Game in a Sentence
Manchester City scrape out a limp draw against a disciplined Real Madrid, but are eliminated from Group D, D for Death.
- Roberto Mancini decided to continue to emulate Juventus and start in a 3-5-2, with Nastasic, Kompany, and Zabaleta from left to right. It didn’t last for the half though as Mancini switched to a four man defense after City struggled both the take advantage of a crowded midfield and to cover well in defense.
- Meanwhile Real went with the standard 4-2-3-1, all the usual parts in their usual places. Although the Khedira/Alonso partnership in front of the far was interesting, particularly as Khedira comfortably bombed forward on several occasions,.
- City were bad, bad, bad in defense, and barely competent in working out a reasonably threatening attack in the opening moments. Benzema scored as easy as he could from a cross from the Di Maria on the right in the 10th minute of play, with Kompany ensuring he was onside and Maicon failing to care about anything, life, the universe. I don’t know if you can blame everything on Mancini’s insistence on the three man defence which he abandoned, by god in heaven there were some howlers. Anyway, he smiled in bitter happiness over Karim’s goal.
- Real Madrid found lots of space. Ronaldo was excellent one-on-one beating Kompany on the left, Khedira once managed to walk through the entire defense only to see Joe Hart strip him of the ball, Cristiano Ronaldo later was able to chip Hart in acres of space only to see the ball cleared in the last second, and then get another attempt.
- City weren’t all bad up front. Maicon was able to get a neat one-two in the 28th minute with Aguero, which almost did something. Six minutes before that Aguero managed to force one of a tiny collection of saves from Casillas, City’s best chance of the half, really, and outside of the penalty later on, the game.
- Still, Real Madrid were excellent in defense throughout the game. City had to work to carve through players very disciplined in both marking and in cutting off passing channels, limiting the effectiveness of Toure and snuffing David Silva out of the game, at least until latter part of the second half. Ronaldo at times was as effective in defense as in attack.
- So yeah, about that switch from 3 to 4 at the back. Why does Mancini insist on using a formation his players aren’t comfortable with? The club already has an impressive defensive record; this endless tinkering with Kolorov as wing-back has yet to produce the style of play Mancini likely wants.
- City improved greatly in the second half with Javi Garcia on for Kolarov, and then seemed to break out of their shell when Tevez came on for Silva at the hour mark. Three minutes after, Aguero had the goal at his mercy with cross, but saw his effort saved by Casillas body. Mancini sent players a little farther forward with Toure getting more involved towards Real’s final third. Meanwhile Real Madrid stuck to their guns and on several more exposed City in wide positions, particularly when Ronaldo found yards of space on City’s right hand side in the second half, only to cross and see the ball bobble off Khedira’s head and into Joe Hart’s hands.
- Penalty was weird. Silva was charging in on the flank in the 73rd minute, only to put his arm on Arbeloa, who fell on Silva’s leg. A penalty was maybe reasonable, but a second yellow for Arbeloa probably wasn’t. City seemed at first to want to work to take advantage, with lovely passing sequences and the first signs of an ability to cut through Madrid’s impressive defense.
- In the end, City weren’t able to find a way to take advantage of their momentum in the dying stages and were, as Martin Tyler incorrectly put it, “effectively eliminated” from the group. As in, eliminated, full stop. Now they must fight to qualify for the Europa League. One might reasonably wonder if City’s owners will act in relation to some of the other moves in England.
- As for Real Madrid, classic Mourinho grind. Nothing lovely, just some brilliant work on positioning in defense, knowing when to pressure their opponent, and cutting off all passing options. Made one nostalgic for that Chelsea side of old.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
2. David Silva
3. Xabi Alonso
Bonus Sean Keay madness: