April 4, 2016
by siepod
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Bournemouth 0-4 Manchester City: Match Report

Manchester City returned to winning ways at the weekend with a comfortable 4-0 victory away at Bournemouth. The Blues, who have stuttered of late in the league, and find themselves in a battle to hold on to 4th spot, brushed aside any fears on Saturday with the kind of performance that left many wondering why they are currently unable to string together any real form. Although City were without Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Touré, Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph, outgoing manager Manuel Pellegrini was able to welcome Kevin De Bruyne back into the fold, the midfielder returning after 2 months on the side-lines due to a knee injury picked up against Everton back in January. Samir Nasri, who had been out since the reverse fixture at the Etihad in which City won 5-1 back in October, was also fit enough to claim a place on the bench.

The visitors began brightly, and found themselves in the lead after just 7 minutes. Bournemouth failed to deal with a Jesus Navas corner, and midfielder Fernando was on hand on produce a smart side foot volley beyond the outstretched arm of Boruc to claim his first league goal of the season. The lead was doubled just 5 minutes later after a fantastic piece of one touch football between David Silva and De Bruyne saw the returning Belgian international volley home with precision.

De Bruyne sees his second-half volley saved_89052396_debruyneseesvolleysaved

 

With City threatening to run riot, they added a third in the 19th minute, this time Spanish winger Navas somehow digging out a cross from the touchline, and Sergio Agüero rising above everyone to head home, despite the best efforts of the home side to clear on the line. At the other end, when called upon Willy Cabellero was more than up to the task to deny Joshua King with a header, while City were unlucky not to get a fourth themselves when Fernandinho rattled the bar from 25 yards with Boruc well beaten.

After the break, and with the match seemingly won, City were content to knock the ball around and limit Bournemouth to efforts from distance, no doubt with one eye on the midweek clash in the Champions League. At the other end, Boruc had to be at his best to keep City from adding to their lead, most noticeably when producing a great save to deny another De Bruyne volley. Just shy of the hour Pellegrini was able to bring the Belgian off, no doubt delighted with how his return had gone, for Aleks Kolarov, while David Silva was rested soon after, giving much needed game time to the returning Samir Nasri. The final substitution came when promising youngster Kelechi Iheanacho replaced Agüero with 11 minutes left. There was still time for City to add a fourth, when substitute Kolarov cut through several players to smash home emphatically.

The win saw City gain on leaders Leicester, albeit temporarily, while also keeping the pressure on Tottenham and Arsenal in the other Champions League spots. However, with West Ham managing a draw and United winning on Sunday, only 3 points now separate 4th – 6th spot. The biggest delight for City, aside from a return to goal-scoring form, will be a halt to the slide in away form which had seen them struggle, picking up only 11 points in the last 11 on the road before Saturday’s win. City will once again be hoping they can build on this and string together 2 successive wins in the league, a feat which incredibly they have not achieved since October.

Next up is the tough trip to Paris to face PSG in the Champions League quarter finals. The French champions have been in devastating goal-scoring form themselves of late, although City will be hoping they can carve out another performance like Saturday and at least bring something back to the Etihad to play for in the return fixture. For their troubles, Bournemouth, who find themselves 11 clear of the relegation zone, and just 2 shy of the illusive 40-point mark, will face few teams in such rampant form during the run in, with manager Eddie Howe quick to acknowledge the former Premier League champions had been fantastic on both occasions when the sides met this season.

MOTM: Kevin De Bruyne Truth be told, it could have been one of 5 or 6 players, with quite a few putting in confident performances, but for me De Bruyne just edges it. Despite a stuttering start, the Belgian soon got into the flow of the game, dictating play from the number 10 role with aplomb, and but for a smart save from Boruc he could have had more than the 1 goal to show for his hour’s work.

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April 2, 2016
by siepod
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Can City pick off the Cherries?

It won’t have escaped the more observant of you that I haven’t posted since the derby day defeat to the Rags. Wish I could say it was because I was sulking, but the sad truth is I was embarrassed. Embarrassed to see arguably one of the best squads we’ve ever had fail against one of the worst Utd teams I’ve even seen tip up at Maine Road or the Etihad. Admittedly, we didn’t have the luxury of a full strength team, but neither did they. Truth is we still had more than enough to beat them, but just a complete lack of desire and too many players failing to turn up on the day sealed our fate.

I ranted when Kompany went off that if Pellegrini was stupid enough to play Demichelis against the young United attack at the weekend, he would end up on his arse. Little did I know, my prediction would be so literal. Any football fan worth their salt can see that Demichelis’ legs are shot, and when played alongside any roaming defender (and Otamendi and Mangala both love a good wander) you’d always just get your fastest or most skilful attacking players to sit on the shoulders of Demi, because he is always going to end up exposed at some point during the game. He was lucky he wasn’t guilty of giving away a penalty (it was in my eyes), while he also contributed in no small part to the injury of Joe Hart. Pellegrini clearly loves him, but he’s fast on his way to becoming one of the better panto villains we’ve had at City in recent years.

