Thursday, February 25, 2016

HITTING THE GOLDEN GATE

A magnificent night’s football in Kiev saw City match the score and performance in Seville before Christmas. These two away games in the Champions League now represent City’s best performances of a patchy, undulating season that has threatened to clank into action so many times it looks like a Hillman Hunter.

Manuel Pellegrini was entirely vindicated for resting his main players last weekend against Chelsea with a performance on this occasion of power, drive, control and efficiency. Apart from a period early in the second half when City allowed control of the game’s flow to change hands, the away side came up with all the answers.

Dynamo, who had kept match fit with a string of friendlies during the Ukrainian winter break, could have done little more to prepare themselves for an onslaught of this kind. City were just too hot to handle.

Pellegrini pulled a rabbit out of the hat starting Fernandinho wide right. It soon became apparent that this was a masterstroke on several levels. With the Brazilian’s lung power and willingness to slide inside and dig in with the others, City had a solid block of four, sometimes five that Dynamo’s middle orders could not cope with.It moved up, down and across the field as a resolute and cohesive unit that the home side found impossible to deal with.

High foraging allowed City to gain possession on numerous occasions from their hassled opponents deep in enemy territory. Manager Sergei Rebrov became so frustrated by City’s stranglehold that he was forced into a very early change, taking off swamped midfield hope Denys Garmash and replacing him with the more robust Miguel Veloso.

By this time it had become apparent that City had taken to the air. Raheem Sterling, in the midst of one of his most impressive nights of football in a City shirt, was liberated on the left thanks to Fernandinho’s solid presence on the right. With Fernando finally showing us exactly what he could do, the stomping presence of Yaya Toure further forward was also paying great dividends.

At the back the usual robust approach from Nicolas Otamendi looked suddenly more like controlled power than a juggernaut with the brakes failing. Thanks to the imperious presence of Vincent
Yaya strolls through the Dynamo defence
Kompany alongside him, the Argentinean was having an absolute ball. Even when his towering header fell outside the box to Buyalskiy, Otamendi was unlucky to see the resulting shot flip in off his shins for 1-2. 

The cornerstones to City’s total tactical success over Dynamo were thus laid. Solid through the middle, thanks to the Kompany-Otamendi axis and the brilliant shoplifting of Fernando, with Sterling and Yaya menacing in every attack. As if that was not enough, the two forward elements not yet mentioned – those that would have been the biggest concern to Dynamo beforehand – were also doing a fine job, with Silva’s pirouettes and Aguero’s surging forward runs pulling the craggy Vida and Dragovic all over the place. The long haired Vida appeared to be spluttering and cursing his way through an exasperating midfield experience. 

Aguero’s finishing brought him a single goal, which should properly have been tripled by the end. Penalty shouts went begging and Fernando was close with a header too. When Yaya bent in a magnificent third from Fernandinho’s perfect wall pass through the Dynamo defence, the curtain came down on an outstanding City display. With the second goal also a poetic cocktail of flicks and one-touch passes, right the way through to  it reaching the stretched right boot of David Silva at the far post, all had been delivered in just the manner requested.


Pellegrini, still unbent from the hail of criticism afforded him over the weekend, could allow himself a wry smile. In a season of stuttering false starts, League Cup final opponents Liverpool will be hoping that this is merely more of the same, rather than the beginnings of a typically robust sprint for the 2015-16 finishing line. With plenty of time to go and the team showing itself suddenly so capable of fluidity and composure beyond the humdrum contents of the season up to now, that little shiver of optimism you are feeling in your bones right now need not be out of place. 

1 comment:

  1. Having agreed that 4 further losses were on the cards post Leicester, what's your prediction now for Sunday? I still can't help feeling that the Kiev game, as accomplished as it was, could just be a one off....

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