and lost the match. Now, they
kept pushing forward and when Oscar Wendt muscled his way past
Fernandinho, Bravo was forced to spread himself superbly to prevent
By then, Guardiola had been forced to alter his tactics. The back
three with which Manchester City had begun the evening was
abandoned, a move that saw Jesus Navas playing right back and Raheem
Sterling swapping flanks. Immediately, City looked a different,
For a side whose last Champions League fixture had seen them sweep
aside Barcelona, City had begun looking anaemic in everything but
their kit. They were playing in orange and purple, the colours of
the B&M Bargains logo.
It was Kevin De Bruyne who raised their play above the bargain
basement. First, he produced the ball that Ilkay Gundogan brought
beautifully under control and then, almost in the same movement,
lashed low to force Yann Sommer into a fine save. Gundogan grew up
not far from here, in Gelsenkirchen, and for his family who had come
to watch, this was a moment to savour.
As the electronic scoreboard counted down to half time, Manchester
City relentlessly increased the rhythm. Sterling, breaking through,
probably should have shot but pulled the ball back for Sergio
Aguero, whose drive was gathered by Sommer at the second attempt.
Then, in stoppage time, De Bruyne, with wonderful athleticism,
pulled a cross back from the byline and David Silva, anticipating
brilliantly, restored the evening to its expected course.
Borussia Monchengladbach (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Elvedi, Christensen,
Jantschke, Wendt; Dahoud (Vestergaard 60), Strobl; Traore (Hoffmann
41), Stindl, Johnson; Raffael. Substitutes:
Sippel (g), Schulz, Benes, Hofmann, Hahn, Rutten.
Manchester City (3-2-4-1): Bravo; Otamendi, Stones, Kolarov;
Fernandinho, Gundogan; Navas, Silva, De Bruyne; Sterling (Sagna 68);
Substitutes: Caballero (g), Fernando, Nolito, Sane, Clichy,
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)
Crystal Palace 1 Manchester City 2
Silva Joy at Palace
Saturday 21st November 2016 : Carl Meadows for
GYKO at Selhusrt Park
Pep Guardiola can presumably expect a phone call
this week from Yaya Touré’s agent, the Spaniard’s bête noire Dimitri
Seluk, demanding his client is handed a pay rise. After all those
much publicised “misunderstandings in the past”, for which the
player had recently, if belatedly, apologised, Touré is restored to
the fray and contributing significantly once again. The absence has
done little to blunt his dramatic timing.
He was decisive with two goals to condemn Crystal Palace to yet
another defeat, a fifth in succession, while hoisting Manchester
City on to the shoulder of league leaders Liverpool. Touré was
clapped back into the visitors’ dressing room by his team-mates and
already boasts as many Premier League goals this season as Paul
Pogba across Manchester with United. He will be aching on Sunday,
his body screaming in protest after a first league start in six
months, but a player who had felt a fading memory of a bygone era
only a few weeks ago suddenly appears to be an asset again.
“I was desperate to play because it has been so difficult for me,”
said Touré in the aftermath, with that a brief acknowledgement to
the months of exile which were finally ended with an apology. “My
team-mates are very important to me and have always been brilliant,
and I was prepared mentally. I knew, one day, my manager would need
That day arrived here. Guardiola will never see eye to eye with the
unrepentant Seluk, whose outbursts had prompted the schism, but the
cessation of that stand-off with the midfielder could yet prove
significant in this team’s title pursuit. This was a slog against a
Palace side desperate to arrest a recent alarming slide, the contest
degenerating into a scrap from its opening exchanges. But, where
City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo kept out Christian Benteke and Jason
Puncheon poked wide, Touré capitalised on the visitors’ clearest
sights of goal.
He had been sauntering on the periphery up to the moment another
member of the old guard, Vincent Kompany, trudged off dizzied by a
head injury. With him went leadership, with Touré filling the
breach. The hosts had always felt vulnerable when Raheem Sterling
tested the unconvincing Martin Kelly, though Palace did not help
their makeshift left-back. In the 39th minute there was indecision
from James McArthur and a poorly directed pass from Andros Townsend
before Kelly, unnerved by Sterling’s presence, blindly scuffed a
clearance in-field to Kevin De Bruyne on the edge of the box. City
patiently pulled markers out of position before Touré swapped passes
with Nolito and saw his shot flick up from James Tomkins and in.