Still, that game is gone, and now the focus should shift forward. Securing a top 4 place (especially given the better form of both Utd & West Ham to ourselves) is not going to easy, and based on recent months I am seriously beginning to doubt we will get it, BUT we would stand a far better chance if players actually put the effort and commitment in on the pitch rather than on Twitter post game as is currently the trend. And if somebody could make Pellegrini forget his 3 times table any time soon, that would be appreciated.

 

Bournemouth away is a tough game, make no mistake, and while on paper we should have more than enough to beat them (and most other sides in this division) this season has proven that to be anything but the case. For once City didn’t lose any players to injuries for their national sides during the International break, although Yaya seems to be out again now, so the only current absentees are Delph (long term), Touré, Kompany, and Hart & Sterling who both came off in the derby. On the plus side, Kevin De Bruyne and Samir Nasri both return to the first team fold, although both will be massively lacking in match fitness after long term injuries.

Earlier in the season, City beat Bournemouth 5-1 at the Etihad, but that will count for nothing today, and I expect it to be a far different game this time out. All eyes will once again be on what formation Pellegrini puts out, and whether he keeps blind faith in Bony or gives Iheanacho a long overdue start. Personally I expect a 4-3-3 style formation, with Otamendi and Mangala together at the back and only one striker up top. The other concern will be in goal, where Capital One Cup hero Willy Caballero will deputise for the injured Hart. Became a hero at Wembley, no doubt, but has often been found wanting in other games this season, noticeably Spurs away in the league and Chelsea away in the Cup. Hopefully the Caballero the manager clearly loves so much will turn up this afternoon.

All I ask is that City give it 100% commitment, try and eradicate recent weeks and their near relegation form and actually start to patch a good run together. A couple of goals would be nice, but then again if Agüero showed a little more faith in his team mates at times (a criticism of recent games, not overall), and in turn they stopped trying to walk the ball in, I think that will come naturally. Whatever happens I’ll always be proud to be blue, and no doubt be back on here ranting about or celebrating the outcome.

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March 15, 2016
by siepod
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Manchester City 0-0 Dynamo Kyiv: Match Report

manchester-city-vincent-kompany-injured-devastated-substituted_3392278It was a case of job done for City as they cruised into the last 8 with a relatively easy run out against Dynamo Kyiv. City already had a 3-1 advantage from the first leg, and in a match which offered nothing real in the way of excitement, they had little to test them in this encounter. In a first half of relatively little action, the biggest incident of note involved an injury, City dealt a blow after just 6 minutes, when skipper Vincent Kompany pulled up with his troublesome calf. The former Premier League champions have struggled at the back in the absence of their captain, and when he pulled up after an innocuous clearance there was an audible groan around the stadium, with the all-important Manchester derby on the horizon on Sunday. He was replaced by Mangala, making his first appearance since January. There was more worry for Pellegrini not long after when the other first choice centre half, Nicolás Otamendi, stayed down after an unfortunate clash with Buyalskiy. Both players needed treatment from the physio, requiring them to leave the pitch, before returning. Otamendi also received a yellow card for his troubles, returning to the field of play too early in the eyes of the referee, much to the annoyance of the home fans.

The first 20 minutes failed to produce any real chance of note, the closest a keeper came to being tested when Joe Hart was forced to stick out a hand to push away a dangerous cross, only for the linesman to flag for offside. The referee was forced to reach for his card again after a crude challenge from Antunes on Navas, which fortunately the Spaniard rode well. Shortly after, Otamendi went to ground for the second time, clearly unable to play any further part, and City were forced into their 2nd centre back change of the night, veteran Martin Demichelis replacing his Argentine team-mate. Close to the half hour mark and it was the home keeper Hart called into action again, reacting to punch clear a speculative set piece after Demichelis gave away the foul.

City then created their first chance of note, when a powerful run from Yaya Touré, arguably City’s most offensive player in the first 45, created space for Navas on the right. The Spanish winger fired in a cross, but Agüero was unable to make any real connection on the ball to test the keeper. Navas then had a great chance to do more when he broke free in a City counter attack, but he massively over weighted his pass to the overlapping Agüero, and the ball harmlessly rolled out, in a move that pretty much summed up the first half in general, City lacking quality in the final third, and visitors Kyiv just lacking any quality or desire at all.

The second half began in much the same vein, the only real attacking threat of note again coming from Touré. A neat move down the right saw Yaya’s cross fired towards his own net by a Kyiv defender, and the keeper fearing a back pass was forced to hit the ball clear. The clearance led to a City free kick in a dangerous position, but the chance was wasted. City then had another great chance to threaten from a set piece, this time after Garmash was booked for tripping Agüero in a similar position. Yaya Touré tried his luck from a similar range to Payet’s stunner in the cup at the weekend, but his effort was just wide of the keeper’s right hand post. Touré and Agüero then linked up with a smart move down the right, but Agüero dragged his shot wide as City began to turn the screw. On the hour mark, City were then unlucky not to take the lead, Touré again the architect and Navas seeing his effort fire back off the inside of the post before being put out for a corner, which came to nothing.

At the other end, Yarmolenko then had a great chance to steal a lead for the visitors. Clichy lost the ball, and Yarmolenko was able to turn Mangala inside out, but his final shot was straight down the throat of Joe Hart, who gathered with ease. Into the last 20 minutes Touré again had a chance to break the deadlock, Navas cutting back to pick him out on the edge of the area, but his whipped side foot effort was too close to Shovkovsky, who got down to save.

