Monday 31 October 2011

Match Report City v Wolves. Stuart Attwell wasn't THAT bad.

Professional Job by City.

It’s a fair guess that when City fans think back over this season few will remember this game as a highlight.  Even in the list of  results, the reader’s focus will be drawn back to their drubbing of Manchester United. 
But, MARK MY WORDS .. This is the game that has all the hallmarks of a title winning side.

Most were surprised that Mancini opted to leave Balotelli on the bench after his dazzling derby performance.  Instead the coolest Italian in history chose Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero. Both of whom set about Wolves from the off.   Wolves were set up differently to mid week and for the first 45 seemed to have just about enough to thwart the two highest scoring strikers in the land.

Scott Hennessey played an absolute blinder for the first 45, turning efforts away from both strikers and Samir Nasri. Stearman probably also deserves a note in dispatches as he prevented a clear goal with a courageous block.  This is the kind of defensive performance that could have put a significant dent in City’s title aspirations.. But then it all came undone.
Wolves Howler.
For the past 12? Years I’ve been waiting for a goalkeeper to gift City a goal the same way that Shaun Goater was gifted against Nottingham Forest.  For reasons only known to himself Hennessey decided to control and take his time on the ball as one of the top 3 players in the world chased him down.

Aguero’s tackle was quick enough (of course it was), the ball then fell into Edin Dzeko’s path who slotted the easiest of chances .  5 seconds of madness after 52 minutes of discipline  and Wolves hopes were gone.  15 minutes later and Kolorov had doubled the lead, this finished the game off (or so we all thought).
On the 74th minute Jo Hart parried a chance that fell into the path of Kevin Doyle, Vincent Kompany flattened him and was given a straight red for preventing a clear scoring opportunity. Hunt scored from the resulting penalty and  City were down to 10 men.  This is the kind of pressure that we've not been put under this season. 

For me looking back this was the most interesting passage of play, because it probably just about made things even. Mancini knows about seeing out games. It's what he does, (Mark Hughes could do well to take note).
Manchester City’s resilience here was utterly brilliant. Wolves had 20 minutes to level up and in that time managed just 2 shots from outside the box and only one on target.  12 months ago this game would have finished 2-2 or worse but this is the new City where ALL the players can see a prize. 

They didn’t give Wolves a sniff and just to bloody their nose a little Adam Johnson scored on 90 minutes from 20 yards out. It followed a superb break and hold from the second coolest Italian in History.  (Garibaldi is third).

A word or two on the referee. 

The referee Stuart Atwell has been the topic of much conversation but I’m not convinced that he did as badly as everyone said. First off everyone agrees that he got the “big decisions right” and every pundit reminds us every week that that is the main job for a ref.

His 3 crimes .
1.       1.He missed a booking for Hunt.
2.       2.He awarded an odd freekick against Balotelli that was the most ridiculous I’ve seen.
3.       3.He is called Stuart Atwell.

It’s crazy to say his was the worst performance of all time- when nothing he did affected (or stood to change) the natural outcome of the game. He'll be around for the next 10 years of so plenty of time for him to build a working relationship with Mario B.

City still sit top of the table having protected their 5 point lead and increased the GD on United by 1 (now +28)

Line ups.

Manchester City.

Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Nasri, Yaya Toure, Barry, Silva, Aguero, Dzeko


Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Edwards, O’Hara, Henry, Hunt, Guedioura, Doyle

Att 47, 142

(My prediction  3:1)

Friday 28 October 2011

Match Preview: Manchester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers 29.10.11

City meet Wolves again on Saturday after having beaten them convincingly on Wednesday night in the Carling Cup.  Like City, Wolves made big changes to their line up mid-week so don’t be surprised to see just 2 familiar faces in their line up on Saturday (Ward and Doyle).

Last week against Swansea, Wolves looked like they’d never met each other, particulary in the midfield as Swansea conducted things. If they play the same way it’s hard to expect anything but a David Silva masterclass.  Personally I wouldn’t be upset to see Nasri start with Johnson.  Losing Silva before our trip to Villareal would be a disaster.

Football is all about league position and you can be sure that Mick McCarthy will be doing all he can to keep a clean sheet, something that only Bayern Munich have achieved in 6 months.  We have to be optimistic about our chances for three points.

City follow this fixture with a trip to Spain in the Champions League next week, so it will be interesting to see who Mancini rests on Saturday.  Could he surprise us all and start with Dzeko and leave Balotelli on the bench?

Starting Line Up Guess :
Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott,  Kolorov, Barry, Toure, Nasri, Johnson, Balotelli, Aguero

Wolves : Zubar, Foley, Fletcher
City : Hargreaves

FWIW : Match prediction  City 3 Wolves 1

It's not about them anymore.

I'm pretty sure that I speak for all Blues when I say that the league title is THE priority this year.  At the time of writing City are 5 points clear, by the time you read this it could be 2 or it might be 8.

Giddy heights for us small time berties but it did make me think.

In the past my priorities have been a little embarrassing and they mainly involved Manchester United.

Loosely they evolved like this.

Ambition 1. 1985- 2002 During the dark days of relegation. To play against Manchester United.
Ambition 2. From 2002 To beat Manchester United in any given derby.
Ambition 3. From 2008 To take that banner at Manchester United down.

Our club has been scraping through one huge and drawn out disaster. 

United fans knew it, City fans didn't. We'd pretend that everything was rosy or at worst 'not far from falling into place' , but it's taken Paul Lake's autobiography to highlight how bad things were at our club.  

