Business as usual – City average four scores at Etihad – MAN CITY 4 VIKTORIA PLZEN 2

Bloated by a goal glut hitherto never seen in English football’s top flight, it was business as usual as Manchester City fired in four goals at Fortress Etihad.

It was Czechmate and Czech-out time for Czech champions Viktoria Plzen as the giddy goal getters in Sky Blue made it 41 scoring strikes in 10 games on home soil, and yet it was a strangely underwhelming experience.

Christmas at the Etihad - a magical place of goals, goals and more goals Courtesy @MCFC

Christmas at the Etihad – a magical place of goals, goals and more goals Courtesy @MCFC

Here was a Manchester City team, comfortably qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League – a competition that was light years away prior to Sheikh Mansour’s investment  – and yet there was a certain sense of blasé about proceedings.

The gulf between Manchester City circa 2013 and the City side of just six years ago is immeasurable.

Shorn of a few shillings, City entered 2007 with a 2-1 win over Everton at the then City of Manchester Stadium, with a brace from Georgios Samaras. His manager, Stuart Pearce, when acquiring him for £6 million from Heerenveen in the Netherlands, described him as a ‘rough diamond’.

With a net return of just eight goals in 54 appearances, City fans later found out that only half of Pearce’s appraisal was true.

Sweet sixteen - Sergio strikes again Courtesy @MCFC

Sweet sixteen – Sergio strikes again Courtesy @MCFC

After the heady heights of their New Year’s Day win, Samaras and his team mates conspired to see out the rest of their Premier League campaign at home with an average of zero goals per game – not one, nada, zilch, not a sausage, sweet – actually not-so-sweet – FA!

Eight games without so much as a sniff of a goal in their own backyard. The drought was eventually broken an incredible seven-and-a-half months later, when Sven Goran Eriksson’s team, courtesy of rising ‘superstar’ Michael Johnson, beat Derby 1-0 on August 15th.

Contrast that with 26 PL goals in just six home games and the contemporary City fans simply have to realise they’ve never had it so good.

The 4-2 win, which gave City a record Champion’s League points haul, was not as straightforward as the score line might suggest. Perversely the post game focus was on City’s porous defence and the performance of Joe Hart, returning in goal after an undesirable five matches on the bench.

Defensive disarray - City's backline showing three changes was abysmal at times Courtesy @MCFC

Defensive disarray – City’s backline showing three changes was abysmal at times Courtesy @MCFC

Goals from Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko, disguised a lack lustre showing from a much changed line up that had chilled Tottenham’s not so hot spurs last Sunday.

Plucky Plzen twice plugged back City leads, making it 1-1 and then 2-2 with the host’s back four of Lescott, Demichelis, Kolarov and Richards looking as secure as Paris Hilton’s G-string in a naughty home video.

It wasn’t so much that the massive majority of the 41,000 crowd moaned, booed or berated their team, it’s just that the expectations levels at home are now so ridiculously high.

Legs XI - Negredo takes the plaudits for his eleventh goal of the season Courtesy @MCFC

Legs XI – Negredo takes the plaudits for his eleventh goal of the season Courtesy @MCFC

Oh my, what the average City fan of 2007 would have done for four goals in eight matches, let alone 90 minutes? The closest they came to the euphoria of a goal, never mind a winner, was a scuffed Darius Vassell penalty against Manure in the last home game, before Baconface’s boys sliced a lean cut 1-0 win over the less than noisy neighbours.

Six years on, following the seismic 6-0 stuffing of Spurs and the fact City had already qualified from Group D – the ‘D’ denoting doddle rather than death for once –  it was always going to be after the Lord Mayor’s Show.

Plzen piledriver - Czech scorer Horava's howitzer screamed past Hart

Plzen piledriver – Czech scorer Horava’s howitzer screamed past Hart

Sergio sustained his astonishing strike rate with a first half penalty before Plzen from Pilsner lager land, served up a fizzing riposte with the goal of the game – Tomas Horava’s spectacular strike whizzing past a blameless Hart.

Samir Nasri had earlier struck the bar with a shot that would have bettered Horava’s howitzer, had it beaten Kozacik in the visitor’s goal.

City’s French midfield maestro – now displaying the form that persuaded Roberto Mancini to shell out £24m to Arsenal – restored the advantage with an elegant finish just after the hour.

Plzen still refused to accept their fate and had the temerity to equalise in the 69th minute when a guy sounding more like a computer geek than a footballer – Teci – scored from close range. Once again Hart was visibly hurting, let down by the dregs of what was masquerading as a defence.

The Beast was introduced for Nasri in the 75th minute and within 180 seconds scored his 11th goal of the season. It was left to Mr Bosnian Body Language, Dzeko to finally put matters to rest with a header one minute from the close.