A quick counter from City involving a fantastic long range pass from Navas, and sublime piece of skill from Agüero, deserved more, but his delicate through ball had just too much on it for the onrushing David Silva, Shovkovsky able to come out and claim. City then made their final change of the evening, Silva being replaced by Raheem Sterling with 12 minutes to go. Yarmolenko had another great chance to break the deadlock for Kyiv, but he was flagged offside when he found himself free in the middle. He then went down in the box looking for a penalty, but Hart stayed alert to deny a follow-up shot, with the referee waving away he protests. Another smart double save from the City stopper at the end gave him the clean sheet he craved, and also ensured City have now kept 3 clean sheets on the bounce, although failure to score in the last 2 will also be a worry.

In summary. City will be pleased to have claimed another clean sheet, as well as doing a professional job in securing qualification, although there will also be some frustration that they lost their captain in a game Kyiv approached at times with little more vigour than a training match. All eyes will now be on the draw for the quarter finals on Friday, with Pellegrini also having some concern regarding preparation for the Manchester derby on Sunday. Early speculation would suggest Kompany will be absent but Otamendi may be back for that one, as his injured appeared to be more of an impact nature. With Chelsea already out, and Arsenal facing an uphill battle as they take a 2-0 deficit to the Camp Nou tomorrow evening, the Manchester club have at least ensured England some representation in the latter stages.

MOTM: Yaya Touré – the City man took control of midfield almost single-handed at times, and after taking over the captain’s arm-band from Kompany, was involved in pretty much everything of note the home side created as he brushed aside fellow professional footballers with ease.

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March 15, 2016
by siepod
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Manchester City v Dynamo Kiev: Match Preview

Etihad_Stadium_at_night_-_2015Manchester City will hope to make history this evening when they welcome Dynamo Kiev to the Etihad for the second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie, with a 3-1 win in the first leg giving them a great chance of progressing to the Quarter Finals of UEFA’s flagship competition for the very first time. The impressive victory at the Olympic Stadium, with goals from Agüero, Silva and Yaya Touré, gives City the advantage leading into their tie, but as their recent formbook has shown, they can take nothing for granted despite the aggregate lead.

City will at least be able to welcome back midfielder Touré to the fold, the Ivorian international absent at the weekend when City were left largely frustrated in a 0-0 draw at relegation threatened Norwich City.  The former Barcelona star definitely adds an extra dimension to the team, and that could be needed as former Spurs striker Serhiy Rebrov and his team come to Manchester knowing nothing less than a win will be good enough.

The club hierarchy made it clear their ambition was for further progress in this competition when resting a large chunk of the first team, in a much criticised move, for the FA Cup fifth round tie at Chelsea. And outgoing manager Manuel Pellegrini, who has come under increased criticism as his side have given up the league title fight with a whimper, will know that failure to secure progress tonight could see his 3-year tenure at the club end sooner than anticipated.

The Chilean manager is still without the services of Samir Nasri, Kevin De Bruyne and Fabian Delph, although evidence suggests all three will be back after the international break, albeit wildly short of match fitness. Despite this, the talent he has at his disposal is more than capable of securing another win, although the fans will be hoping this can be secured early on and with minimal effort, so that a few of the key players can then be rested for the crucial Manchester derby, which could still potentially shape up to be a decider in who secures Champions League qualification for next season. They will also be keen to see if the manager once again keeps faith in Wilfried Bony, despite two highly ineffective performances in his last two games. Personally, I would expect him to go with the same line-up that was so effective over in the Ukraine, with either Fernandinho playing right wing as he did in the first leg, or operating a more central role alongside Fernando, with Yaya given license to roam.

Pellegrini himself has already alluded to the fact that he will approach the game as if the tie is still square at 0-0, although how that translates into the way he sets up and organises his team remains to be seen. When all is considered though, whether City cruise to victory or it is a tight affair, it would be a brave man who bets against them progressing into the next stage, where in typical City fashion there is every likelihood they could be paired to face incoming manager Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich side, assuming they can overcome Juventus tomorrow night.

Probable Starting XI:  Hart – Sagna, Clichy, Otameni, Kompany (c) – Fernandinho, Fernando, Yaya Touré – Silva, Sterling, Agüero

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March 13, 2016
by siepod
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They think it’s all over…. it is now!

Even the most optimistic of City fans must now think any chance of a late rally for the title is dead. Sure, the club have history when it comes to clawing back points during the season run in, but a completely uninspiring 0-0 draw against relegation threatened Norwich summed up pretty much everything that is wrong with this current side. City have often been found to have no plan B in recent times, and this was further proof of that, when they did little to break down a side who have not won in the league since the beginning of January.

Pellegrini has divided opinion of late, some feeling he was hard done by in being told he was departing in the summer half way through the season, while others will point to the utterly embarrassing form against the top 8 in the league as for the very reason he is going. But both camps were left bemused when Wilfred Bony was handed another start, after his largely ineffective performance against Aston Villa last week, while the young lively Iheanacho, who scored against Norwich back in January when City won 3-0 in the FA Cup, was again left on the bench. The absence of Yaya Touré, again out with a heel problem, was always going to be a big miss although City still fielded a team more than capable of winning this game.

