October  2014 - Reports
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Manchester City 1 Newcastle United 2       Geordie Shocker
Wednesday 29th October 2014:   GYKO at the Etihad

Rolando Aarons and substitute Moussa Sissoko struck as Newcastle dumped holders Manchester City out of the Capital One Cup with a 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.
 
 To compound City's woes, as manager Manuel Pellegrini's decision to field a strong side just four days before a Manchester derby backfired, key playmaker David Silva limped off injured early on.
 
 But after a dismal start to the season, Newcastle and Alan Pardew are suddenly enjoying a mini-revival with three successive wins all competitions easing the pressure on the under-fire manager.
 
 Aarons stunned City when he capitalised on poor defending early on and the hosts, despite controlling possession and creating some chances, never truly convinced.
 
 Newcastle were denied what seemed a clear-cut penalty in the second half but Sissoko finished the job 15 minutes from time, loosening City's grip on the trophy with a fine finish.
 
 Pellegrini's men have now gone three games without a win and need to regroup with two big games in the next week against United in the Premier League and CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.
 
 Losing Silva, who was surprisingly not granted a rest along with likes of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Aguero, made for a dismal start.
 
 Silva was injured when fouled by Ryan Taylor, making a welcome first Newcastle appearance in two years after overcoming cruciate ligament trouble, on the edge of the area.
 
 The Spaniard looked in considerable discomfort and left the field for treatment as Yaya Toure blazed the free-kick over the bar.
 
 Silva did return in an attempt to run off the knock but soon admitted defeat and made way for Samir Nasri to return to action after seven games out with a groin injury.
 
 But Pellegrini could not make the change before Newcastle claimed a shock lead.
 
 Taylor was again involved, robbing Fernandinho and releasing the pacy Aarons, who showed no ill effects from his recent hamstring problems as he burst through to slide a shot past Willy Caballero.
 
 Aarons caught City's defence out again with another lively break and he was only stopped when Bacary Sagna clumsily hauled him back on the edge of the area for a free-kick that came to nothing.
 
 Stevan Jovetic went close to an equaliser after being picked out by a Nasri cross but Rob Elliot blocked with his feet on the line.
 
 Jovetic drove another shot wide and City went even closer when Fabricio Coloccini diverted an Aleksandar Kolarov cross onto his own post with a miscued looping clearance.
 
 Jovetic spurned another opportunity and City were almost made to pay for their profligacy as Paul Dummett was left unmarked at a corner and forced Caballero to make a scrambling save.
 
 Toure may have been the cause of more anxiety before the break as he went down under a Dummett challenge and took time to get up.
 
 But he was soon back in action and drove a shot at Elliot as City finished the first half strongly.
 
 Yet despite dominating possession, City struggled to summon up their usual intensity.
 
 They did show some creativity from a free-kick early in the second half but nobody was able to get a touch on a Kolarov cross.
 
 Newcastle put the ball in the net again when Gabriel Obertan slammed a shot past Caballero but the flag was raised for offside.
 
 Eliaquim Mangala's tribulations since his £32million summer signing from Porto continued and he was fortunate to escape censure after catching Mehdi Abeid with his arm in a clumsy challenge.
 
 City got another lucky break soon after when Kolarov slid in and appeared to clip the heels of Obertan as he raced into the box. Referee Stuart Attwell gave nothing and Pellegrini tried to make the most of the reprieve by sending on Aguero for the presumably tired Nasri.
 
 But City's crack striker had no time to make an impact before a Newcastle substitute stole the show.
 
 Sissoko, who entered the fray just after the hour, took possession outside the area and weaved his way past Fernandinho and Sagna before clipping shot past Caballero.
 
