City 2-1 Hamburg: City Eliminated in Maine Road Like Atmosphere

April 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: UEFA Cup 

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.

Hamburg 3-1 City: Reaction

April 11, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: UEFA Cup 

City’s performance in Hamburg against a side missing several regulars was pathetic to say the least. A bit of indiviaul brilliance from Robinho and a good finish by Shaun Wright Phillips gave City an early and surprising lead. But to allow countless chances and encounter several breakdowns at the back was unacceptable.

I’ve seen much written about the possibility of City getting a 2-0 home win to win the tie. I find that to be unlikely given the form of both sides and the lack of quality City has shown in key matches this season.Additionally, Martin Jol has done a good job shuffling his lineup all season and keeping HSV fresh and on form.

Some other thoughts:

  • Shaun Wright Phillips was poor in this match. He provided little service into the middle and was lost tracking back several times.
  • Robinho had his best away performance in sometime but it was not good enough.
  • Daniel Sturridge isn’t yet ready to find space and hold his position consistently at this level.
  • Micah Richards is caught out of position to often on quick breaks or counter attacks. We saw this at the weekend against Arsenal and again in Germany Thursday.
  • Benjani’s return was welcome but another injury to the striker was not welcome.

AaB 2-0 City: Blues Advance on PKs After Disgraceful Effort

March 20, 2009 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: UEFA Cup 

AaB came into Thursday’s second leg with spring in their steps and quality and determination not shown in the match last week at Eastlands. Energi Nord Arena was a superb venue for the match and the atmosphere had the feel of an FA Cup tie at a lower league side’s home venue.

Robinho’s below par form continued and the play of Shaun Wright Phillps and later Elano bordered on embarrassing. Stephen Ireland as he has been so often this season was City’s only real attacking threat, but his quality could not help spur forward an otherwise lackluster affect. City only had to protect a 2-0 scoreline but failed to do so.

AaB made two critical second half substitutions which changed the game. Siyabonga Nomvethe came on just after halftime and helped open up City defense, and Marcus Tracey a player I covered while he was competing at the college level the United States came on in the 77th minute and further stretched City’s defense.

Strangely, with Robinho so ineffective and Wright Phillps evidently taking the day off Mark Hughes did not swap an attacker for a defender to close out the match when the opposition brought on two attacking players. Thus AaB created four goal scoring opportunities after minute 80, resulting in one clean goal and one spot kick goal, and the tie was drawn level on aggregate.

Extra Time was a one sided affair with the Danish side dominating play but failing to get a winning goal. Shay Given, one of the best keepers in the world then made two PK saves in the shootout to carry City to the quarterfinals.

Despite the “victory” it is difficult to be encouraged by City’s prospects against any remaining UEFA Cup participant after such a poor display of football against an over matched side. Mark Hughes had his tactics all wrong late today and that is sure to add fuel to the “sack Hughes” movement that seems to be gaining steam with time.

Man City 2-0 AaB: SWP Continues Strong Run

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Match Summaries, UEFA Cup 

A fine European performance from City ensured that the club would have continue its quest to bring European glory to the blue half of Manchester this year. Shaun Wright Phillips strong play of the last few weeks continued with a masterful personal performance that led City to a decisive victory over a quality opponent at Eastlands.

Most importantly perhaps was City’s failure to concede an away goal, making the Danish side decided underdogs for next week’s return leg.

The fighting spirit of the side was best exemplified by Elano and Robinho two attack minded Brazilians who rarely track back defensively. In the second half with City defending a 2-0 lead and trying to prevent an away goal, both midfielders played excellent defense: very rare indeed but a sign that the squad has embraced the UEFA Cup competition as a real chance for glory this season.

City was perhaps wasteful in much of the second stanza but goes to next week’s away leg knowing a single goal will probably sink the Danish side. AaB is quality opponent who of course took points from Manchester United in Champions League group play this season, so the Blues will need to be on form next week.

UEFA Cup Open Thread

March 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: UEFA Cup 

I’m traveling today on business and will be unable to blog during today’s UEFA Cup match at COMS. Feel free to leave any comments in the open thread here and I’ll be back Friday will a full match recap.