Norwich centre-back Timm Klose (right) made his team's most interceptions (5) and blocks (4) in the gameIt was another match where City dominated possession, yet created very little as a result. Norwich keeper John Ruddy was largely pedestrian in the first half, only really being tested a few times by Argentine forward Sergio Agüero, while Bony posed no threat. At the other end, Joe Hart could do nothing when beaten by a speculative effort from Patrick Bamford, the crossbar denying the youngster a great goal in his first start for the Canaries. The second half continued in much the same vein, City dominating play but almost getting caught out on the break. It was no surprise when Bony was replaced by Sterling, the former Swansea striker again offering very little. The change did little to alter the tide of the game, however, and large chunks of the second 45 saw City guilty of overplaying when getting a shot away would have been the better option. The laboured way in which they passed the ball round made it easy for Norwich to be able to re-group and get men behind the ball, a task they stuck to all game and carried out with perfection. At the other end, Norwich also had another great chance to steal all 3 points, but Dorrans was guilty of dragging his shot wide of the mark. City keeper Joe Hart summed it up perfectly after the game, when remarking that both he and fellow Number One John Ruddy could have been given the afternoon off.

Ultimately, a point is a great result for Norwich, and will give them some belief going into the relegation run-in, while City must now accept there is a real risk of them failing to secure the top 4 and Champion’s League football before the arrival of Guardiola. Pellegrini pointed to City needing to win 9 of their remaining games to be in with a shout of top spot, but with only 9 remaining, including the always fiery Manchester derby next weekend, surely the targets now need to be altered to ensure top 4 is priority. Next up for City is the 2nd leg of the Champion’s League last 16, as they welcome Dynamo Kiev to the Etihad. With a commanding 3-1 lead it’s hard to see them failing to go through, but fans will more importantly be hoping to see a convincing performance and a return to the sort of form a team of this sort of ability should be showing week in week out going into next weekend’s game.

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March 7, 2016
by siepod
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Richards a real Villain?

City returned to winning ways on Saturday, with what can only be described as a comfortable victory against an extremely poor Aston Villa side, but while Arsenal & Spurs took a share of the spoils, Leicester clocked up another win to keep the gap at the top the same. After the disappointment of midweek, and most sensible fans giving up any real hope of the title, in spite of the 3 points here nothing really changes. The first half saw City dominate possession, with Aston Villa largely reduced to chasing shadows, and benefitting from the odd misplaced pass from the home side. Regardless, they went into the break level after City squandered the few chances they did carve out, Bony being guiltiest as he failed to get on the end of a fantastic cross from Clichy to steer home, while also wasting two great headers as City looked to break the deadlock. There was also a fantastic piece of skill from Sergio Agüero that deserved more than being pushed away with relative ease from Brad Guzan.

Micah Richards of Aston VillaOne can only imagine what was said to the team at the break, but after the half-time interval they came out guns blazing, keen to put Villa to the sword, and it didn’t take long for them to take the lead. After some neat play on the wing, although aided in large by a complete lack of interest from Villa in hounding down the ball, the complete opposite of what they faced against Liverpool in the week, Sergio cut back to David Silva, who picked out Yaya Touré to stroke home with the help of a deflection off former Blue Micah Richards. Soon after the lead was doubled, when Richards was again the Villain of the piece, as his clearance deflected straight into the path of Agüero and beyond the hapless Guzan.

Agüero then grabbed his second after a fantastic piece of interplay with David Silva, who was largely back to his best in the 2nd half, before beating Guzan at his near post. The misery was complete for Villa when an innocuous cross from Navas was able to bypass the entire Villa defence, leaving substitute Raheem Sterling to stroke home with ease. There was still chance for Agüero to claim his hat-trick, after another substitute Kelechi Iheanacho was clearly felled in the box, but the Argentine could only watch on as his penalty beat the Villa keeper but struck the base of the post and rolled wide. In truth, a clinical City could have won this game far more emphatically than they did, but you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and while the visitors offered nothing, City did all they needed to claim the 3 points without any undue exertion or risks.

Some will see this as yet another turning point, another false dawn in the season which has often offered so much and yet delivered so little. Already several media outlets were keen to put City right back into the epicentre of the title race, no doubt as much to set them up for further criticism down the line as to underline the belief that the team who have clawed back points deficits twice before would do so again. To me, it was a case of an easy 3 points against an extremely poor side, nothing more. And any talks of a late charge on the title should wait until we can at least string together 4-5 wins on the bounce, the kind of form that has escaped us this season, and this one result and performance alone do little to change that. Next up is a trip to Norwich next Saturday, a team who, like Villa, but with far more success, are fighting for Premier League survival. Unlike Villa, however, they are unlikely to lay down and give up quite as easy as yesterday’s visitors. The best that can be said for Villa is that their misery is almost over, and relegation from the Premier League almost assured. At worst, based on the complete lack of desire shown by a large number of players, a 2nd relegation back to back could quite easily happen to this once great club, who more closely resembled a dog rolling over for it’s belly tickled than the lion their badge depicts. We’ve been there, seen it, and worn the t-shirt, and it’s fair to say it’s sad to see the demise of such a great club at the hands of a ruthless owner. That being said, the whole scenario merely serves as a smack in the face of those who are keen to criticise owners such as ours, who have only aimed to bring about positive change within a club/community, rather than those out for their own financial gain, with little thought as to how their decisions affect the football club itself.

