October 2013 - Reports
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Match Reports for 2013 - 2014

Newcastle United 0 Manchester City 2     Late Show
Wednesday 30th October 2013 : Martin Houseman for GYKO at St James Park

aThe focus was always going to be on the man in the Manchester City goal and Costel Pantilimon made a key save at 0-0 here early in extra time before his forwards, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko, dispatched Newcastle United.

The focus at the end was also on the man who used to be in the Manchester City goal. Kasper Schmeichel, now of Leicester, stands in the way of his old team and the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup.

Feels good: Edin Dzeko (right) scored City's second in extra time 

Spreading himself to blot out the danger, Pantilimon’s save from Papiss Cisse early in extra time proved the turning point. Newcastle’s earlier belief faded. City grew stronger and Negredo and Dzeko struck.

Pantilimon, the tall Romanian, was starting in City’s goal as expected, having played in the previous round against Wigan Athletic.

Joe Hart was on the bench and the real indication of the depth of Manuel Pellegrini’s anger over the Englishman’s mistake against Chelsea last Sunday will be whether Hart features against Norwich City at the weekend. Pantilimon’s performance on Wednesday night has strengthened his case.

For an hour, at least, this was not the most convincing of displays by a much-changed City side. It was really only the introduction of David Silva that gave them a more imaginative, technical approach in the final third to help subdue a spirited Newcastle side.

Newcastle are experiencing one of those periods of turbulence which seem written into their constitution, the tension heightened by defeat to Sunderland, a result guaranteed to darken the mood by the Tyne.

But there was little sense of rancour amongst those who flocked up the hill and into St James’. They backed the team unconditionally whatever the distress caused by events at the Stadium of Light. The players’ effort certainly could not be faulted.

Alan Pardew had promised the Newcastle fans “a display you can feel proud of” and none let the side down. They just lacked a cutting edge. Tim Krul made a couple of important saves from Negredo to ensure extra-time. Their right-back, Mathieu Debuchy, kept intercepting and occasionally attacking.

Cheick Tiote made some important clearances and some powerful surges upfield; his leg buckled when Micah Richards accidentally fell on to him but he soldiered on.

Vurnon Anita missed an inviting chance but worked non-stop for two hours.

Shola Ameobi often worried City’s defence. If only Cisse had been filled with the confidence of last year. If only Loic Remy had been on but he remained on the bench, being protected for Premier League action.

Newcastle now have to raise themselves again, regaining their breath quickly in time for Saturday’s early kick-off against Chelsea.

Pardew indicated there was little training-ground work of substance they could do, and would simply be devoting their time to recovering. Jose Mourinho, whose second string had dispensed with Arsenal on Tuesday, could have permitted himself a smile as this draining game stretched into two hours.

Newcastle had begun positively. There was a hunger to Pardew’s players from the first minute, sometimes excessively such as when Mike Williamson floored Stevan Jovetic, who failed to shake off a calf knock and Negredo came on. Newcastle almost scored early on. Shola Ameobi flicked on Krul’s long ball and Papiss Cisse lifted the ball just wide of Pantilimon’s left-hand upright.

Newcastle kept going close. A Haidara free-kick thudded into Negredo. Dedryck Boyata, one of 10 City changes, blocked a Papiss Cisse shot. Gouffran’s header was clutched by Pantilimon, who then pushed out a hand to divert a shot from Shola Ameobi.

Cisse then wasted the chance of the half, striking the ball across goal with Pantilimon left unprotected by his defence. Cisse’s strike was going wide until the offside Shola Ameobi intervened, turning it in. Derek Eaton’s flag signaled he was offside. Vurnon Anita then swept a volley well wide.

City were too listless. They needed a spark. Micah Richards, captain for the night, tried to supply it with a storming run upfield but the finish lacked the promise of the approach.

After the break, City began to come alive, much to the delight of their 2,400 fans up in the Gods. Krul went walkabout, gifting James Milner a glipse of goal but the angle was tight. City needed more creativity, a touch of subtlety which arrived after 64 minutes with David Silva, who replaced Jack Rodwell. Milner moved alongside Javi Garcia in the centre.

City increased their pressure on Krul’s area. Jesus Navas was running at Paul Dummett, whipping in a cross to the near-post that Dzeko headed wide. Dummett’s hamstring eventually gave way trying to keep pace with Navas. Krul then made those two saves as the tie slid towards extra time, first reacting well to claw away Negredo’s attempted dinked finish and then pushing away a header from the Spaniard.