 City made a late effort to get back into the game but Taylor completed a satisfactory return by blocking from Edin Dzeko on the line

Teams

Manchester City: 
Caballero, Sagna, Kolarov, Demichelis, Mangala, Fernandinho, Milner, Yaya Toure (Navas 60), Silva (Nasri 9 (Aguero 70), Jovetic, Dzeko   Unused subs: Hart, Zabaleta, Fernando, Boyata      Bookings: Mangala, Aguero

Newcastle United:Elliot, Taylor, Haidara, Janmaat (Sissoko 65), Coloccini, Abeid, Dummett, Obertan, Colback, Aarons (Sam Ameobi 46), Armstrong (Riviere 65)    Unused subs: Krul, Gouffran, Gutierrez, Cabella    Bookings: Dummett, Ameobi

Referee: Stuart Atwell        Att:40,752

West Ham  United 2 Manchester City 1   No Show in the Capital
Saturday 25th October 2014 : Don Murray for GYKO at Upton Park

There are few things that Sam Allardyce likes more than explaining how he outwitted a highbrow foreign manager. His account of West Ham’s toppling of the champions here will not make enjoyable listening for Manuel Pellegrini.

Allardyce praised every aspect of his team’s play but revealed that they set out to exploit Eliaquim Mangala, in particular, on the basis that the defender Manchester City signed from Porto for £32m in the summer is not being properly supported as he tries to adapt to the Premier League.

Mangala was caught flat-footed for West Ham’s opening goal at Upton Park, when Alex Song dissected the visiting defence with an astute pass between the centre-back and Gaël Clichy, allowing Enner Valencia to dart through and cross for Morgan Amalfitano to score. Throughout the contest Mangala struggled to contain Valencia and Diafra Sakho, the striker who played in an unfamiliar role wide on the right, from where he tormented Mangala and Clichy before scoring West Ham’s second goal.

“I think they leave him exposed,” said Allardyce of Mangala. “He’s only just joined the Premier League. They don’t protect him – and he’s only just got here – [then] the more and more you can get down the side of him, with the space that Clichy leaves. [Vincent] Kompany is used to it, he’s been at this level for such a long time. This lad’s not, he’s finding his feet and, like I said, we made big strides down that left-hand side and we caused them lots of problems.”

Mangala was imperious in his Premier League debut at home against Chelsea in September but he has been less convincing since then, notably in the 4-2 win at Hull and here at Upon Park. Allardyce reckons teams will continue to take advantage, especially on the road, if City do not adapt. “We all know that Manchester City play a certain way,’ said Allardyce. “They come away from home expecting to win and go and attack you. We’ve seen a lot this season how those spaces they leave can be exploited by other teams. We exploited them brilliantly.”

Mangala’s teething troubles are reminiscent of those endured last season by City’s Martín Demichelis, who seemed ill at ease in his first couple of months in English football but gradually improved to demonstrate what an accomplished defender he really is. Pellegrini no doubt hopes Mangala will get to grips with the Premier League in the same way and the Frenchman would appear better equipped to do so than Demichelis, being blessed with greater speed and strength.

Pellegrini refused to comment on Mangala’s display against West Ham, though he did admit that City need to tighten up their rearguard. He says they are defending better now than they were at the same stage last season, when they were only seventh in the table and, as now, were in choppy waters in the Champions League. “I don’t analyse individual performances with the press, I do it with the players in private,” said Pellegrini. “In the first part of last season, the first six games we played [away] we lost four. Aston Villa scored three goals, Cardiff scored three goals and, at this moment, we are defending better than at that moment. But I think we must improve because we are conceding in this [type of] game one or two goals, which I think is too much.”

Despite City’s defensive vulnerability, they would have won this match if they had taken a decent proportion of the chances that they created. David Silva scored a wonderful goal but Sergio Agüero was foiled several times by West Ham’s inspired goalkepeer, Adrián, and also struck one shot against the crossbar, as did Yaya Touré. Nevertheless, few observers would begrudge West Ham their victory, a fitting reward for an exhilarating performance in which all of the club’s summer signings suggested that they, at least, have had no trouble adapting to the Premier League.