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March 3, 2016
by siepod
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One… Two… Three… shake the City down!

As said at the time, out of the two games I would rather have got the win at Wembley than in the league, but the sheer manner of the defeat last night was extremely hard to take. I don’t claim to be a manager, not a pundit, just a simple hard working and loyal fan, yet days ago I made reference to the fact that Liverpool would need no added motivation for the league fixture, just 3 days after coming unstuck against us in the League Cup final. Yet last night, a response seemed to be the last thing City expected as they began in a lethargic and downright cumbersome manner. Despite Liverpool harassing them at every single opportunity, players continued to dwell on the ball, hold on to possession a fraction too long or just offer zero in the way of movement for their colleagues. To say they looked shell-shocked by the energy from Liverpool is an understatement. The manager, in his wisdom, tried to blame tiredness, but this is a team who have technically had a day more rest than the opposition (who were also pushed for 120 minutes at the weekend, let’s not forget). The truth is, they lacked any real courage nor desire to take the fight to Liverpool, who were clearly up for the battle.

Too often we look for an excuse, a reason, and when that fails we fall back on “typical City”, the ability we possess to shoot ourselves in the foot at any given moment, hell it’s in our DNA. But last night the reason was clear to see, the players lacked any motivation. Whether that is down to them or the management team is open to debate, but either way it is not good enough, not for a team who claim to be still pushing for the title. Actions speak louder than words, and FA cup aside when we rested the core of our team, the effort being shown in the Cup/Champions’ League has been absent in the league. A complete failure to take points from any of the teams around us is not acceptable. It is almost comical in fact that we are even within any sort of touching distance of the title given our record against the top half. Pathetic springs to mind. All this serves to do is highlight our fallibilities. This season we have seen Chelsea fail to defend the title in spectacular fashion, and sack their manager as a result. Truth be told, we are in all too similar form to that which saw the end of Mourinho, and Chelsea have been far better than us since the change of personnel. By and large, except from the always critical few in the media no matter our success, we have avoided any real criticism locally due to the lacklustre events on show down the road, but they are now level with us. Sure, we’ve got a new manager coming in, and many want to use that as an excuse, but form was woeful before the announcement regarding Pep, and several of these players are supposedly now playing for their futures at the club, and on recent performances, they simply don’t have one.

Back to last night. Even with the woeful start we were holding our own until we handed Liverpool a goal from nothing. The manager came under fire from all angles last week as he stuck to his guns to replace fan favourite Joe Hart with Willy Caballero for the final. His decision was wholly justified when Willy Caballero was the undoubted hero in the penalty shoot-out. Last night saw the return of our Joe against the same opposition, and yet somehow the normally reliable keeper found himself beaten way too easily from distance. The shot from Lallana lacked any real power or conviction, but Hart was nowhere near saving it. “Typical City”, you say. We looked to offer some response after going behind, but after a little spurt of possession play, in which we once again appeared to attempt to walk it into the net rather than test their keeper from any distance, we were once again undone way too easily for the second. Milner was allowed to roam to the edge of the box completely unmarked, and a smart first touch gave him the time and space to slot the ball past Hart, with the defence in no mans land. Much was made of his celebration against the club he represented last season, but personally I don’t care if he celebrates or not. He made his choice to move on, let him get on with it. Liverpool fans themselves are a lesson in just how embarrassing holding on to a grudge against a former player can be.

Sterling, subject of the aforementioned panto fans, was hauled off at half-time, not the greatest piece of man management, and a tad harsh when he was one of the few players at least trying to offer some form of outlet and after a shaky start was beginning to make some progress (even if the fans were on his back). In spite of being overrun in midfield, Pellegrini made the bizarre decision to sacrifice the work rate and width offered by Sterling for another striker in Wilfred Bony. In trying to guess his motive, you could argue that he was hoping Bony could hold the ball up and bring others into play, but if that were his aim he should have made himself clearer in getting it across to the players, who continued to play in the same laboured manner as in the first 45, making Bony largely pedestrian and the midfield even more outnumbered. And when yet another member of the now almost defunct midfield engine room, Fernandinho, was brought off for more firepower, amid much head scratching from the City faithful, there was little surprise when they conceded the third to Firmino. With three attackers now on the pitch, you feel we should have at least offered some threat to the Liverpool back line, but it was not to be. In fact, when Kolo Touré was seen to outpace Sergio Agüero and clear the ball with relative ease, it kind of summed up the evening.

