Match Review

The FA Community Shield, sponsored by McDonalds, has always been a fixture that has baffled me. Hailed as the traditional curtain raiser for the season it is difficult to distinguish whether it is a friendly or a competitive match. With thoughts of pre-season world tours fresh in the minds of both teams and the transfer rumour mill often reaching stupendous levels the match often isn’t taken too seriously by fans and players alike.

The prospect of a trophy though confuses the spectacle somewhat. No team can claim to not want to win silverware so one can never be quite sure what to expect.

Prior to the game, news was emerging that City had agreed a fee for Everton’s young English midfielder Jack Rodwell. The deal all but secured subject to a medical. The news could arguably be more exciting for City fans than the prospect of claiming the Community Shield given the unusually quiet transfer window for Champions, so far.

The approach both sets of players took to the game certainly banished any thoughts of this being a casual, pre-season kick about. Challenges were flying in left, right and centre culminating in a few early yellow cards and eventually a red.

Roberto Mancini opted to use the 3-5-2 system that he has been experimenting with during the pre-season tours of Austria, China and Malaysia. Though City played with more attacking verve for the majority of the first half Chelsea took the lead courtesy of a Fernando Torres goal shortly before half time. Not long afterwards the tough tackling spectacle reached a head when Branislav Ivanovic deservedly saw red for rash challenge on Aleks Kolarov.

In the second half, City managed to make better use of possession in the final third, thanks in part to their numerical advantage over Chelsea. Within the space of 13 minutes fine goals from Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri ensured City were on course to claim their first Community Shield in 40 years.

In true City fashion they didn’t make it easy for themselves. Ryan Bertrand, the young English Chelsea substitute, ensured that City fans bit their nails to the final whistle after pouncing on a Costel Pantilimon spill with 10 minutes left to reduce the Chelsea deficit to 3-2. Nevertheless, City held on to get their hands on the trophy sponsored by McDonalds (a sponsorship that epitomises everything that is wrong with the modern game).

City celebrate winning the Community Shield

The game was comforting for City in that it has proved the 3-5-2 can function effectively in a competitive scenario thus justifying the work Mancini and his staff have undertaken in pre-season. I am not sure that the system is sustainable though. Unless City are able to field 3 centre halves at the back instead of full backs or a deer in the headlights like Stefan Savic, I am not sure Mancini will persevere with the system. With the transfer window still open there is time to make additions to bolster his squad to better suit this system.

Carlos Tevez also showed that he is a different proposition to last season after having lost weight over the summer. The Argentine applied himself with his trademark bulldog like approach and a fine performance was capped with a classy goal. Tevez was perhaps deserving of the Man of the Match award but ITV’s “experts” gave Yaya Toure the prestigious title of McDonalds Man of the Match. Also worthy of note were the tireless performances of James Milner and Nigel De Jong.

All in all, a good day for City: Another season, another trophy.

Chelsea Team

Cech, Ivanovic, Cole, David Luiz, Terry, Ramires, Lampard, Mikel, Hazard (Bertrand), Torres, Mata (Sturridge)

Man City Team

Pantilimon, Kompany, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Savic (Clichy), Milner, Nasri (Silva), De Jong, Yaya Toure, Aguero, Tevez (Dzeko)

Words by Robert Toole



written by Robert Pollard – 14th May 2012

With both Manchester City and Manchester United going into the last match of the season with a chance of lifting the 2011-2012 Barclays Premier League trophy, it promised to be a great final day of the season. However, what ensued will go down in football history; a day of the highest possible drama that brought a fitting end to one the most entertaining seasons in recent history.

It was Manchester City who won the coveted prize; their first league title in 44 years, a period in which their fans have suffered ridicule on a grand scale. Relegation to the third tier of English football saw them branded as a laughing-stock, with even their own staff recognising their problems. Former player, and one time chairman of the club, Francis Lee famously claimed City would ‘win cups for cock-ups’, and Joe Royle, the manager who rescued them from their deepest slump, coined the phrase ‘cityitis’, a word which described City’s unerring ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.

