The Engineer & The Roman spanner – Man City 1 AS Roma 1

Engineer Manuel Pellegrini will have to retrieve a bloody big spanner from his machine if his Champions League blueprint for Manchester City is to stand any chance of success this season.

Rudi Garcia’s Roman incursion force were as good as their French manager’s pre-match prophecy that they were to be ‘protagonists and not spectators’ – right to the point where City’s prospects of qualifying from Group E are now under real threat.

Sergio celebration. Courtesy@MCFC

Sergio celebration. Courtesy@MCFC

It had all started so well with City netting the early goal they craved.

Sergio Aguero continued his prolific scoring feats as he dispatched a 4th minute penalty, having first earned the spot kick, courtesy of being hauled back by former City colleague Maicon.

The veteran Brazilian defender could easily have been sent off as he was the last line of the Roma defence, but Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers proved to be one of the most lenient of officials. Maicon saw a very mellow yellow.

Spanish steps - Silva nearly won the game in added time. Courtesy@MCFC

Spanish steps – Silva nearly won the game in added time. Courtesy@MCFC

Ultimately, the 1-1 draw gives the men from the Eternal city an advantage over the men from Manchester, especially as qualification could come down to a shoot out at the Stadio Olimpico in the grand finale to Group E.

Things could have been so different had David Silva squeezed a Pablo Zabaleta pass beyond Skorupski in the Roma net, deep into added time.

Merlin’s Spanish instep would have had them crying on the Spanish Steps back in Rome, had he steered the ball home for what would have been a landmark City win. In all fairness it would not have been deserved.

Ivorian brothers - Yaya and Gervinho in action at The Etihad. Courtesy@MCFC

Ivorian brothers – Yaya and Gervinho in action at The Etihad. Courtesy@MCFC

Roma were more than a match for a strangely listless City, playing in front of an embarrassingly low turnout of just 37,509 fans. Even accounting for economic challenges and the extra cost of Champions League fixtures, you’d expect another 7,000 to 8,000 on the gate.

The whole event oozed lethargy from a Manchester City perspective. The team needed a rocket up its collective backside or at least some Duracell batteries inserted somewhere, whereas the Sky Blues’ support were largely drowned out by the Italian visitors.

Roma’s impressive running off the ball, darting runs and exploiting space was in stark and shocking contrast with City’s interpretation of the game ‘Statues’.

Not that there was too much to cheer on a bitterly disappointing night, when City could muster just two shots, from 15, on target.

Top Totti - the Italian veteran made his mark on the match...Yaya didn't. Courtesy@MCFC

Top Totti – the Italian veteran made his mark on the match…Yaya didn’t. Courtesy@MCFC

The Etihad did however see history in the making as Francesco Totti, at 38 years and 3 days, became the oldest goalscorer in Champions League history.

Having carefully parked his zimmer frame by the player’s tunnel, the Roman Gladiator peeled away from Vincent Kompany, took a precision pass from the excellent Radja Nainggolan and dinked it over Joe Hart.

Joe had the misfortune to slip on his rush from goal and that missing half yard made all the difference as Roma levelled and earned a merited away point.

Dejected - Joe suffered Champions League disappointment for the second time in two games but was blameless for Roma's goal. Courtesy@MCFC

Dejected – Joe suffered Champions League disappointment for the second time in two games but was blameless for Roma’s goal. Courtesy@MCFC

Maicon had earlier hit the bar at 1-0 to City and Hart later made two excellent saves, one a sharp shot from Gervinho and another, when he dived bravely at the feet of the Ivorian striker.

City could point to two further justified penalty appeals, one for another foul on Aguero and a handball. Had they been given City won have won the match, but it would have flattered the Champions of England.

Despite having 61% of the possession City were almost one-dimensional, short on creativity and lacking a strong work ethic, including fundamental elements such as passion, energy and commitment.

Improvement - Milner made a difference in the 2nd half but City still couldn't edge the win. Courtesy@MCFC

Improvement – Milner made a difference in the 2nd half but City still couldn’t edge the win. Courtesy@MCFC

Pellegrini is culpable in that his 4-4-2 formation enabled Roma’s 4-5-1 to dominate the midfield with Miralem Pjanic catching the eye. Yaya’s curious malaise was there for all to see and questions remain about his overall performance levels this season.