After the game, Pellegrini was seen to wheel out the excuses, while the usual suspects took to social media to offer new motivational tweets in the aftermath. If they had shown anything like the same level of commitment on the pitch as they do to Twitter, then the outcome may not have been so horrific. I fully expected us to lose this game, a mixture between our lack of any real form at Anfield and the added motivation Liverpool had to beat us coming into the game, but few could have predicted the manner in which we fell. In a week when Spurs & Arsenal both lost, and Leicester also dropped points, we have managed to both go backwards and also do some harm to our usually impressive goal difference. Next up for the side is Aston Villa at the Etihad. While not being a fortress this season, we have still been rather formidable at home, but for a few blips along the way, most recently against Leicester City & Spurs, and we will need to return to winning ways and another impressive performance to put last night to bed. Villa somehow managed to grab a point in the reverse fixture at Villa Park, but have been in a steady state of decline since, including a 4-0 mauling from us in the FA Cup back in January, and it would take a brave man to predict anything but a return to winning ways for City on Saturday, but as we’ve seen this season, anything is possible.

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September 30, 2015
by siepod
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Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-2 Manchester City

City finally got of the mark in Group D after sealing a dramatic late 2-1 win at Borussia-Park, despite showing many of the defensive problems that proved their undoing at the weekend. City travelled to Mönchengladbach hoping for a change in fortunes after yet another stuttering start in Europe’s flagship competition. The two sides have only met once previously in Europe, in the UEFA Cup way back in 1978-79. The German side were victorious on that occassion, going on to lift the trophy after putting City out.

Manuel Pellegrini came into the game hoping for a change of luck this time out in Germany, especially after the mishap with his passport in the build up to the game, where City have lost three of their last four Champions League trips. The former Premier League champions have also faced a German side in the group stages in every appearance. After collapse against Juventus in Matchday 1 after taking the lead, City came into this having lost seven of their last 11 in Europe.

City made 2 changes from the side that capitulated against Spurs at the weekend, with Joe Hart back in to replace the much maligned Willy Caballero, while there was a further lift with the return of David Silva in midfield, replacing Fernando who dropped to the bench. There he was joined by EDS graduates Brandon Barker and Pablo Maffeo, both being named in a Champions League squad for the 1st time, while George Evans, who has been gaining well deserved recognition of late, was also named as a substitute.

City should have taken the lead early on, when Agüero was presented with a fantastic opportunity to end his drought after great play from Sterling down the left, but the Argentine could only watch in horror as the keeper somehow kept the ball out. A City corner then caused a scare at the back when a missed volley from Kevin De Bruyne allowed Borussia to play the perfect counter attack with pace down the left. Fortunately for Hart, and the City faithful, the shot was dragged just wide of the mark.

Demichelis was then at fault, when a sloppy piece of possession almost let the home side in again, but City were able to recover. Alarm bells were ringing again minutes later, however, when Raffael broke, and after some clumsy defending from Otamendi, the Brazilian forward went down. Replays suggest the contact was minimal, and the forward was already going down prior to any contact, but nethertheless, after a conversation between the referee and official behind the goal, the penalty was given. Raffael himself stepped up to take the spot kick, but England number 1 Joe Hart produced a fantastic save to keep the sides level.

Hart was called into action again just after the half-hour mark, as Raffael again found space in behind Otamendi, but the England keeper made himself big enough to snuff out the danger, before once again denying the hosts the lead with another big save, this time from Herrmann. Stindl then went over in the box under a tackle from Fernandinho, but the referee this time booked the Borussia forward for a dive, although replays suggest that decision as well might of been harsh, although in defence of the Brazilian midfielder he did look to pull out of the tackle.

At the other end, City continued to be sloppy in possession and wasteful of any chances they did forge out, and somehow at the break the game was still 0-0. There was no real surprise to anyone who watched the first half at the break, as City threw on Fernando for Yaya Toure in an attempt to shore up the defensive unit of the team. Toure, to be fair, still looked to be struggling from the injury that saw him subbed at the weekend, but in reality offered little in the first half!

The second half started in much the same vein as the first ended, Hart again doing magnificently to keep the score at 0-0, this time as Raffael broke to get on the end of a flick on, only to see his shot parried away, although the striker looked more than a little offside in the initial build-up. Minutes later City went up the other end, and neat interchange between the attacking quartet and Kolarov resulted in a corner, although Borussia were able to clear their lines from the set piece.

City then found themselves under the cosh again from a corner, a volley in the box appearing to hit Fernandinho on the hand, although there was little he could do to get out of the way. On the break, Sergio then had a great chance to play in Sterling, but held onto the ball too long and the opportunity was wasted. It was to prove costly as there was hardly any surprise when the home side took the lead. Kolarov went missing down the left, and an inch perfect pass picked out a completely unmarked Stindl in the box, and this time the finish was to prove too good for Hart.

City found themselves level in rather strange fashion just after the hour. From the corner, Demichelis appeared to bundle the ball over the line, but somehow both the referee and fourth official failed to give the goal. Fortunately, Otamendi was following in, and smashed the ball home via a Mönchengladbach defender. Replays show the ball was quite some way over the line, raising further eyebrows after the Ospina own goal at the Emirates last night as to why a competition so highly rated by many doesn’t have goal line technology.