Their ticking banner was a masterpiece, we were small-time because there was nothing that could be done about stopping it each year. We had become their little cousin looking up at their bag of sweets on a mantelpiece that we couldn't reach.  They were mean and beastly and claimed that Liverpool / Leeds were their bessie mates. That annoyed the bejaysus out of me.

Then we had a growth spurt.

Of course things changed on the 31st August 2008 , from day one, there wasn't a Blue who doubted that eventually Sheikh Mansour's purchase was going to revolutionise things. (We're stupidly optimistic like that).

For me since 2008, the removal of the ticking banner was City's first priority , that boil needed to be lanced before we could begin to have real ambition.  It was significant to me that we achieved it by beating them in the Semi-Final.  After that cup win for the first time in 30 years we were actually able to look at them and think, "it isn't about them anymore". 

2011-12 is now about City, Manchester City.  We want to win the league because that's what a football club does.  Never again should our target be "just finish above them".

The team in 2nd place could go unbeaten in everyone of their 29 remaining games and still have to form a guard of honour at the Etihad stadium for us

<- Okay Okay... Sorry.

I'm not saying City are now better than United.
I'm not saying United are set for 30 years of misery. 

But what I am saying is that from this point on the sweets on the mantelpiece are fair game.  Bar the Champions League (2 yrs) we have as much chance as them in any competition and we'll probably match them pot for pot. (Until the Oil runs out).

Over to you City! 

P.s. I know penning this article shows deep down I'm still obsessed with them. Sue me.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Wolves v City - Carling Cup Match Report. 26.10.11

 30 minutes of nothing, then 3 come at once.
Roberto Mancini's men & boys made the short trip down the M6 after a morning training session at Carrington with progression into the Qtr Finals a real prospect given Wolves' poor abject form of late.

City made 11 changes to the team that started at Old Trafford three days before with the giant Costel Pantilimon between the sticks. Abdul Razak (DM) and Luca Scapuzzi (striker) were the other two notable introductions.
Fruit pastille wooah... he eats without a chew....
The Blues started badly, Wolves played with an edge and took the lead after 18 minutes with a goal from Milijas.  Kolo Toure made a mess of things for their goal and the 'nearly brummies' could have easily been 2-0 up as the referee had already ignored a Kolorov handball inside the 18 yrd box.

City's midfiled awoke from their sleeping slumber  after Zabaleta's cross found Edin Dzeko who played a neat pass to the 'first team curious' Adam Johnson. 

Any hope Wolves had of victory ended in the following  2 minutes as City harvested their neat passing with 2 quickfire goals from Nasri and Dzeko. 

Going in 3-1 down at half time must have been a bitter pill for McCarthy and his men. Little point in him doing the teacup routine as they'd done okay but what hope could he build on ?   They'd dominated the best team in the land for 30 minutes and found themselves out of the fixture and competition.

If City can do this  at Molineux in a competition that really doesn't matter that much, what might they do to Wolves for the 'proper one' 3 days later at the Etihad Stadium?

I'm sure that both managers would have agreed to call it off at half time, was there really any point in them coming out for more of the same. Less than 10,000 Wolves fans had bothered to make the trip anyway. 

Come out they did however and within 5 minutes City had increased their lead to 4-1 with a goal for Luca Scapuzzi that has since been awarded to the Wolves GK De Vries as an OG.  

City finished their work on 64 mins with a brilliant second for Dzeko which am pretty sure moves him above Aguero as the clubs top scorer for the season. 

Jamie O'Hara finally finished things up for the night on 65 minutes, but nobody really noticed.

Official attendance 
12,496. City had sold their 2500 allocation.

Match Line Ups.

Wolverhampton Wanderers
De Vries, Doherty, Craddock, Elokobi, Ward, Edwards (Henry 67), Guedioura, Milijas (Hammill 65),Hunt,Vokes, Doyle (O'Hara 65).
Manchester City
Goals: Milijas 18, O'Hara 65

Manchester City 
Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Savic, Toure, Kolarov, De Jong, Razak (Milner 85), Scapuzzi (Rekik 73), Nasri (Suarez 67), Johnson, Dzeko.
Goals: Johnson 37, Nasri 39, Dzeko 40, 64, De Vries (og) 50

FWIW My Prediction was 1-1

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Match Preview. Wolves v City Carling Cup 26.10.11

Both teams come to this one with one eye rooted on the 'proper' league competition, and given that the cup game is directly before they meet again three days later it's likely to be a delicate affair.

Roberto Mancini has the squad size and fitness to make up to 9 changes from the line up that demolished United last Sunday.   Owen Hargreaves has a calf injury so maybe that might make room for the promising Abdul Razak at some point.

It’s getting harder to tell the difference between a 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 with City’s movement these days, but Dzeko will certainly be the starting striker.

Mick McCarthy is under pressure from the Wolves (sometimes) faithful. Against Swansea last Saturday with 10 minutes to go they were looking at a 7th consecutive loss, (not the kind of form for a team investing heavily in extra seating).

The two goal turn around was a combination of persistence , tired Swansea legs and a decent slice of good fortune.  The 2-2 result has probably given McCarthy another fortnight before calls for his departure rise again.

Sensible money would be on City to be 2 goals better than Wolves, but for me it’s one of those ‘I’ve got a funny feeling’ games.
Of course it's not impossible that a victorious Wolves team with a decent draw in the qtr finals might not be an outside bet for a trip to Wembley in Feb.  Need to be careful.

My prediction 
Wolves 1 City 1 - No idea how pens might go.

Comments to include score predictions pls.