The introduction of Milner for Navas at half time and the appearance of Lampard in the 57th minute made sense and upped the tempo of City’s play. The mystery was why take off Dzeko when Yaya was as bland as a mozzarella pizza?

Frustratingly, City were trying to walk the ball into the net. It called for some vision and opportunism from Super Frankie to get the crowd buzzing when his low, long range shot stung Skorupski into action.

Early break - City's 4th minute goal celebrated by Sergio and Jesus seemed a long time ago by the final whistle. Courtesy@MCFC

Early break – City’s 4th minute goal celebrated by Sergio and Jesus seemed a long time ago by the final whistle. Courtesy@MCFC

A late show from Stevan Jovetic for Aguero proved fruitless as the over eager Montenegrin forward blasted two shots high and wide. There’s a time and place to take pot shots, sadly this wasn’t it.

At the final whistle it was time for an embrace and re-union for ex-Chelsea colleagues Lampard and Ashley Cole, both of whom showed vintage quality.

For City they now have to embrace a stern challenge with a minimum requirement, one suspects, of 10 points from CSKA Moscow (home & away) Bayern Munich (home) and the return with Roma in the Italian capital.

Hello mate - ex-Chelsea team mates Lampard & Cole embrace at the end. Courtesy@MCFC

Hello mate – ex-Chelsea team mates Lampard & Cole embrace at the end. Courtesy@MCFC

Of course, it can be done, but it requires a vast improvement on the opening two CL ties and a lonely, solitary point.

A failure to get out of the Group would be nigh on unforgivable, notwithstanding the undeniable quality of Bayern and Roma.

City continue to evolve in the Champions League, but clearly they are not comfortable in such auspicious surroundings, as has been shown time and time again.

If tangible progress in the Champions League e.g. a QF or SF berth, is a key measurement of success in the eyes of Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Pellegrini is, for perhaps the first time, under real pressure as City boss.

Pressure - Manuel Pellegrini is a man with a problem in Champions League Group E. Courtesy@MCFC

Pressure – Manuel Pellegrini is a man with a problem in Champions League Group E. Courtesy@MCFC

It could so easily turnaround, especially if City and Bayern can take maximum points in their next two fixtures, putting City on seven points, three clear of Roma.

Munich would have already qualified when they come to the Etihad on November 25th and a home win would most likely leave City to make and take a point in Rome to reach the knockout stages.

It’ll be far from easy, but if the Engineer has a full toolbox he can return Roma’s spanner with interest on December 10th.


By David Walker @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu






A special one-off T-shirt has been produced to reflect the international flavour of Manuel Pellegrini’s squad – all you have to do is tell us how many INDIVIDUAL names AND COUNTRIES are on the shirt? ONLY COUNT A PLAYER’S NAME ONCE EVEN IF THEY APPEAR MULTIPLE TIMES.

Number's game - count how many INDIVIDUAL names and countries appear on the special Eitihad Airways commissioned T-shirt and you could win a Man City boxed home shirt with Read But Never Red.

Number’s game – count how many INDIVIDUAL names and countries appear on the special Eitihad Airways commissioned T-shirt and you could win a Man City boxed home shirt with Read But Never Red.

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Win with Read But Never Red & Etihad Airways – a boxed MCFC home shirt awaits the winning entry.

The winner will be drawn at random and contacted after next weekend’s game away to Aston Villa.



  1. October 1, 2014  1:59 pm by Paul Glennon Reply

    Good read and I agree with everything, I'm glad I'm not in Pellergrinis shoes today he should get a right roasting from the powers at be.

    • October 1, 2014  2:28 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Paul. Yes, it was very disappointing and yes, MP didn't get it right on the night and maybe, maybe, the City hierarchy will voice their displeasure but Roma were very good - far better than I thought they were capable. It is becoming a worry that we seem so naive in Europe and appear to lack the belief in our own abilities. Let's see how we can come back from this...that's the true measure of a team and its manager. I'm still trusting the incumbent MP!

