September  2014 - Reports
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Hull City 2  Manchester City 4       Tigers Tamed
Saturday 27th September : Paul Robinson for GYKO at the KC Stadium

Edin Dzeko struck his first league goals of the season to the relief of all at Manchester City and none more so than Eliaquim Mangala. Dzeko and Sergio Agüero scored to put Manuel Pellegrini’s team in command within 11 minutes against Hull but the visitors contrived to throw away the two-goal advantage, with Mangala highly culpable.

The French defender scored an own goal and conceded a penalty, which was converted by Abel Hernández as the home side rallied. Pellegrini’s team looked in danger of losing more ground on Chelsea, their main rivals for the Premier League title, until Dzeko struck City’s third goal midway through the second half after fine work from David Silva before the substitute Frank Lampard scored his fourth goal in three matches to finally make the game safe.

Mangala, 23, joined City from Porto for £32m in the summer and was impressive on his debut against Chelsea a week ago. This was not such a good day. “You cannot analyse a player in one match,” Pellegrini said. “In the last match he was wonderful and everyone was saying he’s the best defender in the world. Now, he has conceded an own goal and a penalty. He is only a young player, but not too young for the Premier League. He has a lot of experience. He has been a champion three times and played a lot in the Champions League, played for France and won titles in Portugal. He was wonderful for us against Chelsea last week and he will continue to play in our team.”

The visitors made five changes to the team that cruised to a 7-0 victory against Sheffield Wednesday in midweek, but the retention of Willy Caballero was the most eye-catching of Pellegrini’s selection. The Argentinian goalkeeper was signed from Pellegrini’s former club Málaga for £6m in the summer with the intention of keeping Joe Hart on his toes, though the England goalkeeper is expected to return to face Roma in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Hull have now conceded 13 goals in their past five matches and there was a glimpse of this fragility after only 39 seconds when Agüero breezed into the penalty area before firing at Allan McGregor from a tight angle.

It was an early warning sign and after seven minutes the champions where ahead. Hull’s defending was already becoming frantic and a failure to clear their lines fully was punished. Pablo Zabaleta out jumped Livermore to win a header 15 yards out and Agüero volleyed expertly across McGregor to find the bottom corner for his fourth goal of the season.

It took just four minutes for things to get worse for the hosts. Silva found room to release a pass to Dzeko on the corner of the penalty area, from where the Bosnia striker cut inside Liam Rosenior before lashing in a sweet right-footed shot to make it 2-0. Even at that early stage, it looked ominous for Steve Bruce’s side but they got a slice of fortune to gain a foothold in the game. Ahmed Elmohamady’s pass down the right released Rosenior, whose curling cross was headed by Mangala beyond Caballero. At the opposite end of the field, it would have been considered a fine finish.

Suddenly, Hull looked interested in attacking and a confident ten minutes from the hosts ended with an equaliser from the penalty spot after another Mangala error. This time the Frenchman’s clumsy challenge brought down Hernández as he chased Mohamed Diamé’s chipped pass. The Uruguayan Hernández, a £10m signing from Palermo, demanded the ball before calmly sending Caballero the wrong way from 12 yards.

Yaya Touré cracked a shot against the post but was otherwise subdued. The champions needed a spark of inspiration from somewhere and it came with 22 minutes left through Silva. The Spaniard carried the ball from right wing to left, across the face of the Hull defence, before slipping it to Dzeko, whose low, first-time finish squeezed between Rosenior and McGregor and into the corner.

As Hull poured forward looking for another leveller, they always risked being caught on the break and so it proved as Zabaleta reached the byline to cut the ball back for Lampard to finish from inside the six-yard box.

Teams

Hull City: 
McGregor, Dawson, Robertson (Brady 83), Rosenior, Davies, Huddlestone, Elmohamady, Diamé, Livermore (Ramirez 74), Hernández (Ben Arfa 73), Jelavic  Unused subs: Bruce, Chester, Harper, Quinn

Manchester City: Caballero, Zabaleta, Clichy, Mangala, Kompany, Fernandinho (Navas 66), Silva (Demichelis 78), Milner, Yaya Toure, Aguero (Lampard 72), Dzeko   Unused subs: Hart, Sagna, Kolarov, Pozo    Bookings: Mangala, Clichy

Referee: Anthony Taylor       Att:25,000

Manchester City 7 Sheffield Wednesday 0     Owls Slaughtered
Wednesday 24th September 2014 : GYKO at the Etihad      Capital One Cup

After a Frank Lampard double in this Capital One Cup hiding of Sheffield Wednesday took his Manchester City tally to three in three appearances, Manuel Pellegrini revealed it was “not impossible” for the midfielder to stay the whole season despite being on loan from New York City.