Allardyce is aware that the season is young and the new arrivals may still experience a sort of culture shock, particularly during the taxing festive period. For that reason he is not yet ready to declare that his team can hold on to their place in the top four.

“We are on a big high at the moment, that’s a fantastic feeling, but we still have the difficult time ahead – it will be end of November and December when all the games come flooding thick and fast,” said Allardyce. “All the new players, particularly the ones we brought from abroad, will they fatigue or won’t they? We are absolutely delighted they have all hit the ground running but they have never experienced this level of physicality. They could easily fall into December finding life extremely difficult. The rest of the squad may have to dip in then and help them out while we give them a rest. Hopefully it is not the case, but I have to be wary of that.”

Already Allardyce has a concern about Sakho, the Senegalese striker who has been a spectacular success since joining in the summer from the French second-division side, Metz. Sakho has scored in all seven of the matches that he has started since then but he did not finish against City, after being forced off towards the end with a shoulder injury that will be assessed this week.

 Teams
West Ham United: 
Adrian, Jenkinson, Collins, Reid, Cresswell, Song, Noble, Amalfitano (Kouyaté 67), Downing, Valencia (Cole 76), Sakho (Nolan 88)            Unused subs:  Jaaskelainen, Vaz Te, O'Brien, Poyet     Bookings: Song, Amalfitano

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Clichy (Kolarov 78), Fernando (Milner 78), Toure, Navas, Silva, Dzeko (Jovetic 59), Aguero             Unused subs: Caballero, Demichelis, Sagna, Fernandinho         Bookings: Kompany

Referee: Martin Atkinson

CSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2      2nd half suicide
Tuesday 21st October 2014 :  Joe Capper for GYKO at Arena Khimski

The Bebras Natcho 86th-minute penalty that gave CSKA Moscow a draw leaves Manchester City’s Champions League hopes dangling by a thread.

Now on two points, Manuel Pellegrini’s side would have been delighted with Bayern Munich’s win over Roma later in the evening to give them a chance of qualifying for the knockout phase.

However, Vincent Kompany and his team still face the toughest of challenges if they are to progress. At the close the captain led a delegation of players who complained to Istvan Vad, the Hungarian referee. This was presumably about the dubious spot-kick he awarded when Aleksandar Kolarov was adjudged to have fouled Seydou Doumbia and from which Natcho scored the equaliser.

Yet they might also have been querying the number of home “fans” allowed into the Arena Khimki on a cold night that ended with CSKA and Uefa facing questions regarding how closely the club’s stadium ban on spectators had been followed. In the seats above the dugouts a contingent of as many as 350 had gathered and cheered the Russian side throughout. Chants of “CSKA, CSKA” were heard and they had company outside the arena where loud singing and chanting could be heard.

What unfolded was a relatively open contest in which CSKA attacked with pace while City were more methodical, hoping to pick off their opponents after advancing slowly on Igor Akinfeev’s goal.

Beforehand Pablo Zabaleta had warned of the speed of Ahmed Musa, CSKA’s lone striker, and the Nigerian illustrated how City might be got at. His prematch chat had claimed Pellegrini’s team were “very weak” in defence and he set about proving this. One burst took him through on Joe Hart but the No18’s touch deserted him and Eliaquim Mangala conceded a corner.

An earlier Musa shot was applauded loudly, as was a clever run to the right that pulled City out of position before Kompany cleaned up for his side. Zoran Tosic, once of Manchester United, also found Musa, who turned the ball in to a lurking Georgi Milanov but the midfielder was unable to collect.

Despite the constant probing that had Yaya Touré or David Silva in a quarter-back role trying to slide in James Milner, Edin Dzeko or Sergio Agüero, when City opened the scoring it was from a slick break.

Silva had been identified, along with Agüero, as City’s main threat by Leonid Slutsky, the CSKA manager, and it was the Spaniard who slipped the ball through deftly for Dzeko to beat the offside trap.