  2. October 1, 2014  2:05 pm by JamesHouseOlogy Reply

    Don't think there's any excuse for last night's performance.... Yaya needs to go end of, he's a spent force and hopefully once Fernando is back in action this will really get our midfield (where we really lost if last night) some much needed bolstering. Glichy useless, why not got Kolorov on? Agureo although lively was not getting the service he needed, until Milner yes that man Milner came on and proved why we need to keep hold og him!! Kompany seemed slow last night, and Demi just didn't have the legs for this game... all in all MP got the team and structure wrong, which seems to be a familiar pattern so far this season.... but like all good engineers if it's not quite working you go back to the drawing board tinker with the details and look at how you'll improve what you're doing. Which I have full faith he will..... no point dwelling on last night we need another 3 points this weekend!!! CTID

    • October 1, 2014  2:34 pm by David Walker Reply

      Fernando is a big loss but remember Roma were missing De Rossi, arguably a bigger influence on them than Fernando would have been for City. A strangely under the weather City but I can't agree with your somewhat blanket criticism of Pellegrini. He's done very well so far and we must be careful to maintain a perspective. However, if we don't make it out of Group E, MP will face some tough scrutiny from above. As you say upward and onward and a win at Villa - no excuses.

  3. October 1, 2014  2:22 pm by Susan Bookbinder Reply

    Honest, lively and thought provoking as always David and love the competition idea! Look forward always to a guaranteed compelling read! CTID

    • October 1, 2014  2:30 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Suzy - I take no pleasure in being critical of the team I love but blind faith doesn't do it for me. We just need to maintain a perspective. It's how we respond in adversity that's important but we had too many passengers out there...again!

  4. October 1, 2014  2:45 pm by James HouseOlogy Reply

    Don't get me wrong, MP has been superb there just seems to be a few things a miss so far this season although granted not had the easiest start but that was a team lackluster performance... I get the feeling a good few results now the sparks will fly and City will be in the form we all know we're capable for!!

    • October 1, 2014  3:32 pm by David Walker Reply

      There's no doubt we haven't hit peak form as yet but we have to believe it will happen sooner than later. Encouraging signs in the PL but we seem to lose our way in the CL. If we don't succeed in CL it will cost MP his job at some stage. I dare say Sheikh Mansour is similar to Abramovich in as much as he wants the ultimate club honour as a reflection of his investment.

    • October 1, 2014  5:17 pm by Paul Reply

      Great article . Accurate & to the point as always. Wondered what your thoughts are on this .... A few times already this season I have thought why don't we either start or change to 4-5-1 in games ? My point being now that players have negotiated more bonuses into their remuneration instead of massive salaries, does MP have more restrictions with regard to who plays when & who gets substituted ? than before...... Would like to think not, but can't understand why he doesn't play 4-5-1 in CL especially.

      • October 1, 2014  7:54 pm by David Walker Reply

        The bonus question is interesting - is it based on an individual actually playing or is it a collective success bonus. It's probably multi-facted but it DID work for Soriano at Barcelona. If it does influence MP's selection process then, yes, it could be a problem. Agreed that we need moore flexibility in formations.

  5. October 1, 2014  4:44 pm by Toby Teasdale Reply

    Great minds think alike.

    Naïve; showing a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment, summed up last night’s performance perfectly. You might throw in arrogant too. Selecting two strikers and leaving us light in midfield was again our undoing.

    How many more times?

    Leaving Jimmy Milner, currently our top performer, warming his arse on the bench was unforgiveable. Rudi Garcia’s must have thought Christmas had arrived early. Scoring so early didn’t help. It energized Roma to get what they came for and we weren’t prepared for what followed.

    We were toothless. Roma’s defence squeezed the life out of Aguero and Dzeko and ushered Navas down the tramlines. We responded like an Ozzle-Woozle bird in trouble. Flying round and round in every decreasing circles, before disappearing up our collective fundamental. Like Hart last season, Yaya needs a rest.

    Rudi had done his homework and came prepared. All week his boys had practised chipping balls over a traffic cone wearing a City #26 shirt. This time it wasn’t a chirpy Messi who left Demichelis for dead, but the 38 year old Zimmer frame toting Tottery, the oldest Roman to score in the Champions League since Mark Antony!