Lampard is due to return to New York in January. Yet with the new MLS franchise being City’s sister club, the manager suggested a deal could be done to extend his stay.

Asked if Lampard could remain for all of the campaign, Pellegrini said: “We will do what is best for the team and the player. We must talk about a lot of things but it is not impossible for him to stay here. It is an issue that we will see further down the line. We will see what happens in January and we have two or three months to decide.”

The MLS season starts in mid-March. Yet after Lampard opened and finished the scoring against Wednesday to lead City into the fourth round, Pellegrini’s revelation means Lampard could play in the final, which is on 1 March.

Of whether the midfielder’s goals give him a selection headache Pellegrini said: “For me it is never difficult to put good players in the team. The problem is when you don’t have [good players]. He is a very important player for our team and maybe, at 36, he cannot play three games in a row.”

At the close Lampard had perhaps his oddest on-field experience when a young fan ran on to the pitch and attempted to take a selfie with him, after his 47th-minute opener had been the catalyst for an easy victory that ended an unwanted statistic.

Pellegrini may have described Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea here as City’s best performance but the result meant the champions were yet to win in September.

To find a “W” on their résumé one had to flick back what felt an age to 25 August when Liverpool were dismantled, 3-1, on a Monday evening at the Etihad Stadium. While the run included a break for international football, Wednesday were the fifth opponents Pellegrini’s team hoped to defeat, after failing to get the better of Stoke City, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and José Mourinho’s weekend visitors.

Pellegrini sent out a formidable XI who were led by Yaya Touré, the captain in Vincent Kompany’s absence, as City started their defence of the trophy against a team placed sixth in the Championship.

As many as 5,400 Wednesday fans had taken up the full allocation for the trip from Yorkshire and they witnessed a first half that had a tame start, middle and end.

The period had only one genuine “ooh” moment when Aleksandar Kolarov swung in a corner from the left that Eliaquim Mangala met sweetly on the volley with a heavy left boot and the ball smashed against Chris Kirkland’s post and away innocuously.

Within moments of the second half starting so did City’s goal rush. James Milner whipped in a cross and Lampard forced the ball home.

Whereupon City took control. Edin Dzeko broke his duck for the term by hitting home a Jesús Navas delivery, then the latter fired home a rocket from a tight angle.

Kamil Zayatte’s night became forgettable when he was sent off for pulling down Lampard in the area and Touré scored the penalty before

Dzeko, the debutant Jose Pozo, 18, and Lampard completed the scoring. City host Newcastle United in the next round.

Teams
Manchester City:
Hart, Sagna, Kolarov Mangala, Demichelis, Milner (Sinclair 73), Lampard, Fernandinho (Boyata 70), Navas, Yaya Toure (Pozo 64), Dzeko  Unused subs:   Hart, Kompany, Bytyqi, Clichy   Bookings: Mangala

Sheffield Wednesday:  Kirland, Buxton, Mattock, Zayatte, Palmer (Helan 70), Maghoma, May, Coke (Dielna 61), Maguire, Lees, Madine (Nuhiu 61)     Unused subs:  Westwood, Semedo, Drenthe, Hope      Bookings: Zayatte (sent-off)

Referee:  Paul Tierney          Att:32,346

Manchester City 1 Chelsea 1       Ten Man City Hold Chelsea    
Sunday 21st September 2014 : GYKO at the Etihad

For a few seconds Frank Lampard looked almost overcome with awkwardness. He had been on the pitch seven minutes, making his first home appearance for Manchester City, when the ball came to him in the position that used to be his trademark for Chelsea, back in the days when he was establishing himself as the most prolific scorer there has ever been at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard struck his shot with the power and precision that has formed the stamp of his career, picking his spot to the right of Thibaut Courtois, and what a dramatic way to introduce himself to his new crowd, just as the match had been threatening to turn into an ordeal for the champions and Chelsea were close to extending their immaculate start to the season.

Until that moment it had been the away end serenading the former England international. Now it was the City supporters loudly proclaiming his name and, remarkably, Lampard might actually have gone on to win the match. With the clock ticking down, the next chance that came his way enticed more memories of all those times when he had scored vital goals from the edge of the penalty area. This time his shot came back off his old mate, John Terry, prostrate on the turf, and Lampard was spared any more of the post-match apologies that began with his slightly contrite wave to the away fans after the final whistle.