Sergio then almost gave City the lead, only to once again be denied by Sommer, before Navas saw his follow up cleared off the line, although it looked to be going wide. City began playing with a new wave of confidence, and were definitely in the ascendancy since the introduction of Navas for Silva and the equaliser, and the Mönchengladbach back line had to be extremely alert to clear the danger when Agüero was again lurking in the box.

There was more drama at the death when City were awarded a penalty after Agüero was felled by Christensen. The striker, who had quite a few opportunities to break the deadlock, made no mistake on this occassion as he sent Sommer the wrong way. City almost added a third in injury time, as Sergio was quickest to react again, but Sommer produced yet another wonderful stop to deny the Argentine, taking a knock to his face in the process.

The keeper was clearly reeling from his heroics, with blood pouring from what appeared to be a broken nose. Quite rightly, with the injury been to a goalkeeper, play was held up while he received treatment for the injury, while City took the opportunity to throw on Pablo Zabaleta for Raheem Sterling, a first appearance for the full-back this season after picking up an injury playing for Argentina in the summer.

When play was eventually resumed, the corner came to nothing, and despite failing to keep the ball City were resolute in defence and able to see out the victory, and pick up their first Champions league points of the season in the process. Despite the defensive frailties, it was clearly evident that City were the better team for large parts of the second half, showing the undoubted class we all know they possess. Perhaps also telling was the fact that the shape and system looked better after the withdrawal of Silva and introduction of Navas, although which of those two factors it was down to remains debatable.

Despite the criticisms, and there could be many, City become the first English team to win in Mönchengladbach, and deserve credit for that.

Mönchengladbach: Stindl 54

Manchester City: Otamendi 65, Agüero 90 (pen)

MOTM: There can be no doubting that Joe Hart was head & shoulders (pun intended) above all his team-mates tonight, doing his best to keep the side in the game when the defence continually failed. Had less to do as the game progressed, thankfully, but once again showed why he’s the best in England for me.

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September 23, 2015
by siepod
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Not so sweet FA

The FA found themselves at the centre of yet more controversy yesterday as they upheld the decision to ban Chelsea striker Diego Costa for 3 games. The English governing body had earlier in the day made the decision to rescind the red card of Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista, for his part in the incident, a move that is bound to incense Jose Mourinho and the Chelsea fans further still. Costa, however, although only receiving a yellow card from referee Mike Dean in the original incident, was subsequently charged with violent conduct, which will now see him miss tonight’s game against Walsall in the Capital One Cup, as well as the Premier League clashes against Newcastle United and Southampton.

The charge relates to his clash with Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny near the end of the first half, which in turn lead to his clash with fellow centre back Gabriel. The controversial decision is bound to raise eyebrows among many in football, and perhaps more worryingly indirectly indicates that referee Dean did not see all of the incidents, meaning his actions were largely influenced by the reactions of the two sets of players. Many are also baffled by the bizarre decision to overturn the Gabriel red card, although the Brazilian defender still faces a separate charge of misconduct, related to his failure to leave the pitch immediately in the aftermath of the incident. Irrespective of any provocation, Dean indicates in his match report that he did see former Villarreal defender Gabriel kick out in reaction to Costa, and therefore the decision of the red card was surely justified.

Chelsea-vs-Arsenal

Costa himself, meanwhile, is no stranger to controversy, having previously received a three game ban from the FA after appearing to stamp on both Emre Can and Martin Skrtel in separate incidents during a League Cup semi final clash against Liverpool last season. His style of play, dubbed by some as over aggressive, has also managed to irk several opposition managers, and also saw numerous pundits coming out after the weekend to suggest the former Atlético Madrid striker crossed the line too often with his physicality.

Fans of the 26 year old striker suggest that the Spanish international is just very adept at winding up the opposition, unnerving defenders, and provoking a reaction, and that this is not in itself cheating, just very clever play, while his critics are more condemning. For their part, Arsenal will perhaps take some consolation that the red card for Gabriel was overturned, despite going on to lose the game. This will also add weight to the argument from some of the Gunners faithful that Merseyside referee Dean should not be allowed to officiate in any further games featuring the North London side, although the likelihood of that influencing the FA are slim to none.

In the separate charge relating to Gabriel’s failure to leave the pitch immediately after being sent off, he and the club have until 6:00 PM on Thursday to respond, with recent decisions bound to influence their response.

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September 22, 2015
by siepod
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Sunderland 1-4 Manchester City

Manchester City made no mistake in bouncing back from defeat at the weekend as they brushed aside fellow Premier League side Sunderland 4–1 in the Capital One cup third round. Many may have seen this as a potential banana skin for the richly assembled City squad in a repeat of the 2014 final, but any doubts were quashed within the first 10 minutes when City took the lead from the spot.

Sunderland gaffer Dick Advocaat, who previously stated he was looking for a good cup run to help instil some confidence into the club, had made several changes from the side that slipped to a 2-0 defeat against Bournemouth at the weekend, with former Blue’s Jack Rodwell and Adam Johnson both given a start, while former City keeper Costel Pantilimon dropped to the bench to be replaced by Vito Mannone.

His counterpart Manuel Pellegrini made just 3 changes from the side that began at the weekend in the Premier League, with Caballero, Demichelis and Fernando the only changes as he looked to guide his side back to winning ways on the back of two home defeats.