The main action was all crammed into the first period of extra time. Pantilimon showed his abilities with that hugely important save.

Hatem Ben Arfa lifted the ball, Papiss Cisse controlled it and shot strongly towards goal. Pantilimon, the tallest player in the Premier League at 6ft 8in, spread himself well and saved.

It proved a key moment. Newcastle were tiring, their belief sapped by that save. City stepped up another gear. After 99 minutes, Silva conjured up one of those defence-slicing passes for Dzeko to run towards the byeline and cut the ball back. Negredo had darted in ahead of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to turn the ball past Krul.

With the clock showing 105 minutes, City struck again. Silva again guided a pass through, this time to Milner, who split Newcastle’s defence with a fine ball that Dzeko ran on to. The Bosnian timed his run well, taking the ball past Krul, sweeping it into the goal and taking City a step closer to Wembley.


Newcastle United:
Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Haidara (Dummett 45, Ben Arfa 81), Sissoko, Tiote (c), Anita, Gouffran, Shola Ameobi (Cabaye 66), Cisse

Unused subs: Elliot, Sammy Ameobi, Obertan, Remy    Bookings: Tiote 45, Debuchy 115

Manchester City: Pantilimon, Richards (c) (Zabaleta 82), Boyata, Lescott, Kolarov, Rodwell (Silva 63), Garcia, Navas, Milner, Jovetic (Negredo 9), Dzeko

Unused subs: Hart, Nasri, Fernandinho, Demichelis     Bookings: Garcia 37, Silva 93

Referee: Neil Swarbrick      Att:33,846

Chelsea 2 Manchester City 1    Gaff at Chelsea's Gaff
Sunday 27th Oct 2013 : Alan Robinson for GYKO at Stamford Bridge

It was around six seconds from time here, with the fourth official preparing to hoist his board on the touchline, when ­Fernando Torres buried Manchester City's prospects and, in the process, confirmed his personal renaissance. Pinball in midfield had culminated in Willian's punt over a backtracking Matija Nastasic, the centre-half panicking as he stretched to nod back to Joe Hart.

The Serb might just have caught sight of his goalkeeper's close proximity as he made contact on the edge of the area, then watched the ball loop over his team-mate whose sprint, mystifyingly, ended up carrying him well outside his penalty area. There was Torres, tearing beyond the visitors' confused last line of defence and away from a leggy Martin Demichelis, to convert into the gaping net.

City players crumpled to the floor, Nastasic burying his face in the turf while Hart retrieved the ball from the net and could be seen screaming "keeper's, fucking keeper's" in livid frustration. The pair were culpable but the Englishman had put himself in no position to collect, intercept or divert. He wore the look of a guilty man.

Torres's name was chanted all around, the chorus persisting as José Mourinho extricated himself from the crowd behind the visitors' dug-out where he had apparently dived – much to Manuel Pellegrini's disgust – to celebrate with his son, José Jr. This was the second week running the Portuguese has ended up in the crowd ­following last week's dismissal against Cardiff City, but this time he was not the centre of attention. That was reserved for Torres alone.

This performance summed up the Spaniard's Chelsea career, veering as it did from the ridiculous to the sublime, though it was the manner in which he recovered from the former to serve up the latter that suggested that his inner strength has been restored. The 29-year-old had been guilty of a dreadful miss on the half-hour, spooning over Ramires's fine pass when free and alone near the penalty spot. In the recent past a miss so glaring might have left him cowed, his display shrivelling thereafter. Here it served to galvanise.

Within minutes he had embarrassed Gaël Clichy with his pace across the grass, the full-back left gasping in his vapour trail, before squaring for André Schürrle to tap in a first Chelsea goal. Then there was the shot curled sumptuously on to the angle of post and bar as half-time approached that left Mourinho slumped over the wall in his dug-out, aghast that one of his players could be so bereft of fortune. This, after all, was a striker who had scored only once in the league – on last season's final day – since December. Those manic celebrations at the end greeted the breaking of a drought.

"It was a fantastic performance and, even better, because it came after an easy goal was missed," said Mourinho. "When a striker misses an easy chance, he can be affected for the rest of the game. But it was like that was the moment he decided he would be man of the match. The fans were amazing and supported him, saw how hard he worked for the team and saw his heart."