It was a dramatic finale out of keeping with the rest of the match and City, a man down after Pablo Zabaleta’s red card, ought to feel immense relief bearing in mind the eight-point gap that was threatening to open up between the sides. They did show great resilience but from José Mourinho’s perspective he will regard it as unusual carelessness not to have held on against 10 men.

At 1-0 it had looked for all the world as if City were going to suffer again at the hands of Mourinho’s tactical nous, with more than a sprinkling of deja vu from when the two sides met here last season. Again, it was a match of few chances, with Chelsea defending in numbers, displaying all their qualities of structure and organisation. Courtois had been just as redundant as Petr Cech in the corresponding fixture in February and it was only five minutes after Zabaleta’s sending-off that Eden Hazard put the ball across the six-yard area for the substitute André Schürrle to slide in and open the scoring at the far post.

That would usually have been the position for Zabaleta to guard and he, more than anyone, owes Lampard a debt of gratitude. Zabaleta is a hero in these parts, afforded a standing ovation as he left the pitch, but the cries of “one-nil to the referee” felt like a crowd looking for an excuse that was not really there.

Mike Dean had an erratic afternoon but a player of Zabaleta’s experience, already booked for bringing down Hazard, really ought to have known better than to go in from behind on Diego Costa twice in succession. His first was risky enough but the second connected with Costa’s calf and Chelsea’s new signing is not the kind of man who accepts those indignations easily. His reaction inflamed the situation and quite possibly that was deliberate on his part. The bottom line, however, is Zabaleta put his team at risk.

As tends to happen when Mourinho comes up against Manuel Pellegrini, the game was followed by a lack of pleasantries, with Chelsea’s manager resorting to his old trick of getting an opponent’s name wrong, in this case “Mr Pellegrino”. Mourinho’s real beef, however, was almost certainly about the way his team surrendered a winning position. Costa struck the post when he had a chance to make it 2-0 after 81 minutes and by that point City had been restricted to only a couple of opportunities.

The game had been largely devoid of penalty-box drama yet it was still a captivating spectacle seeing these two heavyweights of the modern game slugging it out. It was an epic tussle, epitomised by that little cameo in the first half when Vincent Kompany and Costa went for the same ball, holding their ground like two warring old stags.

They did not give an inch before Kompany finally emerged with the ball and it was that kind of brute strength and raw determination that marked out the contest rather than the occasional moments of skill.

By half-time there had been six bookings and two of the players on yellow cards, Fernandinho and David Silva, could conceivably have been sent off. It was a contest for midfield supremacy and that might not have made it gripping in an orthodox sense but the various duels – Yaya Touré versus Nemanja Matic, Fernandinho against Willian, James Milner versus César Azpilicueta – still held the crowd’s attention. At one end John Terry and Gary Cahill created a formidable barrier for Edin Dzeko and the strangely subdued Sergio Agüero to pass. At the other end Kompany was immense and Eliaquim Mangala can be encouraged by his debut.

City had been on the verge of their first back-to-back home matches without a league goal since November 2010 when Milner turned the ball into Lampard’s path and nobody really should have been too surprised by his absence of celebration.

 Teams

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov (Lampard 78), Mangala, Kompany, Milner, Fernandinho (Navas 73), Silva, Yaya Toure, Dzeko (Sagna 68), Aguero

Unused subs: Caballero, Clichy, Demichelis, Nasri    Bookings: Fernandinho, Zabaleta (sent off), Silva, Toure

Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ramires (Mikel 63), Fabregas, Willian (Schurrle 63), Matic, Hazard, Costa (Drogba 86)

Unused subs: Cech, Luis, Oscar, Remy      Bookings: Matic, Ramires, Ivanovic, Matic  

Referee: Mike Dean        Att:45,602

Bayern Munich 1 Manchester City 0          More Champions League Heartbreak
Wednesday 17th September 2014 : Roger Ludbrooke forGYKO at the Allianz Arena

For Manchester City, it was a wretched way to lose and a lesson, perhaps, about just how brutal football can be at this level. They had subdued Bayern Munich until the moment the clock ticked over into its 90th minute, and Pep Guardiola was so exasperated he had left his technical area and was straying dangerously close to encroaching on to the pitch. Bayern had done little to discredit the theory that they have regressed since Guardiola inherited that brilliant team from Jupp Heynckes, but they still have great qualities of perseverance, and eventually it proved to be enough.

