Friday, March 16, 2012


"Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour...". In that case someone just stole my bruschetta.

Having cantered a lethargic Iberian kilometre or two and fallen asleep under a cork tree, those fine fellows in blue finally decided to wake up. Just in time. Or ever so slightly too late. That depends on your view of Joe Hart's slowly diving header, his shirt being held firmly by the desperate panting figure of Daniel Carriço, as he lurched towards the ball and his unerring date with destiny. 

"The Lion King"
So, it's goodbye cruel Europe, goodbye strangely attractive Europa League and goodbye oddly plastic Champions League. We can't quite say it's been a ball. Things are too raw for that, but we've had our moments. Our first bite at the Champions league could not have been more sour, departing with ten points, a feat not achieved by anybody for seven years. Instead we left with memories of the Munich Oktoberfest, the flare-lit Naples sky, the birth of the David Silva song in a concrete Spanish precinct. We swayed and chatted on the tree-lined streets of Lisbon and down by the river in Porto. The "craic" on occasions was as epic as any of us could manage. We rearranged the plastic furniture, banged the tin trays had quite a time.

Until now that is. Last night, we had so many moments, we could have opened a clock shop. Still Signor Mancini tells us this morning it is all his fault: "After Porto, maybe we thought Sporting will be easy," he says, echoing his remarks after underestimating Everton too. How so. Do we not do our homework anymore, so sure have we become of our own dizzying powers? Nobody in their right mind thinks a visit to either Goodison Park or Lisbon can be deemed an opportunity to pick daisies.

Back to the maelstrom. Quite how City had plugged the holes and dragged themselves back into it is unclear. A misfiring David Silva (so this is what it looks like when its batteries have gone), transparent Adam Johnson (is he there? I can see straight through to the other side!) and a wide-eyed David Pizzaro left the field and the come-back began almost immediately. Dzeko the totem pole, such a figure of fun these last few weeks, wound the whole place up and we charged back into a game we had already cast to the four winds.

We all know what momentum does in football, both during games and whole chunks of the season, but this City side - if it has a weakness - is sometimes a bit slow on the uptake regarding how to make it work for us, preferring one more little sideways pass back to De Jong or one more little dink into space for Savic to lope back towards his own goal and chase. The goal and indeed our goal is at the other end, however, and, once we had re-tuned Yaya's direction-finder, we were off and running. If Dzeko was the catalyst, Aguero was the little metronome, who delivered the gifts.

A City Moment
So quiet in the first leg, the little Argentine suddenly got those tree trunk thighs pumping down the right, the immaculate ball control backed by the foul-me-if-you-dare runs into the box, swerving, jettisoning defenders in his bubbling wake. In went the first one, a marvelously hooked snapshot. In went the penalty, a slightly dubious award (outside or in, a foul or a breath of wind?) as Aguero again came flying into Renato Neto's view and out again. In - amazingly by now - went the third one, Aguero again, marginally onside thanks to substitute Carillo's positioning, displaying his uncanny ability to trap, deaden and dispatch the ball in one fluid blur of that stout left peg.

But we needed four by this time. Matias Fernandez's peach of a freekick and Van Wolfswinkel's cool finish after Iszmailov had outfoxed Kolarov (surely not) and swept a teasing, curling, arching right foot cross to the far post, meant Sporting were already in heaven, or at least standing proudly on Cloud Nine, preparing to push the bell on the big golden gate post marked "the Kingdom of Dreams: Europa league Quarter Finals this way. Mind your head". 

The truly injured Pereirinha
Yet, nobody had gone to heaven yet. Five minutes of Pereirinha time (it's my ankle, no it's my calf, ow my leg, no it's my arm. My arm!! oh, look ref, it is my calf after all*) was announced. Time to think of Gillingham and the seven minutes that Mark Halsey bestowed upon us that time, just enough to die and be resurrected. In the fifth and last of those minutes came The Joe Hart Header. Having burst up-field, as often happens in these hair bear bunch moments, the ball fell to the goalkeeper and as he made decent contact with his head, Manchester went into slow motion. A Paul Dickov shivver eased its way down spines from Lisbon to the North West and back. As Hart fell to the turf, on his knees, watching his handywork dip towards the goal, we watched too, the ball arcing slowly round Rui Patrício and.... And. And?   

To be continued....

Decoration:  Matias Fernandez, Kun Aguero
Foulplay:  Pereirinha (
Curtains:  Sá Pinto
Supporting Cast:  Dzeko
Limping man:  Balotelli
Storyline: Mickey Mouse
Visual Effects:  Sam Peckinpah
Grip:  Rui Patrício
Stunt department: Joe Hart
Disclaimer - Characters and incidents portrayed and the names herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person in reality involved in the technicolour dream sequence that is Manchester City FC is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

* The Portuguese press later reported that Pereirinha had fallen awkwardly in a challenge with Dzeko and had had a dislocated shoulder popped back into place on the sidelines. This does not explain his other "injuries" that occurred beforehand.

1 comment:

  1. Where was these quality and brave attacking play in the "first three half time"?
    Next week against Chelsea we'll have a crucial game...
    C'mon City!


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