But all that was forgotten as they clinched the biggest prize in English football in the most dramatic of circumstances, scoring two late goals to seal the trophy their fans, players, management and owners had long craved. Manchester United did what they had to do on the final day – beat Sunderland away. Their 1-0 victory had, at one stage, seemed enough to snatch the title from their rivals, but City’s late, late salvo changed it all within minutes, scoring with their 43rd and 44th shots of the match. It seems poetic that the team so often praised for their ability to produce late drama have been usurped in exactly that fashion.

Roberto Mancini, City’s Italian manager, must now begin to take some long overdue credit. He took the job when many others were shirking it, coming to a new country to take the reins at a club where expectations had soared due to their new-found wealth. Since then, despite success, he has received little praise. When City do well it is to be expected; when they don’t it is a failure on his part. An FA Cup success, qualification for the Champions League, and now a Premiership title, all delivered in the space of two-and-a-half years, mean his excellence deserves to be recognised. He found himself trailing United by 8 points but managed to win the last 6 matches of the season – including a win against United – to take the title. This is a remarkable achievement. You feel if Harry Redknapp, or another similarly well-liked manager, had turned round such a deficit and won the league he’d be carried on the shoulders of journalists through the streets of London. However, Mancini is not afforded such favourable press.

The hard work starts here for Mancini and creating a team capable of dominating for a long time his the task he is charged with and he has an outstanding set of players to achieve this. Vincent Kompany grows in stature every day, with his performances, leadership, professionalism and interview style now a vital part of Manchester City. Every club needs a leader and City have one of the best. The spine of Hart, Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva and Aguero is the best in the league, and provides a frightening prospect for opposing sides. This City team is young and hungry for more success.

A special mention must also go to Pablo Zabaleta, one of the best full backs and undoubtedly the most valuable utility player in the Premiership; his grit and determination is something City fans will long remember in what has been a tiring campaign. Gareth Barry, who may not feature quite so heavily in a title-winning side again as he enters the twilight of his career, has also been excellent. City must now use the momentum this title has created to push on and become even better.

Manchester United also deserve great credit for their season. They have had crippling injuries to deal with, most notably the absence of Nemanja Vidic who, along with Kompany, is the best central defender in English football. Sound logic would suggest if he had been available all season, United may well have been lifting the trophy. Sir Alex Ferguson will spend this summer and United will be a force again next season. Only a side managed by Fergie could have kept pace with such an excellent City side, and they came so close to an unlikely 20th league title.

If city were ever going to become champions of England, one suspected it would be dramatic, heart-in-the-mouth type stuff, but even by their standards this was remarkable. Never will there be a final day quite like yesterday.

Robert Pollard is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter and Passions Just Like Mine

In the immediate aftermath of City’s historic* victory over Chelsea last night, I was in a jovial mood. City won 2-1 thanks to a Sergio Aguero spot kick and a fine goal from Samir Nasri after Carlos Tevez provided the assist on his return to the City first team. In truth, the scoreline could and should have been better from City’s perspective, as they dominated the game from start to finish. Having said that, it doesn’t really matter as it was an extremely important game which City needed to win, regardless of the scoreline. Needless to say, I was delighted with the result.

Nasri chips City to victory after a fine performance

Some of the night’s other results and post match comments only added to my sense of joy. Tottenham scraped a draw against Stoke whilst Liverpool threw away a two goal lead to lose 3-2 in the last minute to Queens Park Rangers.

Among the many angry Liverpool fans airing their frustration on the BBC live text coverage, Mo, stated, in direct response to the defeat, “We probably could have won the league if we didn’t drop so many points against lower opposition…”. Right…OK. So what you’re saying is, if Liverpool weren’t so bad, they would be great. That is an obvious statement, so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said. So obvious that if someone does say it, they serve no purpose at all other than to portray themselves as a complete and utter idiot.

The one that tickled me the most was in response to City’s victory over Chelsea, victory being the key word here. Mark Weatherby wrote on Twitter, “As a Manchester United fan I’m not that unhappy at the result. It shows City can be beaten at the Etihad.” Sorry, what was that? City won. Yes, they won, they did not lose so quite how he came to that conclusion is beyond me. If anything, City should have won by a greater margin. They were the better team by a considerable margin for the majority of the game. Making that statement in response to the 3-2 victory over Tottenham, for example, may have made more sense. After all, that was a game which City very nearly lost. What a moron.