Torres has been prolific in Europe this year, albeit largely in the Europa League, but it should be noted that his best ­performances under Mourinho have now come against sides of better quality: Bayern Munich in the Uefa SuperCup, ­Tottenham Hotspur in the league, Schalke in the Champions League in midweek and now City.

The trend has been upwards, certainly since half-time at White Hart Lane last month, even if that particular afternoon had ended with his dismissal and that unpunished but catty scratch at Jan ­Vertonghen. Rafael Benítez could not coax displays this menacing from his ­compatriot during last season's interim spell in charge. "It would be easy for me to say that we did this or that but we did nothing," added Mourinho. "We believe our ­methodology improves players' sharpness and speed in the first 15-20 metres. We work high intensity for short periods and that helps them to become sharp. But he's responsible. I don't know if he was the same last year but since I arrived he's worked very, very hard every day."

This was his and Chelsea's reward, the dramatic nature of the victory ensuring City departed bruised as well as beaten. They must have thought they had wrested control of this contest having started the second half with such urgency, the excellent Sergio Agüero – "a powerful tank," according to Mourinho – darting behind Gary Cahill to collect Samir Nasri's pass and thump a glorious finish high beyond Petr Cech at his near post. City had never previously lost a Premier League game when their thrilling Argentinian had scored and, had David Silva not been guilty of over-elaborating and Javi García mustered a more convincing header from the Spaniard's free-kick delivery, that record might have been maintained.

As it was, they had seemed content enough with a point, particularly given recent failings at Cardiff and Aston Villa, only for Hart's rush of blood and Nastasic's header to provide a sting in the tail. The lack of communication between goalkeeper and centre-half was damning, the scrutiny fixing inevitably back on the England keeper whose untouchable status for club and country now looks fragile. ­Pellegrini, riled by Mourinho's dash across his box, hardly offered a vote of confidence in his later mumbled assessment. It all seemed as damaging to City as it was rejuvenating for Torres.


Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole, Ramires, Lampard (Mikel 65), Hazard (Eto'o 84), Oscar, Schurrle (Willian 65), Torres

Unused subs: Schwarzer, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Mata     Bookings: Lampard 21, Ramires 51

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Nastasic, Clichy, Garcia (Kolarov 79), Fernandinho, Nasri (Navas 70), Yaya Toure (C), Silva, Aguero (Negredo 86)

Unused subs: Pantilimon, Dzeko, Milner, Richards    Bookings: Zabaleta 27, Nastasic 31, Garcia 59     

Referee: Howard Webb                   Att:41,495

CSKA Moscow 1 Manchester City 2     
Wednesday 23rd October 2013 : Roger Taylor for GYKO at at Khimki Arena

Manchester City's Champions League campaign is back on track but this crucial victory will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, after Yaya Touré was subjected to racist abuse from a section of the CSKA supporters. There were a couple of isolated incidents that overshadowed a battling performance in Moscow, where City negotiated freezing temperatures and a spray-painted pitch to pick up the three points that put qualification for the knockout stage within their grasp.

After falling behind to a goal from the former Manchester United winger Zoran Tosic, who punished some poor defending from Javi García, City struck twice in eight minutes to turn a game they had been dominating back in their favour. Sergio Agüero got both, two opportunist goals from the Argentina international taking his tally to four in five days and eight in his last six matches, as the striker punished a CSKA team that always looked vulnerable defensively.

The rain that Manuel Pellegrini feared would render a threadbare pitch unplayable – this was the first match to be played here for more than a month – never came on a bitter night when City almost ended up paying for their profligacy in front of goal in the first half.

There were some nervous moments for City to endure in the final 10 minutes in particular, as Ahmed Musa thundered a shot into the top corner only for the goal to be disallowed because of a foul on Touré seconds earlier and Joe Hart made a point-blank save to deny Keisuke Honda from close range with almost the final kick of the game.

CSKA had come into this game in a state of crisis. They had lost five of their previous seven matches in all competitions, failed to score in six of those games, conceded 14 goals in the process and slipped to sixth place in the league.

Their only win in that sequence was the less than convincing 3-2 triumph over Viktoria Plzen, the Group D whipping boys, in Saint Petersburg earlier in the month. To compound matters, Leonid Slutsky, the CSKA manager, who was already without several of his most influential players, including Alan Dzagoev, the team's playmaker, lost Vasili Berezutski to injury after six minutes.