The goal arrived from the right foot of Jérôme Boateng, a former City player who is hardly renowned for his habit of volleying in last-minute winners. Maybe in those moments, City had been guilty of dropping too far back and inviting trouble. A few minutes earlier, Boateng had lashed in a shot that had Joe Hart sprawling full-length to keep the ball out and when he had his next chance he took it stylishly, arrowing his shot diagonally through a crowded penalty area and inside the far post. Around him, the players in blue fell to their knees.

Hart had played with distinction and, on the balance of play, Bayern certainly created enough chances to feel the late drama would not have been necessary but for the opposition goalkeeper. Yet City had been troubled only sporadically after the break. This was not the free-flowing, all-conquering Bayern that has menaced them before and Manuel Pellegrini was entitled to be aggrieved that his side had been denied a penalty a few minutes before the goal for Mehdi Benatia’s challenge on David Silva.

By that stage, Bayern had started to look short of ideas and the substitute Arjen Robben had resorted to his old trick of trying to manufacture a nonexistent penalty. Thomas Müller was prominently involved in the first half, almost scoring inside the opening minute, and Hart had played as well as any time over the previous year in that period. He could not keep it up after the interval, missing a couple of crosses, but he seemed to have a magnetic attraction to the ball inside the opening 45 minutes.

Yet Pellegrini’s side had started to put together some neat passing moves of their own before the interval and they played with a measure of control for long spells after the break. What they lacked was real penetration.

Their wide players, Jesús Navas and Samir Nasri, seldom threatened to get behind the home defence and Pellegrini had started with Sergio Agüero on the bench, preferring the greater physical presence of Edin Dzeko, in part to keep the Argentine back for Sunday’s game against Chelsea. Dzeko ran hard, but City always tend to look more dangerous when Agüero is operating through the middle, and they ought to be disappointed that they could not do more to trouble Manuel Neuer in the Bayern goal. It was rare to see them playing with so little dynamism going forward and, ultimately, the balance was not right between defence and attack.

By the hour, though, Bayern were starting to look frustrated and unusually careless. Neuer could be seen at one point playing a poor ball from his goalmouth to Benatia, who could only knock it out for a corner. Müller skewed one cross straight out for a goal-kick, and Guardiola, of all people, will not want to see a replay of when the ball came to him by the dugout and he tried to knock it back for Juan Bernat to take a throw-in. His pass sent it over Bayern’s left-back and another ball had to be fetched.

Guardiola looked mortified, rubbing his head with both hands. These were all small moments to encourage City.

They had started to look relatively comfortable by that point, with Fernandinho doing a fine job to shield their defence and Bacary Sagna deputising well at right-back for the suspended Pablo Zabaleta. Silva relishes these big occasions and almost scored with a diving header just after the hour. Not for the first time, however, Yaya Touré left the impression he is some way short of last season’s form. He was overrun and there was one slip when he lumbered to his feet, then made no attempt at all to get back to help his defence. Touré is a player of such distinction that it stands out when he is not playing well and it has become a recurring theme so far this season.

In theory, this was meant to be good time to face Bayern, with Franck Ribéry and Bastian Schweinsteiger among an extensive injury list and Robben restricted to a place on the bench. Yet City managed only two shots on target. They have kept only three clean sheets in 21 Champions League fixtures and Agüero, outpacing the Bayern substitute Dante, could not rescue them after Boateng’s sobering strike.

Teams

Bayern Munich: Neuer, Alaba, Lahm, Benatia (Dante 86), Rafinha (Pizarro 84), Boateng, Bernat, Müller (Robben 75), Alonso, Lewandowski, Götze   Unused subs: Reina, Shaqiri, Rode, Hojbjerg

Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Clichy, Demichelis, Kompany, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Navas (Kolarov 88), Silva, Nasri (Milner 57), Dzeko (Aguero 72)  
Unused subs:  Caballero, Boyata, Mangala, Lampard        Bookings: Dzeko, Kompany, Clichy, Demichelis
   

Referee: Alberto Mallenco (ESP)               Att:62,000

Arsenal 2 Manchester City 2       Mark Clangerburg Strikes Twice
Sunday 14th September 2014 :  David Harwood for GYKO at The Emirates

By the end, there was unmistakable disappointment on Arsène Wenger’s face and a heavy sense of regret engulfing the stands about Arsenal’s failure to capitalise on those goals from Jack Wilshere and, brilliantly, Alexis Sánchez that had turned the game upside down in 11 second-half minutes. Yet they will also know it might have been worse on a day when both sides could easily have won or lost and that culminated in a rare show of temper from Manuel Pellegrini.