Football is a funny game sometimes, or at least some of the morons that tweet and text about it are!

*By beating Chelsea, City set a new Premier League record of the most consecutive home league victories in the Premier League era. A run which now stretches to 20 games and beats Manchester United’s previous record of 19 games.

Words by Rob Toole

City returned from the international break with an almost routine victory over Newcastle on Saturday. In a game where City could have been frustrated by an unbeaten and organised Newcastle team, City were worthy winners after defeating their opponents with guile and patience.

England outcast, Micah Richards, was outstanding as City ran out 3-1 winners. Sending a message to England manager Fabio Capello, Richards bagged a goal and posed a constant threat to the Newcastle rear guard with surging runs down the wing. City’s other goals came courtesy of spot kicks from Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero. City never really looked in danger of surrendering the three points in spite of Newcastle hitting the woodwork and scoring a late consolation goal.

Balotelli celebrates his penalty against Newcastle

Frustratingly, I was unable to watch the game so put my faith in the BBC live text for coverage of the game. Radio coverage is too stressful and full of idiots, in my opinion, so I opted for the mind numbing BBC text in a vain attempt to maintain sanity during the game. That is not to say you don’t find morons on the BBC, you do, it’s full of them. Somehow I’ve become accustomed to the idiocy of it all but on Saturday Tom Rostance, of the BBC, took it too far.

After City scored their third goal Rostance rightly remarked: “Sergio Aguero takes the responsibility and steers the ball past Tim Krul. That’s 27 goals in 33 games for club and country. Who needs Carlos Tevez?” Fair point. Who does need Carlos Tevez with the likes of Aguero and Balotelli in such fine form. However, after Aguero limped off and was replaced by Adam Johnson he stated: “Ignore what I just said, someone get Carlos Tevez on the phone now! Sergio Aguero goes down holding his leg and limps off…” What a moron. Does he really think the man that has been AWOL for the last week is ever going to play for City again. Without boring you with the details, Tevez couldn’t be further away from playing for City. Rostance is the kind moron one could do without. I know it was only a flippant remark but it was ill-informed and pathetic. It could have been worst though. At least I didn’t have to endure the frustration of the absence of chips at the Etihad Stadium.

Words by Rob Toole

City condemned Manchester United to their worst home defeat since 1955 after thrashing them 6-1 at Old Trafford yesterday. The emphatic and somewhat unbelievable score line has demonstrated a dramatic change in fortune for City who so often fail to dent United’s armour. On a day where most City fans would have taken a draw against their bitter rivals, it was overwhelming to see how City tore apart United with guile and class.

Though I always felt City could beat United at Old Trafford, I certainly didn’t expect the victory to be by such a great margin. United dominated the possession in the first twenty minutes but they were largely ineffective and barley troubled Joe Hart. City went onto crush their opponents with a brace from Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko, respectively. Sergio Aguero and David Silva also etched their names into history with a goal each.

Balotelli celebrates his first goal with a touch of irony

This season, I had thought that as soon as United face an attack with real quality in the final third they would be punished. Recent encounters against Norwich, Chelsea and Basel, in the Champions League, exposed some weaknesses in their defence. Roberto Mancini was obviously aware of their frailties and exposed them to devastating effect. City were set up to press United and show no fear. As well as showing attacking prowess, City’s defensive tactics were spot on. United always have a goal in them but they were nullified by the excellent organisation and work ethic of the City defence and midfield. Whilst James Milner and Silva were constantly threatening going forward they were also dogged in defence, supporting the full-backs to great effect.

United were shattered by City's dominance

The victory is sweet for every City fan. Any victory over a fierce rival always is a delight. The fact that City doubled their goal tally, on the day, with three goals in the dying embers of the game only makes it sweeter. The number of times City have fallen at the last hurdle against United is disgraceful, quite frankly. What better way to exact revenge than by scoring three goals in 5 minutes at the very end of the game. In all honesty, United can count themselves lucky that they did not concede more. Dzeko and Silva both wasted good chances whilst Micah Richards also had a worthy shout for a penalty turned down.