By that point City could and should have been ahead but Touré, arriving unmarked at the far post, failed to touch in Agüero's glancing header from David Silva's corner. Whether or not Touré was hindered by the bounce of the ball on an even surface was unclear but that missed opportunity proved a sign of things to come in the opening half-hour as City controlled possession against limited opponents without showing a cutting edge.

Agüero spurned two decent chances in that period. The first came when he made a hash of turning in Pablo Zabaleta's cross from no more than six yards out. The second opportunity was symptomatic of the poor marking that was a feature of CSKA's woeful defending as Agüero nodded a free header from Touré's centre over the bar.

When Alvaro Negredo, set up by Aleksandar Kolarov, shot tamely into the hands of Igor Akinfeev from 12 yards there was a sense of inevitability about what would happen next as CSKA, who had offered little going forward, took the lead.

Akinfeev's punt upfield caused consternation in a City defence that never seems the same when Vincent Kompany, still sidelined with a thigh injury, is absent. García was beaten far too easily in the air by Honda, who flicked the ball on for Tosic to lift his shot over the onrushing Hart and into the net.

Within two minutes, however, City were level. Kolarov fed Silva and the Spaniard scampered clear on the left before delivering a low cross that Sergei Ignashevich tried to clear but succeeded only in slicing. Agüero was perfectly positioned to punish the central defender's error and prodded the ball over the line. It was a scrappy goal but it deflated CSKA and gave City the encouragement to take control of the game again.

Three minutes before the break Agüero grabbed his second of the evening, stooping to beat Akinfeev to the ball and head into the far corner of the net following Negredo's lovely cross with the outside of his left boot. Silva, with a 25-yard free-kick that Akinfeev was at full stretch to claw away, came close to making it 3-1 on the stroke of half-time.

Although CSKA's threat remained sporadic, City endured a scare early in the second half when Seydou Doumbia's far-post header, after Kirill Nababkin had escaped on the right flank, forced a diving save from Hart. When CSKA did beat Hart again through Musa's screaming shot from the edge of the penalty area, the referee's whistle came to City's rescue, after Touré took a kick in the head trying to clear Honda's free-kick. Hart then made his superb save to deny Honda. Att:15,000
UEFA Champions League


CSKA Moscow: Akinfeev, Ignashevich, Nababkin, V Berezutski (A Berezutski 6 mins), Schennikov, Wernbloom, Honda, Zuber (Musa 50 mins), Tosic, G. Milanov, Doumbia

Unused subs: Chepchugov, Vasin, Gonzalez, Rahimic, Vitinho  Bookings: Wernbloom, Ignashevich, Musa

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Garcia, Nastasic, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Navas, Silva (Nasri 79 mins), Aguero (Clichy 89), Negredo (Dzeko 71 mins)

Unused subs: Pantilimon, Richards, Lescott, Jovetic Bookings: Negredo, Zabaleta, Yaya Toure

Referee:  Ovidiu Hategan       Att:15,000

West Ham United 1 Manchester City 3     Looking Good
Saturday 19th October 2013 : Sam Howson for GYKO at Upton Park

Sergio Agüero scored twice as Manchester City, who always win when Agüero scores, finally benefited from both these things happening away from home in the Premier League. A 3-1 defeat of West Ham at the Boleyn Ground was City's first win away from home since May and a result that leaves them fourth in the Premier League. More encouragingly for Manuel Pellegrini this was a resilient performance as West Ham fought gamely at times but were undone by three moments of high-class incision as David Silva in particular was consistently inventive behind the strikers.

"If we continued playing the same way we played in the other games [away from home], I was sure we would win," Pellegrini said afterwards. "Today Chelsea and Arsenal had already won their games. Three points was very important."

It was, no doubt inadvertently, a nicely veiled dig at the reigning champions after a performance that made light, in the end, of a potentially tricky trip. After victory at White Hart Lane two weeks ago, Sam Allardyce already had the scalp of André Villas-Boas dangling from his sporran: here was the chance to add another well-resourced darling of the tactical classes. Allardyce again fielded his team without a head, a 4-6-0 full of willing runners, albeit with a tendency to cross the ball towards what at times resembled a rather mournful Andy Carroll-shaped hole. There had been some loud cheers before kick-off at the announcement of Carlton Cole's return to the bench for his first home game since being signed (by West Ham) after being released (also by West Ham), an on-off relationship that is shaping up like an Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton of the Premier League years, albeit perhaps the excitement came in part from seeing a striker of any description on the home bench.