Edin heading - Dzeko scored the fourth and final goal after a less than inspiring performance Courtesy @MCFC

Edin heading – Dzeko scored the fourth and final goal after a less than inspiring performance Courtesy @MCFC

The difference between Negredo and Dzeko is almost akin to City’s goal famine of 2007 and the feast of 2013. It pains me to say it but Edin has had his days in the sun at the Etihad.

He looks disheartened and downbeat, whereas the swashbuckling Spaniard is all verve, vitality and measured aggression. One frightens opposing defenders, the other carries all the threat of a crème brulee.

The slow burning encounter was fired up by the introduction of  Yaya Toure for Fernandinho in the 64th minute. Toure immediately established his presence and power in midfield and provided the springboard for the eventual win.

Nein Nein Yaya - a yellow card rules Toure out of the Bayern Munich clash Courtesy @MCFC

Nein Nein Yaya – a yellow card rules Toure out of the Bayern Munich clash Courtesy @MCFC

He also managed to collect a booking for a non malicious foul which now rules him out of the away encounter with Bayern Munich. City will have to beat the European Champions by three goals in the Allianz Arena if they are to forge past the Germans and top the group.

A pragmatic Pellegrini might do well to put out a decent, but not full strength team in Bavaria, preferring instead to plunder the valuable six PL points to be had at Southampton and then Arsenal, either side of the fixture.

Home is where the Hart is - has Joe done enough to earn his place back in the First XI? Courtesy @MCFC

Home is where the Hart is – has Joe done enough to earn his place back in the First XI? Courtesy @MCFC

It would be nice to think that keeping goal in all of those games would be one Joe Hart. He produced a couple of fine saves and is clearly superior to Costel Pantilimon, albeit the giant Romanian has done nothing wrong in his five appearances.

If City can run up away wins at WBA, Southampton and Fulham it will be business as usual, and that has in the past, has usually been achieved with Joe in goal. Let it be so once again.

#TrustOurMP

 

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com

@djwskyblu

25 Comments

  1. November 29, 2013  2:08 am by Simon Dear Reply

    Great read - and all done for the most part without Kompany & Silva . If Aguero is the heartbeat of the team these two are the main arteries that run through it. I just hope we can pick a few points up on the road and if we are 3 or 4 points from top by the Xmas period with Kompany & Silva fit , Hart back in form then I will make the bold prediction that the gold badges on the sleeve will be once again be proudly worn by our boys in blue next season .

    • November 29, 2013  2:23 am by David Walker Reply

      Certainly room for optimism.

  2. November 29, 2013  2:16 am by Dave Bones Reply

    Love the comparison David,really makes you appreciate what City have become under our fabulous new owner,another great article from the ScribeKing.

    • November 29, 2013  2:24 am by David Walker Reply

      It just struck how barren it once was & how fertile it is now. Cheers Dave.

  3. November 29, 2013  5:42 am by Eileen Fullen Reply

    City fans are in Seventh Heaven and I for one are giddy with excitement for the future. We have a team to wet anyone's appetite. Hopefully we will dish out plenty of Xmas stuffing hehe going to be a busy Xmas period. Your assessments are always spot on and a must read for all CIty fans

    • November 29, 2013  7:53 am by David Walker Reply

      Yes, MCFC could court sponsorship from Paxo - who knows, the Parson's nose?

  4. November 29, 2013  8:29 am by ant walton Reply

    Always a pleasure to read, win or lose. as a fan of many years and experianced the travels to some very poor grounds, i can appreciate the exciting city. However, there are a few things starting to tick me off. How can missing just 1 man, albeit the captain, make a very solid back four look like a sunday side full of hungover fat blokes ? It truly is extrememly poor and has been going on too long now. This is not one offs. You are spot on about Dzecko. look at the goal celebrations as an example. no-one looked bothered, compared to the other goals. Is he a bad apple in the dressing room ? He can only have himself to blame, the new man in charge gave him plenty of chances at the start of the season, yes he may have scored a few but how many did he miss for it, and with our back 4 currently, we cant afford to miss many !!!
    Rant over, im sure the corner is there for turning very shortly.
    trust our mp

    • November 29, 2013  9:20 am by David Walker Reply

      100% in agreement sir.

  5. November 29, 2013  9:21 am by Ed Young Reply

    Always a phrase to make me chuckle - today's was 'Mr Bosnian Body Language'! I was there for all those matches in 2007, watching the tumbleweed blow across the higher reaches of Block 326, usually with a row to myself and Mrs Ed. How times have changed, in the (approximate) words of Monty Python's Yorkshire men "if you tell that to the young people today, they wouldn't believe you!"

  6. November 29, 2013  9:56 am by David Walker Reply

    Yes - the days when the Norwegian Blue was perhaps our only overseas supporters branch!

  7. November 29, 2013  10:07 am by carol Reply

    Re: Dzeko for disheartened and downbeat, read sulky and idle! Still, job done eh? ....next!