    How many more times?

    You will be please to know I shared the lift down, with a smart young Englishman who turned out to be the referee’s assessor (an oxymoron if ever there was one). Obviously I asked if referee Björn Kuipers yellow card had a faulty battery. His straight-faced reply, ‘Well he kept the game going’.

    • October 1, 2014  7:15 pm by David Walker Reply

      'Shared the lift down...' that must mean you're man of influence in the posh seats ;-) MP opted for Jesus' speed over Milner - he was wrong. Roma surprised me with their bright, pacy play. I opted for Demi ahead of the match thinking of a slower Euro tempo and a 38-year old opponent - I was wrong. The downfall seems to be being overrun in midfield and placing way too much store in Yaya busting a gut for the team. I can't remember Yaya ever being subbed for under performing, but the day draws nigh. I don't want to make him a scapegoat but he really isn't helping himself.

      Even Vinnie and Zaba weren't at their best. We must draw comfort from the 3-1 loss to Munich last year and the subsequent 3-2 win in Bayern. We can still do it but it's about time we were more assertive in Europe.

      • October 1, 2014  7:40 pm by Toby Teasdale Reply

        'Shared the lift down...' that must mean you're man of influence in the posh seats ;-) '

        No it doesn't.

        • October 1, 2014  8:04 pm by David Walker Reply

          Well, put another way, you certainly have an elevated lifestyle ;-)

  6. October 1, 2014  4:59 pm by Doug Sharp Reply

    Good analysis as usual. MP's set up for CL was again odd. I would have hoped he had learnt from last year's experience. Roma were everything City weren't ie bright, sharp and well organised. Last night showed we still have someway to go if we are going to be up to European standards.

  7. October 1, 2014  5:11 pm by Stuart Reed Reply

    Yeah all good points Mike. City were at best average when they couldn't afford to be. MP got it wrong & that doesn't happen v often. Sloppy passing throughout the team. Better second half but just not enough.
    If all the niggling fouls by Roma had been committed by City & Mike Dean had been ref , how many would have been left on the field?
    Just seen Scholes comments - pretty low even for such a millionaire moron as him. Bit of a see you next Tuesday I reckon.

    • October 1, 2014  7:19 pm by David Walker Reply

      Different ends of the refereeing spectrum. Kuipers is one of the best but he was unduly lenient. As for Scholes he is a Tuesday man all day long. With Gary Neville you get genuine insight and tactical wisdom. With Scholes you get barely disguised venom and bile for City from a scutty inarticulate tw*t.

      • October 2, 2014  3:25 pm by Toby Teasdale Reply

        David, this is your site so no need to mince your words.

        If you mean twit just say it.

  8. October 1, 2014  5:20 pm by Paul Reply

    Not going to start getting on MP's back so early in a campaign , but changes need to happen in results / performances. Need more tempo, Yaya & Clichy slow the game down too much IMO .

    • October 1, 2014  7:55 pm by David Walker Reply

      Agree once again but if anybody starts calling for MP's head then IMHO they are complete buffoons.

  9. October 1, 2014  6:00 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    Definately disappointing, and after being exposed on the wing at Hull I was surprised to see the same happening last night in the first half.
    Let's be honest Roma are a good team and after 4 years it is hard to still be saying we are on a European "learning curve".
    I think that by playing 2 up front last night MP thought we would be able to secure the comfort of an early goal or goals, but even though we got the good start the plan got well scuppered by the tactically aware Romans.
    Correctly the formation changed and the second half was far better with Milner once again showing why we need him to put pen to paper pretty soon.
    Apart from his unfortunate slip Joe Hart made some good saves and was far busier than his counterpart which again says a lot for Roma. To me Silva was one of our better players (but please shoot sometimes David !) and Dzeko tried his best in the first half, and if Lampard's shot had gone in I think we would all be feeling a bit more buoyant today.
    Don't start me on YaYa - tea is cooking and time is running out.
    It is strange that we can sell out a night game against Stoke last year or the year before(no disrespect to Stoke) but can't sell out a Euro game against Roma. Is it because some night games are on TV ?
    It is a bit naughty of Ferdinand and Scholes to comment - I am sure I have watched United games on telly where I have seen more than a few empty seats.
    The current trend of footballers tweeting sarcastic and often infantile postings is beyond me. Must be an age thing !.