Confronted by Big Sam's midfield block, Big Man picked a strong City team, changing his entire back four without obviously diminishing it, and deploying the full weight of City's midfield riches in support of Agüero and Alvaro Negredo. Before long City were moving the ball smoothly between the lines and dominating possession, with Javi García and Matija Nastasic able to play as free men at the back. The opening goal duly arrived after 16 minutes, created by a beautifully nonchalant dummy-walk by Negredo. Yaya Touré played a straight pass down the centre of the pitch and Negredo simply strolled past the ball, allowing Agüero to run through untracked and ease a low shot past Jussi Jaaskelainen.

It was a bafflingly simple goal to concede – cut through the middle – for a team with six men crammed into midfield and for a while West Ham did seem disorientated by the relentless movement of Silva and Agüero. They did, though, creep back into the game, driven on by the well-deployed aggression of Mark Noble. After 33 minutes Nastasic had to produce a goal-saving interception from Razvan Rat's cross and by half-time West Ham were finally testing that depleted central defence via a series of corners.

City have made a habit of dropping points from winning positions. Here they started quickly after half-time, scoring the most West Ham-like of second goals. Agüero was fouled by Winston Reid and from Silva's dinked free-kick he headed into the top corner via Jaaskelainen's flailing glove: a lovely finish but delivered from a pocket of space so large an ambitious East London property developer might have been able to fit a small apartment block in it.

West Ham had no option but to attack, with Ravel Morrison – subject of some giddy talk this week, and eye-catching in moments here – helping to spark the fightback. It was from his hooked pass that Ricardo Vaz Tê scored with an athletic overhead volley across Joe Hart from six yards out.

Pellegrini responded by introducing Aleksandar Kolarov for Negredo before – like a man dragging his favourite pair of muddy wellies out of the car boot – bringing on James Milner for Samir Nasri as City made the game safe with 10 minutes left. Agüero carried the ball through the centre and back-heeled into the path of Silva's diagonal run. Silva finished beautifully, placing the ball past Jaaskelainen's right hand and into the top corner – reward for a waspishly incisive performance throughout.


West Ham United:
Jaaskelainen, Demel (O'Brien 64mins), Rat, Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Morrison, Diame, Vaz Te (Jarvis 64mins), Downing, Nolan (C)(Petric 82mins)

Unused subs: Adrian, Taylor, J.Cole, C.Cole   Bookings: Nolan 32mins

Manchester City:
Hart, Richards, Garcia, Nastasic, Clichy, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure (C), Nasri (Milner 73mins), Silva, Aguero (Jovetic 81mins), Negredo (Kolarov 65mins)    

Unused subs:  Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Lescott, Dzeko     Bookings: Silva 25mins, Clichy 62mins
Michael Oliver   Att:34,907

Manchester City 3 Everton 1     Toffee's chewed up.
Saturday 5th October 2013 :  GYKO at the Etihad

The big news was that Joe Hart kept his place as Manuel Pellegrini fingered Micah Richards, Gaël Clichy and Matija Nastasic as the chief culprits from the defence that played in the miserable 3-1 defeat by Bayern Munich here on Wednesday evening. This meant Hart and Vincent Kompany were the sole survivors from that back five, with Jesús Navas and Edin Dzeko also being dropped before an afternoon that would provide fine entertainment.

The contest pitted a Manchester City side hoping to avert a third consecutive defeat against an Everton team seeking to maintain the division's only unbeaten record. By the time Sergio Agüero fashioned a Tim Howard own goal, on 69 minutes, to give City a 3-1 advantage, it would be the hosts who had accomplished their mission, though Everton continue to look a fair outside bet to challenge for a Champions League berth.

Although Hart was at fault for Everton's goal he would also be cheered for every regulation act performed as the home crowd followed Pellegrini's decision to stand by his man by offering their support. Afterwards, the manager reiterated the message: "It wasn't a simple decision [to pick him], it was a very difficult decision, but Joe needs the trust of me, the players and the fans. Today he showed how strong is his character."

