Breaking Down Manchester City's Champions League Approach vs. Bayern Munich
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Unfortunately for Manchester City fans, "breaking down" too aptly describes the Sky Blues' horrific approach for their Champions League match against Bayern Munich at the Etihad.
And for that matter, to suggest that the Citizens had an "approach" other than cheaply giving possession away and watching Bayern put on a clinic would probably be dishonest.
It was that bad.
The queasy vibrations for City came before the match even began, as midfield talisman David Silva was not deemed fit enough to start.
Making matters worse for City (literally and figuratively as it turned out) was the absence of Pablo Zabaleta.
Micah Richards was a curious choice to replace Zabaleta, particularly given Aleksandar Kolarov's sound form in his last appearances, and Richards looked every bit of someone who had not played much football lately.
Then the teams started playing the match, which was where things really got bad for the Citizens.
Fresh off a misplay that cost City a point at Aston Villa, now undeniably dodgy keeper Joe Hart inexplicably failed to deal with a seventh-minute Franck Ribery strike taken from somewhere closer to Munich than Manchester.
City were down 1-0 to a better team before they ever had a chance to settle in, and were reduced to chasing the game.
Manuel Pellegrini's charges were not only chasing the game, they were in the main chasing the ball. Bayern dominated possession in the first half of the match, retaining the ball a ridiculous 75% of the time. They also outshot City 9-2 in that 45 minutes.
As a reminder, this match was played at Etihad Stadium. In Manchester. In front of City's fans.
Back to the breakdown of City's breakdown then.
City no doubt heard a rousing (withering?) team talk from Pellegrini in the dressing room. It worked, too.
For about ten minutes:
56. Goal for Bayern. Time seems to standstill as City look for a flag that never came. Muller slots past Hart. City 0-2 Bayern— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) October 2, 2013
Then Thomas Muller scored again for Bayern, a goal which will go against Hart's ledger but which fairly belongs to the entire side.
Three minutes later, Hart was beaten again by Arjen Robben. History will have to decide whether ceding a goal at one's near post is ever defensible.
Regardless, the defending Champions League trophy holders were up 3-0 and making an utter mockery of City's dreams of European success.
Even Roberto Mancini's City side kept Bayern from running amok to this degree at the Etihad.
The end was never in doubt after Robben's goal, though City did ruin Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer's clean sheet through Alvaro Negredo's 81st-minute consolation.
Even that was cold comfort, though, considering that Muller missed out on a brace by hitting a post instead of Hart's empty goal shortly before Negredo's tally.
There is no question that the long knives, already half-drawn, will be out and stabbing at Joe Hart in the British tabloids tomorrow. Hart was worse than just bad in this match, he was porous early and put his team on the back foot from the seventh minute on.
But it would be wrong to lay this loss at the feet of City's beleaguered keeper. Hart was not nearly good enough, but then neither were any of the 13 Citizens who saw action in this match with the notable exception of Negredo.
Special negative mention must go to Jesus Navas, who ritually squandered the little bit of forward possession City earned with profligate crosses, and City's full-backs (Richards and Gael Clichy) who were too easily beaten too often.
So Hart was bad. But Petr Cech, David de Gea or any top drawer Premier League keeper would have had his hands full keeping a clean sheet in a match where Bayern had possession for almost 70% of the time and blasted 20 shots at City's goal.
The only good news for City is that this result is, from a points perspective, only marginally worse than a draw would have been. Nobody thought Bayern would fail to get out of this group, and now it is pretty clear that they will.
Whether City can find their way out of group play will rest on whether today's result against Bayern was a one-off system failure or a sign that City are still not ready for European football.
Apparently the Etihad partisans grudgingly admitted that it might be the latter:
The Engineer will have to wrench this mess back together carefully.
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