    • October 1, 2014  7:59 pm by David Walker Reply

      With you RC on all of the above. As for Camelface and the Ginger Whinger Lady's Front Bottom - it defies age and straddles generations - the simple fact is they are vitriolic ex-Swamp dwellers who can't live with the fact that, for all of City's shortcomings last night, we are infinitely superior to the Gaalacticos.

  10. October 1, 2014  8:02 pm by Glenn Kavanagh Reply

    Hi there, where do we start? I said after the Munich game that we look to have big problems, I didn't fancy us after watching that game. What's very concerning to me is the manager looks totally bamboozled by what's on front of him. Is brian Kidd the boss now? I like Manuel. He looks like a man who knows his p45 is coming soon, Thursday night football?? What will that do for our league chances??. I'm very tired watching these below par performances & listening to the "bullish" talk after the game. You do your talking on the pitch boys. Vincent talking trash, I'm surprised at him.we were crap (again) the boss took dzeko off who was our best player last night. He really grafted & was causing them problems. Are we really so Dependant on lampard & Fernando to come back in??? The boss will be fired that's beyond any doubt. He knows this. Its his job to motivate the team & apply the right tactics. If he can't get that right at his age then his goose has cooked I'm afraid. How many c.l teams have given us the runaround at "fortress" etihad??. The crowd were complete garbage. What the hell is going on here David? Does anyone really believe that we will qualify? Sorry but I don't. We are as far away as when we drew with Napoli at home. A million millions. Bah humbug :'(

    • October 1, 2014  8:07 pm by David Walker Reply

      We'd better hide Tiny Tim hadn't we Ebeneezer, before you give him a good kicking ;-) Can't agree with MP out talk. As for the crowd - blame the other 37,508...I was doing my bit:-)

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  11. October 1, 2014  8:53 pm by Glenn Kavanagh Reply

    If the board are consistent in their view of European success then Manuel will go the same way as Mancini. I hope I'm wrong I'm very fond of him but he messed up in a major way last night.

    • October 1, 2014  11:14 pm by David Walker Reply

      To some degree very true, but Mancini had, to coin a football cliche, 'lost the dressing room' daft really - big area, showers, lockers, medical treatment table, lots of lockers - how could you lose the bloomin' thing ;-)

  12. October 1, 2014  10:23 pm by Graham Ward Reply

    A great start, but ultimately disappointing on the night. You're right, David, Roma are a good team and thoroughly deserved their point, although I did feel they started to run out of steam in the last quarter, but still posed a threat.
    I'm afraid the final last chance we were always liable to create fell to the wrong man in those circumstances, bless him.
    Certainly a huge job to qualify faces us now.

    • October 1, 2014  11:16 pm by David Walker Reply

      BUT, we can still do it and I actually think we will...Nurse, Nurse...NURSE!!!!

  13. October 2, 2014  7:47 am by Ed Reply

    hope we turn it round but part of me thinks we have unfinished business in the Europa League, maybe a trip to Poland for the final...

    • October 2, 2014  10:04 am by David Walker Reply

      Much rather go to Berlin...& not as a neutral #ManuelMiracle

  14. October 2, 2014  9:49 am by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Spot on Dave agree with ever word couldn't believe how poor we looked. We surrounded the midfield & Roma took control MP got it wrong we should have gone one up front he seems to have not learnt from last seasons Bayern game. I take no pleasure in saying this & just hope we can still do it. Just a quick one about attendance not everybody can afford to go to all the games or have other commitments its just the way it is but he media once again grab a stick to beat us with.

    • October 2, 2014  12:23 pm by David Walker Reply

      Re:attendance I wasn't passing judgement on people e.g. finances and hardships - crikey I'm no millionaire, it was nonetheless an unexpectedly low turnout. However - and may God forgive me for what I am about to say - Ian Herbert that well renowned Rag, has written a good piece in the Man Utd Independent putting things in perspective and making Camelface Rio and Ginger Minger Whinger Scholes look even more stupid than we already know them to be.Check it out

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