Asked if Hart was culpable for Romelu Lukaku's strike, Pellegrini said: "It is unfair always analysing what Joe Hart does."

While Kompany would last only 34 minutes because of a muscle injury that will be assessed tomorrow – with early fears that he could face a month out – the contest lit up just past the quarter-hour mark when Lukaku registered a strike that again focused scrutiny on Hart. The forward moved too easily past Joleon Lescott inside the area, then aimed an effort that went to the right of the goalkeeper. Hart got a glove to the ball but his failure to make the save will disappoint.

With the Etihad still digesting this, City equalised almost instantly through Alvaro Negredo (pictured above). Every time the "Beast of Vallecas" features for the Blues he makes an impact. In the hiding received from Bayern, Negredo entered as a second-half replacement before pirouetting and potting sweetly beyond Manuel Neuer for his team's consolation goal. Selected in the starting XI here, the Spaniard was in the right place at the right time to finish an eye-catching move. Fernandinho drilled a pass into David Silva, who ensured Yaya Touré received possession precisely where he wanted. The Ivorian found Negredo who pulled the trigger and slipped the ball under Tim Howard, who should also have made the save.

City's second came moments after Negredo and Seamus Coleman engaged in an argument near Everton's goal, which consisted of the latter accusing the former of going down too easily. Play had moved near City's end before returning with Silva sliding a cold-eyed ball along the inside-right channel to Agüero. The diminutive Argentinian turned on the after-burners to gain half a yard, then rifled his shot past Howard.

Pellegrini, who had had an animated conversation with James Milner after Everton's opener, showed further disquiet following the incident that forced Aleksandar Kolarov off on 57 minutes.

After Steven Naismith shoved Nastasic, who was on for Kompany, into the left-back, Kolarov suffered a facial injury that meant Clichy should have been primed to enter, having warmed up. Instead, the Frenchman sat back on the bench to leave Pellegrini waving him back while asking his assistant Brian Kidd what had occurred.

The same question might have been asked of Jonathan Moss of the 68th-minute penalty he awarded. Coleman made minimal contact with Pablo Zabaleta yet the referee still pointed to the spot. Agüero opted for the nonchalant approach to demolition and almost came unstuck: his spot-kick was a pea-roller that did not fool Howard, who palmed the ball on to his left post only for it to rebound from his head and in.

Roberto Martínez, the visiting manager, questioned the "consistency" of the referee, the Spaniard grumbling over "eight cards" dished out by the official (there were actually nine) and a penalty shout that was turned down when Nastasic came together with Lukaku before the break.

While privately Martínez may be more concerned at how his team faded after the break, Pellegrini added that Stevan Jovetic should be fit following a muscle problem to face England for Montenegro in this weekend's crucial World Cup qualifier. "On Friday he worked normally so one week more he'll be OK," the Chilean said.


Manchester City:
Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov (Clichy 58), Lescott, Kompany (Nastasic 35), Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Milner, Silva (Nasri 79), Negredo, Aguero

Unused subs: Pantilimon, Richards, Clichy, Navas, Dzeko  Bookings: Kompany, Milner, Silva, Zabaleta, Fernandinho

Howard, Baines, Coleman, Distin, Jagielka, Naismith, McCarthy, Barkley, Osman (Gibson 63), Mirallas (Deulofeu 63), Lukaku  Unused subs: Robles, Heitinga, Jelavic, Kone, Stones  Bookings: Distin, Howard, Coleman, Naismith

Referee: Jonathan Moss         Att:47,267

Manchester City 1 Bayern Munich 3   City Euro Trashed
Wednesday 2nd October 2013 : GYKO suffering at the Etihad

It was another night to admire the awesome power of Bayern Munich and, in the process, a collective ordeal for Manchester City and a personal one for Joe Hart. They have never been so comprehensively outclassed on their own ground in the Abu Dhabi era, and a club with City's ambitions will surely want more than to see their own supporters clapping off the opposition.

What a team Pep Guardiola has inherited from Jupp Heynckes, and what a long way City have to go before they can consider themselves equals. Manuel Pellegrini's team played for long spells as though struck down by an inferiority complex. Bayern can do that to the most accomplished of opponents, as Barcelona can testify, but their brilliance does not fully excuse the home side's carelessness, nor the wretched way in which the goals were conceded.