A Martín Demichelis late header ultimately spared Manchester City a second successive defeat but they still had time to hit the post twice during that wild, chaotic finale when their opponents seemed to be doing everything possible to contrive a way to lose. Samir Nasri, facing his former club, was denied a stoppage-time winner because of an offside flag and City also had justifiable grievances that the referee, Mark Clattenburg, missed Wilshere’s handball inside the penalty area.

Arsenal limped to the finish but it would be unfair to reproach them too heavily when, earlier in the game, they had played as though affronted by their record against the top sides. Wenger and his players had been reminded all week about their sorry run of results in these high-importance fixtures but there was no sense of a side with an inferiority complex. They played with high skill and intensity and, more than that, they had to show considerable personality after going in behind at half-time to Sergio Agüero’s breakaway goal.

To recap, this is an Arsenal team that had taken 26 points out of a possible 90 against the teams they want to consider as bona fide rivals over the past five years. They set off like a team that wanted to show that statistic must be a glitch in the system, but for a long time after Agüero’s goal they found it difficult to get any momentum back. Vincent Kompany was a formidable opponent, as he always is in the big games, and David Silva’s nimble artistry between midfield and attack frequently troubled the home side.

It was a test of Arsenal’s character and, midway through the second half, they passed it with distinction. Wilshere equalised in the 63rd minute after running on to Aaron Ramsey’s pass, eluding Gaël Clichy and clipping a lovely diagonal shot above Joe Hart, and what followed was sensational.

This was one of Sánchez’s better performances from his brief time at Arsenal and it was a majestic volley with which he gave Arsenal the lead, even if Hart might have done better.

It was just a pity for Arsenal that everything started to unravel from that point. Wenger talked of conceding a “cheap goal” and he must have been startled by the carelessness of his team in the moments before and after Demichelis thudded a header past Wojciech Szczesny straight from a corner. “We did something remarkable to come back,” Wenger said. “The only disappointment for me is that we couldn’t keep the lead.”

Instead, there was enough late pressure from City to feel they could have added one final, dramatic twist. Aleksandar Kolarov drove one shot against the upright and then another substitute, Edin Dzeko, was denied by the other post.

Dzeko had been on the pitch, Pellegrini said, because City’s manager was convinced Clattenburg would end up sending off Agüero. Fernandinho and Frank Lampard, two of City’s other booked players, had already been withdrawn and it was rare to hear Pellegrini be so critical of a referee’s performance. Uppermost in his mind was that there were “clear fouls” before both Arsenal goals. That was an exaggeration but, overall, he was justified to say Clattenburg had a “very bad day”.

Lampard had been held back for this game so Yaya Touré could have a break after playing for Ivory Coast in Cameroon on Wednesday but the 36-year-old looked his age on a difficult City debut. His yellow card, for sliding into Ramsey, had exposed his lack of match fitness and the game was played at an unforgiving speed.

To start with, Arsenal had the clear edge but Danny Welbeck, on a debut that showed his good and bad, opted for the lofted shot, the dainty little pitching wedge, when he ran clear early on with the chance to open the scoring; as Wenger acknowledged, it was almost certainly the wrong choice of club. The ball came back off the post, rebounding into Hart’s arms, and even at that early stage it was tempting to wonder whether the £16m signing might regret that wastefulness.

Sure enough, City broke in the 28th minute. Agüero went for the same ball as Mathieu Flamini in midfield and, as the ricochet spun it to the right, the Arsenal man hesitated, believing it was going for a throw-in. Jesús Navas had read the trajectory of the ball and as soon as he started haring down the line Arsenal were in trouble. His cross was beautifully weighted and Agüero had eluded Flamini to show his expertise in the penalty area.

Arsenal lost Mathieu Debuchy in the closing stages to a badly sprained ankle and they were looking dishevelled in those moments when the champions went searching for the winner. They very nearly found it but Arsenal, on the balance of play, had done enough before that point to think that it would have been unwarranted.

 Teams

Arsenal:
Szczesny, Debuchy (Chambers 81), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini (Arteta 90+5), Wilshere, Ramsey, Alexis, Ozil, Welbeck (Oxlade-Chamberlain 88)    Unused subs:  Ospina, Gibbs, Cazorla, Podolski

Bookings: Flamini, Monreal, Sanchez

Manchester City: Hart, Clichy, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Fernandinho (Kolarov 77), Milner, Lampard (Nasri 46), Navas, Silva, Aguero (Dzeko 67)                               Unused subs: Caballero, Sinclair, Mangala, Sagna

Bookings: Zabaleta, Lampard, Fernandinho, Aguero

Referee: Mark Clattenburg             Att:60,000

 

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