The forward raced towards Akinfeev then rolled the ball right to bypass the home goalkeeper and give the lethal Agüero a simple tap-in for an 11th goal in 11 appearances this season: the ratio of a supreme striker.

As light snow began falling the thought arose that, if City secured another goal they might coast through the evening. And less than 10 minutes later they scored it. Touré crossed the ball for Zabaleta to head down and, after Agüero shot at Afinkeev, Milner slid the ball in. Seconds later the referee turned down what appeared a penalty when Dzeko was felled by Sergei Ignashevich in the area.

City’s concentration lapsed badly in the second half, as has been the case for much of this season. Going forward they are formidable but at the back they creak. Roman Eremenko offered a warning with a shot just over Hart’s crossbar. Kompany miscontrolled in his area, leaving Zabaleta to clean up. And then CSKA scored.

The Russians easily penetrated the visiting defence as Musa predicted they might, with the 22-year-old finding a pass from which the half-time substitute Doumbia finished.

Could City go up a gear again to restore the two-goal cushion? Pellegrini’s first adjustment of the XI suggested that this was what he was aiming at as on came the speed of Jesús Navas for Dzeko’s more lumbering threat.

Yet the defence continued to be the area of concern. Kompany is not enjoying the best campaign. He gave away a free-kick from which Natcho knocked in a ball that was unlucky to find Hart . Then Eremenko found space along the right flank and fired the ball into the penalty area but again there was no finish.

Pellegrini then decided to go the other way, substituting Silva with the defensive qualities of Fernandinho but, given the ending, this appeared a tactical blunder.

There had been rumours that some media passes – of which there were officially 150 – had been sold on to fans and as the match entered the closing minutes some of the press seats were occupied by people wearing CSKA scarves.

Then disaster struck for City. Kolarov was fooled by Doumbia and up stepped Natcho to leave City’s hopes very much in the balance.

Teams

CSKA Moscow: Akinfeev, Figueira Fernandes, V Berezoutski, Ignashevitch, A Berezoutski (Doumbia 46 (Cauana 90)), Schennikov, Tosic (Efremov 69), Natcho, Alekseevich Eremenko, Milanov, Musa

Unused subs: Chepchugov, Nababkin, Bazelyuk

Manchester City: Hart, Kolarov, Mangala, Kompany, Zabaleta, Fernando (Jovetic 86), Toure, Milner, Silva (Fernandinho 78), Dzeko (Navas 72), Aguero

Unused subs: Caballero, Clichy, Sagna, Demichelis    Bookings: Fernando

Referee: Istvan Vad

Manchester City 4 Tottenham Hotspur 1      Spurs Pay the Penalty
Saturday 18th October 2014 : GYKO at the Etihad

When Mauricio Pochettino was asked before this match for his impressions of Sergio Agüero he compared it to the joys of listening to Mozart and Beethoven. Agüero’s performance here could certainly have been set to music but, for Pochettino, it must have sounded like the blare of sirens whenever the Manchester City striker had the ball. Or the theme from Jaws, considering the fear he put into the Tottenham defence.

Agüero terrorised his opponents, scored four times, missed a penalty and, in the process, caught and overhauled his compatriot Carlos Tevez’s scoring record in City’s colours. Tevez managed 58 Premier League goals in 113 appearances. Agüero’s 61 have come in 95 games and it is difficult to remember the last time one of City’s players tormented the opposition so relentlessly and mercilessly. Manuel Pellegrini described him afterwards as “one of the best three or four strikers in the world”.

By the end, Younès Kaboul’s limitations had been brutally exposed and Federico Fazio, his partner in central defence, had become so flustered that he tugged down Agüero for a red card. Spurs, having conceded three of the game’s four penalties, looked like a side in need of smelling salts and that slightly haunted appearance has become a recurring theme in these fixtures. Over their past seven meetings there have been 35 goals – and City have accounted for 26 of them.