That was his first league goal since March though a second, seven
minutes from time, would be required to claim victory. City had been
stung by Palace’s 66th-minute equaliser, their pressure oppressive
thereafter, but would end up prospering from a set piece as so many
have against the home side’s rearguard to date this term. De
Bruyne’s corner was clever, slid into the six-yard box with Palace
braced to repel an aerial assault. The hosts had not replaced the
substituted Benteke at the near post, but more mystifying was their
slackness in leaving Touré, a man-mountain, unattended in the
centre. Even he looked surprised to be presented with a tap-in.
“He is a special player,” said Guardiola. “I would say his
performance is not down to my decision [to select him], but it’s
about his quality. Yaya’s physical condition is better than ever.
He’s now a real part of the team again and can help us achieve our
targets. We need this kind of player. But you know the reason why he
has not been playing up to now…”
Guardiola’s admission that City had been “lucky”, having been made
“so uncomfortable” by Palace’s aggressive approach, was no
consolation for the locals. Some of the home support, united
pre-match and during the game in memory of those who lost their
lives in the Croydon tram derailment earlier this month, took their
frustrations out on Alan Pardew, with the team now hovering a point
above the relegation zone and pointless since September.
This was a more combative and even organised performance, with
Connor Wickham’s rasping shot having deservedly forced them level
midway through the second half. But there is disorganisation and
panic at key times, with Touré’s winner now added to a lengthy list
of unforgivable concessions from set-plays. Pardew claimed that “is
not us” but recent history suggests it has become the norm.
Saturday’s trip to Swansea already feels critical. “It doesn’t look
good at the moment with the results we’ve had,” added Pardew. “And
yet our performances suggest we can turn it around. We need to do
that quickly. I’m comfortable that we have a good distance to get
ourselves in a better place, and we have games coming up where we
need to take points.”
Pardew’s side were watched here by the major shareholder, Josh
Harris. These are tricky times.
Crystal Palace : Hennessey Dann Ward Kelly Sako 86’
Tomkins Cabaye Zaha McArthur Puncheon Townsend Wickham 46’ Benteke
Lee 81’ Unused
subs: Flamini, Delaney, Speroni, Mutch
Manchester City: Bravo Sagna Kolarov Otamendi Kompany Zabaleta 38’
De Bruyne Nolito Silva 67’ Sterling Touré Fernandinho Agüero
Fernando 85’ Unused subs:
Iheanacho, Sané, Navas, Caballero
Referee: Robert Madley. Attendance: 25,529.
Manchester City 1 Middlesbrough 1
Saturday 5th November 2016 : GYKO at the
Middlesbrough’s last two away
games have seen them come away from first Arsenal and now Manchester
City with a point. Another week, another modern stadium, sponsored
by a Gulf airline and another reason to believe that their return to
the Premier League might last longer than a single season.
At Arsenal, they had spoiled the celebrations for Arsene Wenger’s
67th birthday and here they pricked the afterglow of Manchester
City’s fabulous victory over Barcelona on Tuesday night.
Middlesbrough ought to have gone the same way as the Catalans but in
stoppage time George Friend sent in a deep cross that Marten de Roon
met with a header that powered the ball past Claudio Bravo.
Pep Guardiola, in long, knee-length overcoat, looked flabbergasted
to see a game that ought to have been won by a landslide snatched
from his grasp. On the final whistle, De Roon flung his shirt into
the delirious away supporters while those who wore blue walked away
from the Etihad Stadium in the realisation that not all football
flows to a consistent pattern – especially when you do not take your
The game turned when Sergio Aguero converted one of the many chances
City created because it forced Middlesbrough to alter their tactics.
Bryan Robson, the man who briefly made football in Middlesbrough
glamorous, used to say that most futile possible tactic when
Manchester United were in their pomp was go to Old Trafford and play
for a goalless draw. Sooner or later you would crack.
