Manchester City’s European dreams have ended in what was a valiant effort at Eastlands today. The atmosphere tonight at COMS reminded me why I choose City as my club as a foreigner visiting England two decades ago: Maine Road was the best ground for my money in English Football, and today Eastlands filled with passionate and hopeful supporters developed the same feeling that Maine Road did for years even while City was buried in the third flight of English Football.
The Blues playing without Craig Bellamy, Benjani and Shaun Wright Phillips produced a sterling display of attacking football after conceding an early goal to Martin Jol’s Hamburg side. Elano converted a controversial PK, but also was unlucky on two brilliant free kick efforts: one hit the crossbar, the other the post. Felipe Caicedo forced to take chances was perennially offsides until early in the second half when he scored a wonderful goal.
In addition to Elano, Stephen Ireland and Robinho both fed off the crowd today and gave better effort than recently. City’s back four however were a mess at time. Wayne Bridge, not fully fit was beaten several times and Richard Dunne was sent off for a second yellow, after being reprieved twice by a sympathetic official for clumsy challenges while already in the book. Micah Richards was downright awful until the last five minutes when clearly spent, he deployed as an extra attacker and gave a herculean effort.
City’s elimination from Europe leaves little to play for this season and potentially hurts the attempts by ownership to bring in World Class footballers in the Summer transfer window. Mark Hughes also will continue to feel the heat even though today he got his tactics, team sheet, and team talk right.
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