City 2 F.C. København 1: Bellamy’s Masterpiece

February 26, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Craig Bellamy, Robinho, UEFA Cup 

As we speculated earlier this week on the site, Craig Bellamy and Robinho may not be the best of friends. But on the pitch they have developed a connection in just seven matches playing together that has City very much alive in the UEFA Cup.

After a lackluster first half of football, City scored two second half goals, and could have had more. Robinho was brilliant even though his finisihing touch alluded him all evening. City wins 4-3 on aggregate. Some other thoughts:

  • As usual Wayne Bridge was outstanding at getting up the pitch and joining the attack but today actually played a very solid defensive game as well.
  • Micah Richards and Richard Dunne once again did not have the best of games. The central defense duo has been struggling all year long and while Joe Hart didn’t deserve his ultimate fate, Shay Given was signed for a reason as we saw again tonight. Richards was particularity bad at dealing with a succession of first half Copenhagen corners.
  • Vincent Kompany did well playing in Nigel DeJong’s normal role, since DeJong was cup tied and is ineligible for UEFA Cup action.
  • With Spurs elimination today, Manchester City is the last remaining British club in the UEFA Cup.

City vs F.C. København Half-time thoughts

February 26, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: UEFA Cup 

The match has had a slow build up to it as the middle of Eastlands pitch looks in lamentable shape. City’s attacking intent has been lacking throughout much of the first half. This F.C. Kobenhavn side defeated Manchester United two years ago in the group stage of the Chapions League. Atiba Hutchinson, the Canadian international attacker for the Danish club has been failry active while City has maintained possession. The best scoring chance of the first half fell to Robinho early but the Kobenhavn keeper was true.

The half ended with a great combination play from Robinho and Bellamy but the post saved the Danish side partly due to a lack of pace on the strike.

City has demonstrated good possession play but a lack of sustained attacking intent much like the away from home losses to Stoke and Pompey in recent weeks. While Copenhagen only threatened once, City needs a goal early in the second half to prevent this tie from being too interesting in the final 30 minutes.

FC Kobenhaven 2-2 City: Late Equaliser Dooms City

February 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: UEFA Cup 

City’s UEFA Cup campaign hit a bump in the road yesterday in stoppage time but yet the club remains in great shape to advance after next week’s home leg. As is typical City came out away from home in anemic fashion alowing the Danish side to control the game early. But a fluke goal thanks to a goalkeeping error allowed Nedum Onuaha to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.

The match lacked a proper flow in the Danish winter, and Robinho showed his poor away form time and again squandering a number of chances to put City ahead 3-1 late in the match. But a late Martin Vingard goal sent the Blues home drawn level at two, but boasting two away goals entering the home leg.

Having achieved a meaningful result away from Eastland despite being badly outplayed, the club now heads to Anfield and a chance to really snap the road doldrums.

UEFA Cup: Mark Hughes Big Chance?

February 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Mark Hughes, UEFA Cup 

City’s Premiership season is mired in mid table mediocrity. For longtime supporters of the club like myself that is just fine, so long as we are not eventually drawn into a relegation battle. But having been eliminated in the clubs first match of both domestic cup competitions has left a very sour taste in the mouths of many a City backer.

The UEFA Cup may not be glamorous for the top clubs in England, Spain or Italy, but for City it provides an opportunity. Following the January transfers of Craig Bellamy, Wayne Bridge and Shay Given who are not cup tied (Nigel De Jong is cup tied) the Blues can boast as good a squad on paper as just about any side left in this competition.

But City’s troubles away from home continue to manifest themselves in every away fixture leading many to question whether the Blues can in fact keep the European campaign going.

This may sound somewhat jaded and silly, but Thursday’s match against FC Copenhagen could be one of the biggest of Mark Hughes tenure. The UEFA Cup may be a second tier event, but winning the UEFA Cup has brought glory to managers such as Gerrard Houllier and Juan DeRamos.

We’ll preview the match itself on Thursday morning BST.