These days, you try for a 0-0 in the blue half of Manchester at your
peril. The wonder was not that Middlesbrough cracked, it was that
they held out for so long. When Aguero put Manchester City ahead it
was the 18th shot aimed at Victor Valdes’s goal. Put another way,
City were having a shot at goal once every two-and-a-half minutes.
No team could expect to receive that kind of pounding and survive
and, two minutes from the interval, Kevin De Bruyne produced a low,
diagonal ball that Aguero ran between Boro’s two central defenders
to clip past Valdes for his 150th goal for Manchester City. There
were two-and-a-half minutes remaining, time enough for another shot
which Jesus Navas sent crashing on to the outside of the post.
As someone who was Jose Mourinho’s assistant at Real Madrid, the
Middlesbrough manager, Aitor Karanka, would have had considerable
experience of going head-to-head with Guardiola.
Aguero’s goal at least forced Boro out of their own half and within
a minute of the restart Alvaro Negredo almost brought them level in
Negredo was more than a bit-part player during his time at the
Etihad and had his wife not wanted to take the family back to Spain,
he might have really established himself in Manuel Pellegrini’s
When he scored twice in the League Cup semi-final against West Ham
in January 2014, it was the 23rd goal of the season for a
centre-forward who traded under the nickname of ‘The Beast’. It was
mid-January and, whether or not it was because the need to return
home was starting to make itself felt, there were to be no more.
However, he remains a fine player and now he picked the ball up on
the halfway line and, spotting the almost unemployed Bravo wandering
on the edge of his own area, he launched a shot that but for some
furious back-peddling from the Manchester City keeper might have
drawn Middlesbrough level.
Tuesday night’s fabulous victory over Barcelona manifested itself
both in the surging confidence that swept Manchester City forward in
the early part of this game and the tiredness that came calling for
them as the match wore on.
The first half was played almost wholly in the Middlesbrough half
and increasingly in Boro’s area, where Victor Valdes, who had kept
goal for Guardiola in the Nou Camp, pulled off some fine saves. A
fall-out with Louis van Gaal turned Valdes’s time at Old Trafford
into a wasteland but now he was able to show a part of Manchester
precisely what he was capable of.
Manchester City: (4-2-3-1) Bravo; Zabaleta, Stones, Kolarov, Clichy;
Fernandinho, Gundogan (Nolito 74); Navas (Garcia 86), De Bruyne,
Silva; Aguero (Iheanacho 90). Substitutes: Caballero (g), Kompany,
Middlesbrough: (4-1-4-1) Valdes; Barragan, Chambers, Gibson, Friend;
Clayton; Downing (Fischer 78), De Roon, Forshaw, Traore (Stuani 90);
Negredo. Substitutes: Guzan (g), Fabio, Espinosa, Leadbitter,
Referee: Kevin Friend Attendance:
Manchester City 3 Barcelona 1
Barca Battered and Bruised
Tuesday 1st November 2016 : GYKO at the Etihad
It was a thrilling, breathless night, full of
everything that football at its highest level should be, and when it
was all done Manchester City could reflect on the kind of result
they have craved since the bags of gold arrived from Abu Dhabi and
the story of this club changed forever. They had not only beaten
Barcelona but they had done it the hard way, coming from behind, and
they have spent so long waiting for a victory of this magnitude it
automatically takes its place as their most gratifying in the
Champions League to date.
Any success against a side featuring Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis
Suárez has to be cherished but perhaps the most satisfying part for
Pep Guardiola’s team is what it showed about their competitive
courage and the shift in mentality compared with City’s previous
attempts to overcome perhaps the most beautifully constructed club
side there has ever been.
City played with a level of self-belief that has never been
witnessed in these assignments. No one could accuse them of being
cowed in the presence of the team Guardiola described as “the best”
and there has never been a night when so many of their A-listers
have reached the point of maximum expression all at once. Kevin De
Bruyne can reflect on an evening when he outshone a four-time Ballon
d’Or winner. Ilkay Gündogan, with two of the goals, had his finest
game yet in City’s colours and, finally, after six attempts, this
fiercely ambitious club knows what it is like to confront Barcelona
and do the tormenting rather than the other way around.