Of all the great performances from City players, Micah Richards was outstanding. Quite how the young right back is not first choice for England is beyond me. Chris Smalling, the United centre-half, seems to be the first choice right back for England. Smalling is a talented player, yet, yesterday’s game alone was evidence enough that Richards is a far superior player. Of all the tackles Richards attempted yesterday he was successful in every one. He also attacked with purpose and breezed through the United rear guard with consummate ease and regularity.

The nature of reality

It seems that yesterday’s performance captures the feeling and essence of the season so far. City have been nothing short of remarkable and are beating teams that they traditionally struggle against. Take the 5-1 against Tottenham, the 2-0 against Everton and now the 6-1 against United. It seems the times are changing. Whether City can maintain their exceptional current form remains to be seen. However, the most notable consequence of yesterday’s game is the air of silence that has descended upon Old Trafford. They are setting the perfect example on how not to be “noisy neighbours”.

Words by Rob Toole

City provided somewhat of a reality check in their most recent Premier League clash with Blackburn. On the day, City ran out 4-0 winners courtesy of goals from four players: Adam Johnson, Mario Balotelli, Samir Nasri and Stefan Savic.

Whilst Blackburn’s fortunes truly do look gloomy, the same cannot be said for City. In spite of what you may have read in the wake of the Munich affair and Carlos Tevez’s alleged refusal to play, life goes on at City and things seem to be on an upward curve.

Balotelli celebrates against Blackburn

Nauseating accusations of a lack of team spirit within City reared their ugly head after Munich. The extraordinary actions of one man, Carlos Tevez, do not necessarily affect the entire team.

The performance against Blackburn alone was evidence enough of an established and growing team ethic amongst the City team and management. How can a group of players who mustered up 19 shots and 4 goals against Blackburn have no team spirit? From a wider perspective, how can a team who have scored 27 goals in all competitions, this season, and remain undefeated in the league, lack team spirit? Take a look at the footage of changing room celebrations after last season’s FA Cup victory and you simply cannot argue.

Words by Rob Toole

City succumbed to a 2-0 defeat away to Bayern Munich last night in their second Champions League group game. A first half brace from Mario Gomez was enough to seal City’s fate on the night. In truth, Munich were far superior and deserved the victory. The German’s blistering form this season continued as City’s equally positive progress this season faltered somewhat. Munich are undefeated this season, without conceding, and they were clearly intent on continuing their unbelievable form last night. With one point from their opening two group games, City face a tough challenge to progress to the knock-out stages of the Champions League. Though, all is not lost as four games remain.

Unfortunately, the game will not be remembered for events on the pitch. The refusal of Carlos Tevez to come on as a second half substitute has, rather unsurprisingly, stolen the headlines. In a second half where Munich continued to control the game, Roberto Mancini ordered Tevez to warm up and replace Gareth Barry. Tevez did not move from the bench meaning Aleks Kolarov went onto the pitch instead, much to the anger of Mancini, the City staff and of course the fans.

Carlos Tevez refuses to play against Munich

Exactly who does Carlos Tevez think he is? For someone who portrays himself as an exemplary professional, last night showed a simply unacceptable side of the want-away Argentine. Tevez reportedly earns in the region of £250,000 a week and cannot be bothered to run around a football pitch for 30 minutes. That is just offensive, offensive to Mancini, his colleagues, the club and to his profession. Not only has Tevez incurred the wrath of Mancini and the City faithful he has also attracted deserved criticism from the wider footballing community. Mancini stated ‘If I have my way he will be out. He’s finished with me.’ I think you will be hard pressed to find someone who disagrees with the sentiment.

During the summer, I was of the opinion that if Tevez leaves City, great because he clearly doesn’t want to be there. Then again, I also thought that if Tevez stays, great because he will give it his all when on the pitch. Sadly, I have been proven wrong. His refusal to even take to the field of play is just a step too far. The sooner Tevez leaves City the better.

On what should have been a night to remember for City, playing one of the great European teams in arguably the best football competition in the world, the Champions League, it will be a night most City fans and players alike will want to forget sooner rather than later.  Even though City lost the game, the occasion should have been remembered for marking City’s arrival at the summit of European football. In reality, it will be remembered for the moment Carlos Tevez over stepped the mark and perhaps epitomised all that is wrong with modern football. The sooner City put this rather ugly episode behind them the better.

Words by Rob Toole