The paradox was that Tottenham could head back south reflecting that Joe Hart had also put in possibly his best performance on this ground since the Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund two years ago. A striker will always get the accolades after a four-goal haul but Hart’s contribution was significant. It started early on when he jutted out a leg to prevent Ryan Mason opening the scoring and his portfolio of saves included one from the penalty spot when Roberto Soldado had the chance to make it 2-2 just after the hour. As Pochettino reflected, that was the key moment of a match filled with drama and incident.

Tottenham certainly carried a threat going forward but defensively they were poor in the extreme and fortunate, perhaps, that Hugo Lloris stopped the score being even more harrowing. Agüero’s first was a typical piece of excellence, taking a touch to elude Kaboul and then firing in a vicious, diagonal shot through a crowded penalty area. His next two came from penalties and the fourth was another classic moment of centre-forward play, turning inside the substitute Jan Vertonghen and delivering a beautifully weighted left-foot finish inside the far post.

Agüero has now scored nine times in six games against Spurs and was so rampant here he might reflect he ought to have had more. Even ignoring the other occasions when he took aim at Lloris’s goal, his hat-trick could have been wrapped up inside 32 minutes after Kaboul’s careless challenge on David Silva. This time, Agüero’s penalty was struck poorly and when the rebound came back off Lloris he rushed his attempt at a bicycle kick and slashed the follow-up effort over the bar.

For a brief passage in the second half, it had looked as though that miss could have costly repercussions for City. Instead, Hart dived full-length to his right to keep out Soldado’s penalty and within five minutes Fazio was trudging off the pitch and Agüero was about to make it 3-1 with his third spot-kick. Pochettino had chosen a strange time to give Fazio, an £8m signing from Sevilla, his league debut and the 27-year-old Argentinian will remember it as an ordeal.

Replays showed Soldado had been marginally outside the area when Martín Demichelis tripped him but, equally, the visitors were aggrieved with the first of City’s penalties, when Frank Lampard went down under the slightest of touches from the accident-prone Erik Lamela. The only absolute certainty was that Spurs were permanently vulnerable in defence and Agüero was not in the mood to be charitable.

The downside for City was that they, too, looked unusually susceptible at the back and Pellegrini was quite restrained when he said it “could easily have been 7-3”. They were indebted to Hart’s goalkeeping and Fernando made a bad mistake to lose the ball in the moments before Christian Eriksen lashed in to make it 1-1 a minute after Agüero’s goal.

City also lost Lampard in the first half because of a thigh injury that required him to leave the pitch on a stretcher. Yet they had put on another awesome demonstration of their firepower despite starting with Yaya Touré and Edin Dzeko on the bench. Jesús Navas had one of his better games and James Milner, who struck the post with a late shot, has flourished with the extra responsibility since Samir Nasri was injured.

Agüero took the match-ball home as a souvenir and when he is playing with this menace City give the impression they could trouble the world’s best defences, never mind one as obliging as Tottenham’s.

Teams

Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Clichy, Demichelis, Kompany, Fernando (Yaya Toure 76), Milner, Lampard (Fernandinho 28), Silva (Jovetic 70), Navas, Aguero      Unused subs: Cabellero, Kolarov, Boyata, Dzeko   Bookings: Navas
Spurs: Lloris, Rose, Dier, Kaboul, Fazio, Capoue (Dembele 60), Mason (Vertonghen 70), Eriksen, Chadli, Soldado, Lamela (Townsend 60)

Unused subs: Vorm, Stambouli, Adebayor, Kane    Bookings: Mason, Dier, Fazio (sent off)

Referee: Jonathan Moss              Att:45,541

Aston Villa 0 Manchester City 2    Yaya makes his point
Saturday 4th October 2014 : Kenneth Cooper for GYKO at Villa Park

In an instant, Manchester City were transported back to last season. Yaya Touré was scoring again, the supporters were singing his name and Manuel Pellegrini’s team were producing the sort of result that served as a reminder why they became champions in the first place. Frustration has been a familiar feeling for them in a stuttering title defence and, after 81 minutes, a second stalemate of the embryonic campaign beckoned.