Sunderland started the stronger, enjoying a good spell of possession in the opening period, although there were warning signs at the other end when Agüero went close twice, first after being picked out by Jesús Navas before firing wide, and then after some sloppy play from the hosts at the back. However, when Van Aanholt was guilty of a poor tackle on Navas, the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Agüero, City’s top scorer last season, made no mistake this time as he punished the home side, sending Mannone the wrong way and continuing City’s impressive record of scoring on the road in this competition, which now stretches all the way  back to 2003, and the last 17 on their travels.

Despite falling a goal behind, Sunderland refused to let their heads drop, and perhaps felt they should have been level after 15 minutes when Borini broke free from Otamendi and slipped the ball beyond the on-rushing Caballero, only to see his effort ruled out by the referee. In spite of the protests, he was adjudged to have been over-physical in dispossessing the Argentine defender in the build up, much to the disgust of the home fans.

Otamendi was then caught out again, as a poor pass across the area was chased down by Sunderland, but the former Valencia defender was able to recover and make the tackle before the Black Cats could punish his mistake. Sunderland skipper John O’Shea then failed to connect from a corner, as the home side once again undid the City defence in search of an equaliser, but were unable to capitalise on the chance.

de bruyneToivonen then forced a great save from Caballero as he connected with a free header inside the box after a fantastic cross from Yedlin, as Sunderland continued to pile on the pressure, only to see City go up the other end and extend their lead. New arrival Kevin De Bruyne broke, and a neat one-two between him and Sterling sent the former Wolfsburg player free to slot home beyond Mannone, although the former Arsenal keeper will be more than a little annoyed to have been beaten so easily at his near post.

It proved to be a killer blow for the home side, who began to look dejected, and it was no surprise when they fell further behind just after the half-hour mark, Raheem Sterling seeing his initial effort come back off the post before striking Italian keeper Mannone on the back and ending up in the net. And while it will be quite rightly given as an own goal, there was no doubting who scored the 4th, when De Bruyne slipped Sterling through, and the 20 year old England winger finished with aplomb into the far corner.

It could have been even worse for Sunderland, and should have been 5 before the break when Agüero found himself free to round Mannone, but inexplicably the Argentine striker failed to slot home, taking a touch too many and allowing the Sunderland defence to get back and somehow clear the danger.

Sunderland threw on Lee Cattermole at the break, as much in an attempt to limit the damage as wrestle back any control of the game. However, with City 4-0 in front they were unsurprisingly unwilling to up the tempo, instead happy to stroke the ball around and pick out a key pass where necessary. With the result looking all but safe, City handed a debut to Patrick Roberts, the £2 million capture from Fulham, who came on to replace Navas, whose performance will hopefully have gone some way to restoring his confidence after the weekend.

City continued to create, Touré forcing a save from Mannone, while at the other end Sunderland struggled to test Caballero. The crowd were livened up somewhat by the arrival of a pitch invader, but the excitement proved short lived for the home crowd, as the visitors continued to dominate play. Jeremain Lens did at least force a save from the City stopper just after the hour mark, but the shot proved easy for the former Málaga keeper despite some good initial skill from the Sunderland striker in creating the opportunity.

City almost gifted Sunderland the chance of a consolation goal when another poor Otamendi pass back was almost punished, but the largely pedestrian Caballero was able to rush out and intercept. The City keeper was then called into action again to deny Borini, as the former Liverpool striker remained onside on this occasion but was unable to find the finish.

Next to leave the action was Agüero, who despite the penalty will still be ruing that first half miss, to be replaced by another of the promising City youngsters, Manu Garcia, as City looked to rest their star striker with the game largely won. Credit to Sunderland as they continued to press to at least get on the score-sheet, Borini continuing to work tirelessly in an attempt to make himself available, and it was no surprise when they did grab one back near the end, Yedlin again the provider with another fantastic cross, and Toivonen this time reacting quicker than Caballero to direct the ball home with his head.

There was still time for City to hand another debut, this time to midfielder George Evans, who came on in place of Ivorian midfielder Yaya Touré. In coming into the action, the 20 year old midfielder became the first Manchester City player to represent the club at every level, quite an achievement given the wealth of talent at the club he has been at since a child. There was to be no more action of note as City saw out the victory and see themselves comfortably into the 4th round. More importantly for Pellegrini, his City side didn’t pick up any further knocks, as they look to take this form back into the league at the weekend against Spurs. Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat, however, will once again be left frustrated at his side’s inability to defend with any real conviction. The North East side are rooted to the foot of the table, alongside neighbours Newcastle, and now face the massively daunting trip to Old Trafford to take on 2nd place Manchester United at the weekend.

Sunderland: Toivonen 93

Manchester City: Agüero 9 (pen), De Bruyne 25, Mannone 33 (og), Sterling 36

MOTM: Kevin De Bruyne – many quaffed at his price tag when the Belgian international arrived from the Bundesliga, but in just a few short appearances he has already shown his class. Comfortable with both feet, the 24 year old is more than capable of pulling the strings in the middle in the absence of David Silva. As he re-adapts to the Premier League and his new club, I only see him getting better still.

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