Hart was responsible for two of them, to varying degrees, and the England goalkeeper should brace himself for another round of intense scrutiny before the next round of international fixtures. His first mistake, allowing Franck Ribéry's shot to go in off his gloves, was particularly desperate, and his confidence has to be jarred in the lead up to the games against Montenegro and Poland that will determine England's World Cup group.

A lot will be said and written about Hart but it was actually futile trying to pick out a single player from City's starting XI who emerged with any distinction. Alvaro Negredo, a second-half substitute, rescued a modicum of pride with a classy left-foot strike after 80 minutes but the late flurry, after Jérôme Boateng had been sent off for bringing down Yaya Touré, was a deception.

"On another day, we might have nicked it," the club's Twitter account optimistically put it. On another day, Bayern might have been six goals clear before they started taking off their best players and a touch of complacency crept in.

Nobody here should have been kidding themselves after Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben struck in the space of four second-half minutes. The final score flattered the home side and Pellegrini made no bones about it. "We played really badly," he said.

For Hart in particular, it felt like a night with heavy repercussions. He will wince when he sees the replays, and perhaps the most distressing thing is that these lapses can no longer be considered a shock. They have become a habit and, though there are good bits in between, they have gone on for so long now that they feel like a significant issue.

Roy Hodgson was among the crowd and there will be more questions on a now familiar subject when the England manager holds a press conference on Thursday. He, like Pellegrini, will continue to offer public backing, but both must be increasingly alarmed. "Of course I am worried about the mistakes," Pellegrini said. There were also the first flickers of dissent from the crowd. At one point Hart claimed a routine shot, aimed straight at him, and there were isolated, ironic cheers. Only a few but enough to be heard.

Shortly before, Rafinha had played a long, diagonal pass out to Ribéry on the left and the Frenchman, a constant menace, stepped inside Jesús Navas before letting fly from 25 yards. Hart had a good view of it and a goalkeeper at this level should never be beaten at his near post from that distance. Diving to his right, he managed to get his hand on the ball but still ended up with his face in the turf.

Suddenly the insecurities that had symbolised City's last European campaign were evident again. The crowd were flat and apprehensive. More importantly, the players looked desperately short of belief. Bayern demonstrated the composure and togetherness that would be expected of serial champions.

City, in stark contrast, played for 75 minutes with something approaching reverence for their opponents. The team who had demolished Manchester United two Sundays ago offered virtually nothing in that period and were probably just glad not to concede more goals.

Certainly there was plenty of evidence to reaffirm that Guardiola has the most formidable team in Europe. Ribéry was a difficult, elusive opponent for Micah Richards, an unexpected choice at right-back. Robben pinned back Gaël Clichy. Philipp Lahm oozed class behind Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Lahm is a full-back who now plays in midfield and Müller is a midfielder trying out as a striker. Bayern do it seamlessly and City were overwhelmed.

At times, they were their own worst enemies. Take the moment, after 56 minutes, when Dante floated the ball forwards and Clichy simply stopped and watched, motionless, as everything went into slow-motion and Müller latched on to the loose ball, sidestepping the badly exposed Hart to make it 2-0.

Four minutes later, Fernandinho lost possession and Robben set off on a weaving run, picking up speed, advancing on goal and then beating Hart with a right-foot shot. Again, Hart got his hand on the ball and was beaten at his near post.

This was a period when Bayern threatened to turn the match into a rout. Müller hit a post and Hart beat away another one-on-one effort from the same player. If anything, it was a shock that City survived more punishment before Negredo's elegant turn and left-foot shot, almost out of nothing, was followed by Boateng's red card and another substitute, David Silva, turning the free-kick against the Bayern crossbar.

City had been outplayed for most of the night and the crowd recognised as much with their dignified applause for the departing champions.


Manchester City: Hart, Richards, Clichy, Nastasic, Kompany, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Navas, Nasri (Milner 70), Dzeko (Negredo 57), Aguero (Silva 70)

Unused subs: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Lescott, Garcia    Bookings: Aguero, Nasri, Milner

Bayern Munich: Neuer, Alaba, Rafinha, Boateng, Dante, Lahm, Ribery (Gotze 85), Kroos, Schweinsteiger (Kirchoff 76), Muller, Robben (Shaqiri 78)

Unused subs: Starke, Van Buyten, Mandzukic, Contento    Bookings: Kroos, Boateng (sent-off)

Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (NED)                  Att:45,021

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