    • November 29, 2013  12:35 pm by David Walker Reply

      I was giving Edin the benefit of the doubt, yes, all if sounds about rlght, but I remember the 2-2 equaliser against QPR! I wish him well but he's not for City and where we're heading.

  8. November 29, 2013  10:14 am by Mole Rocks Reply

    Excellent as as always David, I assume you watched Paris' s video purely for journalistic purposes!?

    Game really was a bit of a damp squid as they say, Aguero and Nasri the only stand out players in the first half for me.

    Negredo when introduced was straight into the game and again cemented his place in our hearts with a goal and most importantly, an attitude that he had enjoyed scoring for us!

    I couldn't hear it on the TV, but has Dzeko started getting abuse from the crowd?

    I notice in the official photos, the Adidas posters dotted around Manchester and on the pitch, Dzeko has a look of a disinterested, bored man, is he just biding his time before departing for pastures new?

    Joe Hart did well and appeared visibly upset at both goals conceded, I agree he is better than Pantillimon and has served his penance.

    Now is the time to kick on in the premier league, here's hoping for a giddy December.

    • November 29, 2013  1:52 pm by David Walker Reply

      Tough life this research - Paris Hilton video - bored stiff!

  9. November 29, 2013  11:43 am by Alan Baxter Reply

    Bringing back the memories there Mr W. A friend of mine, (yes I do have one or two), bought a "half season ticket". Missed the game V Everton and so spent the best part of £300 watching the grass grow for the rest of the year. Comparing those barren years to the City of today, the old terrace chant of "it's just like watching Brazil " seems appropriate. I agree with your appraisal of Hart and also Dzeko who seems to like playing for Pellegrini as much as a Turkey liked getting fat for Bernard Matthews.
    MP has already hinted he's targeting the Arsenal game rather than Bayern, so into the hat we go and are almost guaranteed a visit from a European football superpower in February when hopefully we will be sitting atop the table.....bring it on....

    • November 29, 2013  1:53 pm by David Walker Reply

      In a word Thistle - agreed'

      Thanks as ever.

  10. November 29, 2013  2:06 pm by Graham Ward Reply

    A good read, David. Blase sums it up very well, I think. Yaya was certainly the most pragmatic person in the stadium on the night!

    • November 29, 2013  8:22 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Graham - Shame we couldn't negotiate a single victory without the big fella.

  11. November 29, 2013  4:18 pm by Chris Williams Reply

    Four was very flattering to be fair, but they are games in the past we'd of struggled to win. Sometimes you have to win ugly, get it done and move onto the next match and work on the performance.

    Thought win a second string team propped up by some first team regulars, we did ok. Let's not forget the CL Teams are the best in Europe and are all top quality, except the Rags of course.

    • November 29, 2013  8:25 pm by David Walker Reply

      Very true but it did highlight the woeful inadequacies of some of our squad players.

  12. November 29, 2013  10:16 pm by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    Excellent again Dave & funny as well . Sad to say I agree about Dezko his time appears to be finished at city & what has happened to Micah let's just hope it's just match time he needs. Interesting comparing the old & the new city I do think some city fans tend to forget were we came from. Nasri is starting to look like the player he was at Arsenal. I might have to look at that Paris Hilton video just for reference purposes of course.

    • November 29, 2013  11:00 pm by David Walker Reply

      The things we do for our beloved #MCFC - hard up times at the Hilton #boxroom

  13. November 30, 2013  7:24 am by lghualways Reply

    Thanks as always. The annoying thing about edin is you know he'll go and bag a hatful of goals elsewhere but I also can no longer defend Mr "touch of a 50p piece" as he is the only dissenting voice at city as our MP (have you a copyright on that?!?!) seems to have got a great spirit going with key players looking like they are enjoying playing again. Contrast Edin with Joe Hart, who took his medicine and I now hope he stays between the sticks and we see the keeper that we know. Excitement levels are building with skipper back now as well.

    • November 30, 2013  9:19 am by David Walker Reply

      I think Cpatain Fantastic should be back for WBA away, possibly Bayern and just pray that he doesn't get injured again. Would love to see Joe restored to the team against Swans but fear MP will stick with Pants...for now. I will always appreciate what Edin has done for City but our style of play is not suited to his strengths - of which undoubtedly has many. As you say he could go to Germany or Italy and be a scoring sensation but I'd take £20m if offered.

      No copyright on #TrustOur MP - just the kudos of knowing it was my invention if it were ever to take off. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  14. December 1, 2013  10:22 am by Ian Barton Reply

    Just had a RBNR fest over my pre match bacon butty, catching up after my sabbatical. Have to say Dave you hit the Mark every time, speaking of hitting the Mark, what a complete tool he is, how does he steal a living?
    Having watched for over 50 years of watching our beloved Blues I cannot ever remember a more potent threat than B&theB, even having seen the magnificent "Holy Trinity" in the 60's and 70's.
    Keep up all the good work mate, speak soon. Now about Ms Hilton.....

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