Manchester City: down and out in Europe

December 5, 2012 in Europe

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Before the game had started, for a lot of City fans, this game was a dead rubber. It is fair to say that this season, as with the last, the Champions League has not gone well for Manchester City or their manager Roberto Mancini. With the team already out of the main European competition, all that was left to play for was the Europa League place, in a straightforward race between themselves and Ajax. If Ajax lost (which they did), then all City had to do was win to guarantee some level of European respectability. Draw or lose, and not only would they be out of Europe altogether, but they would have the dubious title of first English team not to win a group stage game of the Champions League (that includes Blackburn in the 95 season, by the way). If only someone had told that to the City players - then maybe this game would have been more interesting.

Of course, if you asked any City fans at the end of the night whether they were disappointed not to have any more European games to look forward to this season, the majority would say that it at least allows them to focus on the league situation. But now that is the be all and end all for Mancini; his triumph on the last day of the last season has been over shadowed by their inexplicable lack of quality in Europe’s elite competition.

It is not the results that have surprised particularly; City were up against some of the biggest teams in Europe - champions of their respective leagues last season - but more the abject manner of their defeats. Let there be no mistake, last night, they were well and truly outclassed by a Borussia Dortmund B side who treated the game more as a training exercise than anything else.

Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp set the tone, casually laughing off every little mistake or trip his side made and applauding most efforts on goal, even if the end product was not as good as it perhaps should have been. It took until the 35th minute for this to really happen, when the dangerous Marco Reus picked up a pass in the box and easily took it around Matija Nastasic; he was, however, unable to beat the ball part Joe Hart, who managed to tip the ball around the post. It was a sign of things to come, and in the last ten minutes of the half, Dortmund ranked up the pressure a little bit more, pressing higher and quicker. It almost had a devastating effect when winger Ivan Perisic hit the ball crisply from the edge of the box, only for it to be well held by Hart.

The pattern of play hardly changed in the second half; Dortmund were controlling the tempo and the possession. Something needed to be done to change the game, so Mancini obliged. On the 55th minute, he brought on Sergio Aguero, who had scored in his last two Champions League games, replacing the ineffectual Scott Sinclair, a signing that looks even worse now than it did in the summer, when it looked like an awful decision.

In response to this bold substitution, Dortmund went up the other end and scored. Julian Schieber, who was in for the rested Robert Lewandowski, slid in to get his feet to an almost inch-perfect cross from Jakub Blaszczykowski, who had come on at half-time for Reus.

In response, City offered little to threaten the goal. Edin Dzeko was more offside than useful, and his replacement Mario Balotelli did nothing but get booed by the home fans and pick up a booking for a petulant throwing of the ball. Out of the four strikers on display, Carlos Tevez was the only one who looked like he had any real desire to threaten the Dortmund back line, and a run onto goal in the 66th minute saw him brush off most of the defence but not beat keeper Roman Weidenfeller, who until then had had a comfortable night.

Appropriately, the last real chance of significance fell to Dortmund. Blaszczykowski fed in substitute Lewandowski, who took one touch too many and could only blast the ball into Hart’s face when well positioned. It perhaps would have rounded off nicely a truly dominant display from the home side and the poor showing of City, not only in this game but in their Champions League run this year.

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