True, there were long, difficult periods when Messi, Neymar and
Suárez bewitched them with their speed, thought and movement.
Nicolás Otamendi still does not seem to comprehend that the most
accomplished centre-halves stay on their feet and Guardiola’s first
comment in his post-match press conference was to find fault with
the team’s first-half display. Yet City had their own attacking
trident in De Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Agüero and, ultimately,
those three wore down their opponents. De Bruyne’s free-kick to make
it 2-1 was a peach but his through ball in the buildup to Gündogan’s
second goal was another reminder of his exquisite ability. Raheem
Sterling added his own menace and, as a test of nerve, Guardiola’s
men passed with distinction.
More than anything, they did not seem afflicted by the inferiority
complex that has shaped previous encounters. They rode their luck at
times, most notably when the ball came off Agüero’s hand before the
final goal. There was a period in the first half when the game
threatened to run away from them – “we were really in trouble,”
Guardiola reflected – and Messi’s goal, following a stunning
breakaway, was not the only time the home side left the suspicion
they still lack a certain amount of defensive knowhow.
Yet City deserve immense acclaim for refusing to buckle and they can
also look back to the moment, 11 minutes in, when the Hungarian
referee, Viktor Kassai, made the kind of mistake that felt
incongruous for a night of football royalty. Kassai was badly
mistaken to think Sterling had tried to deceive him into awarding a
penalty and City would have gone away with legitimate grievances if
they had lost the game from that point.
Television replays confirmed Samuel Umtiti had clamped his left foot
on Sterling. It was a clear penalty and for a while the soundtrack
to the night was of raucous disgruntlement. Too much was happening,
however, for the crowd to linger on the injustice and, if nothing
else, that incident might also have encouraged the home side to
think Barcelona were vulnerable at the back.
Guardiola had talked beforehand about Barça’s habit of “provoking
mistakes” from their opponents but now it was happening the other
way around, too.
“In the first 38 minutes we saw the best team in the world,”
Guardiola said of his former club. But everything changed with the
calamitous pass that Sergi Roberto subsequently aimed across his own
half. Agüero was first to the loose ball, turning it to the right
for Sterling to drive into the penalty area. Sterling decided
against shooting and his pass across the six-yard area was weighted
perfectly for Gündogan to turn in the equaliser.
Selfless Sergio Agüero lights spark that fires Manchester City to
Suddenly the home side looked reinvigorated, with De Bruyne becoming
increasingly influential after the interval. The Belgian’s free-kick
was the outstanding moment of the night, aimed expertly into the top
corner of Marc-André ter Stegen’s goal, and he was superb during
those exhilarating passages when City attacked from every angle and
there was the rare sight of a Barça team looking rattled in the
There were still plenty of occasions when City’s opponents showed,
in flashes, their attacking brilliance and an almighty scare for the
home team when John Stones and Otamendi both reminded us of their
occasional frailties only for André Gomes, teed up by Suárez, to
thud his shot against the crossbar. That, however, came at a point
of the game when City were creating chance after chance. Agüero was
fortunate not to be penalised for the handball that left Gündogan
with a simple finish for his second goal but it was also true that
Barça suffered during the second half in a way that is seldom seen.
That alone made it feel like a special occasion.
The downside for City was Fernandinho’s injury and they will have to
learn they cannot defend as recklessly as they did for Messi’s goal,
stemming from an attack of their own that left seven of Guardiola’s
players, including three-quarters of their defence, stranded at the
other end of the pitch. Overall, however, there was the sense that
City had reached new heights. They looked like a team with nothing
to be afraid of.
Man City: Caballero, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones,
Kolarov, Sterling, De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Gundogan, Silva, Aguero.
Subs: Gunn, Kompany, Fernando, Nolito, Jesus Navas, Clichy,
Barcelona: ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Mascherano, Umtiti, Digne,
Rakitic, Busquets, Andre Gomes, Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar.
Subs: Cillessen, Denis Suarez, Turan, Rafinha, Alcacer, Nili,
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)