Then Touré intervened. Twenty yards out, confronted by a phalanx of defenders, he accepted Fernando’s pass and bent his shot between Alan Hutton and Philippe Senderos. Aston Villa’s resistance was ended. So, with it, was Touré’s drought. His previous league goal came against the same opponents in May; it was a landmark strike, making the Ivorian only the second central midfielder of the Premier League era to register 20 in a season, a formidable achievement that was followed by a fallow period.

A belated first against top-flight opposition in five months brought the loudest chorus of Touré’s name in that time. If relations were soured over the summer by the unnecessary furore his agent, Dimitri Seluk, created, with his bizarre accusation that City did not even provide a cake to celebrate his client’s birthday, they are undergoing a repair now. His goal might be said to represent the icing on the cake for Pellegrini, who handled a difficult situation diplomatically. “I think it was a misunderstanding,” the Chilean claimed, downplaying the farrago in typical fashion and attributing Touré’s substandard start to the season to the summer loss of his brother, Ibrahim.

A goal marked a return to form. Perhaps as significantly, a midfielder often accused of neglecting his defensive duties had slid in to make a fine block and take the sting off Andreas Weimann’s shot on one of Villa’s few attacks. “He can be criticised for one or two weeks but I know perfectly the way he thinks and the way he can play so I never had a problem about that,” added Pellegrini. City’s problems were diminishing by the time Sergio Agüero delivered his sixth goal of the season, the Argentinean rifling in a shot after he was found by James Milner.

“For 81 minutes, the lads were excellent,” stated Paul Lambert, the Aston Villa manager. It was a day when his defence and the woodwork were allies in an admirable rearguard action. Brad Guzan did not have a save to make until the second half, but his back four were overworked. Nathan Baker produced a masterclass in defensive defiance, excelling with a series of blocks to cap his renaissance, and Aly Cissokho hacked off his line to deny Edin Dzeko. It was the culmination of a well-worked set-piece, with Milner finding David Silva, who crossed for the Bosnian.

It was another indication of the Englishman’s influence. Milner was the instigator of many of City’s finer chances, playing with trademark persistence and no little skill. One pass, when Agüero hit the base of the upright, was Silva-esque. It was the second time City had hit the post. Aleksandar Kolarov clipped it with a typically ferocious shot from an acute angle.

“I was thinking that this was not our day,” Pellegrini confessed. But his side were relentless. It amounted to a fine response to difficulty. Silva grew in prominence in the final half-hour as Guzan became busier and Villa could not quite hang on.

They adopted their tried-and-trusted tactics against the elite, of playing without possession and springing quick counter-attacks. It was a ploy that threatened to work as Charles N’Zogbia spun away from Fernandinho and sprinted 40 yards to unleash a shot that whistled past the post. Then, seconds after Agüero struck wood, N’Zogbia released Kieran Richardson, who was thwarted by Joe Hart. “If you get a chance, you have to take it,” said Lambert, whose side have still only scored four league goals.

Teams

Aston Villa:
Guzan, Hutton, Senderos, Baker, Cissokho, Delph, Westwood, Cleverley, Richardson (Grealish 71), N’Zogbia (Bacuna 71), Weimann (Benteke 61)     Unused subs: Given, Clark, Sanchez, Bent

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Mangala, Kompany, Fernandinho (Lampard 56), Yaya Toure, Milner, Silva (Navas 83), Dzeko (Fernando 64), Aguero     Unused subs: Caballero, Jovetic, Demichelis, Sagna  Bookings: Kolarov

Referee: Chris Foy             Att:32,964

 

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