Another mixed week for City; a turn of phrase Inoculated City has been using all too often recently. With no outright good or bad weeks recently, City kept up the trend with the abysmal performance against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday in the Europa League and then followed it up with a hard fought victory over Reading to book a trip to Wembley to face our noisy neighbours, Manchester United, in the FA Cup.
The game against Kiev was an unenthralling affair in which City rolled over and allowed Kiev to earn a deserved two-nil victory. City now have a tough challenge to overturn that deficit in the return leg in Manchester next week. Although I have every faith that City have three goals in them, I just cannot see it on this occasion.
Nevertheless, the game in Kiev was not a memorable one. The freezing conditions could offer some explanation for the humdrum performance, but it should be not used as an excuse. Kiev played with pace and desire and City were the opposite; sluggish and inefficient.
City’s defence was simply not good enough and was punished as a result. The first goal from Andriy Shevchenko could have been prevented. David Silva allowed the cross from Yarmolenko to be made far too easily and Aleks Kolarov was not alert to the movement of Shevchenko. Also, had Joe Hart not strayed from his line in attempt to intercept the cross he may well have blocked the inevitable shot.
In the second half City pressed more, but failed to create any clear cut chances. It was rather against the run of play when Kiev scored their second. On this occasion Oleh Gusev taking advantage of a free ball in the box to volley confidently past Hart. The game finished two-nil and to cap off an embarrassing night it emerged that Mario Balotelli suffered an allergic reaction to the grass. Rather strange and unfortunate for someone that plies their trade on that very surface.
So, City face a difficult challenge in the return leg in Manchester. In spite of this, City’s prospects in the FA Cup look somewhat brighter as they saw of the challenge of Reading. The game was a tense affair and City battled hard to earn a one-nil victory. Reading played well but barely created. City created plenty of chances and it would have been an emphatic victory has City been sharper in front of goal.
City, however, had to wait until 79th minute to break the deadlock: thanks a powerful Micah Richards header from a Silva corner. The relief was evident amongst the fans; the joy was clear to see for the players. Even Roberto Mancini showed more emotion than his usual reserved self by hugging Richards after his goal.
City face the challenge of United in the semi final at Wembley in April. It is exciting to think that if City were to win the game they should theoretically go onto win the trophy. Stoke or Bolton, the other semifinalists, you would think, should not beat City on such occasion. But you never know in football, especially with City. It would be typical for City to beat United in the semi final and lose the final.
Inoculated City is hopeful and confident that City can end their long wait for some silverware and taking down United on the way would make it even sweeter. Before I get accused of being obsessed with United, as per the accusation towards City fans, may I point out the 35 year banner hanging in Old Trafford to mark how many years it has been since City won a major trophy. Surely that is evidence that United fans are in fact obsessed with City? Make your own mind up but take that into account when you do.
Next week City attempt to make the up the deficit against Dynamo Kiev in the 2nd leg of the last 16 Europa League. Also, City travel to London to face Chelsea in a crucial game in the Premier League.
Words by Rob Toole