Barcelona 2 Manchester City 1 (4-1 agg)

UEFA Champions League, Round of 16
Wednesday 12 March 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, Milner, Silva (Negredo 72), Nasri (Navas 75), Aguero (Dzeko 45)
Unused: Pantilimon, Clichy, Boyata, Garcia
Goals: Kompany (89)
Booked: Fernandinho, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Kompany
Sent Off: Zabaleta

Referee: Stephane Lannoy
Man of the Match: Vincent Kompany

Kolarov and Lescott deny Neymar.

Kolarov and Lescott deny Neymar.

City have been knocked out of the Champions League following defeat to Barcelona. The Blues felt aggrieved by refereeing decisions on the night, but ultimately the damage had been done in the first leg.

Lescott was lucky to avoid a yellow card for a pull-back on Messi, before he was lucky not to concede a penalty for a foul on the same man. Hart was off his line quickly to deny Messi, who almost did brilliantly – having kept the ball in – but Kompany recovered to clear.

With 16 minutes gone, City wasted their first good chance. Kolarov played a powerful, low ball into the middle where Milner was unmarked, but the midfielder wasn’t expecting the cross to land at his feet and he shanked his effort wide of the post.

A moment later, though, the visitors should have been behind: The offside flag went up against Alba when he was actually onside – Neymar slotted his square ball in, but it didn’t count. City were riding their luck.

With ten minutes of the half to play, Silva should have done better with time and space on the corner of the box. A great break from Toure played Milner in down the left and he pulled it back across for the Ivorian. He slipped in Silva on the right and, cutting inside, the Spaniard shot for the top corner – but skied the effort.

The home side almost took advantage of a slip from Kolarov. The full back lost his footing when one-on-one with Neymar and the Brazilian shot for Hart’s near post, but the goalkeeper pushed it behind. A clever corner almost caught City out – but Hart again stood up well to block and Lescott and Toure completed the clearance.

Toure competes with Pique.

Toure competes with Pique.

Excellent play from the visitors almost opened the scoring again – Toure chipped a neat ball in to Silva with Zabaleta making a decoy run on the right. The Spaniard flicked it back to Nasri, who volleyed at goal, but it was straight at Valdes. Either side and he’d have scored. The Frenchman was unlucky. At the other end, Fernandinho was required to head off the line, after Neymar rounded Hart.

City began the second half as they did the first – but this time with more impetus. A cheeky run inside from Milner opened up space and Kolarov found the midfielder, who turned to shoot. It was blocked to Silva, who picked out Dzeko and the Bosnian’s effort – low and hard – forced Valdes into a comfortable stop to his left.

Five minutes into the half, Lescott was lucky again facing off against Messi. The defender gave the ball away and chased back, where he did his best to slow the Argentine down. Messi, though, wriggled free and shot low to Hart’s right – who threw himself at it, but couldn’t reach. It bounced back into play from the post.

Immediately, City went down the other end on the attack. Kolarov found space to cross from a Silva pass and he picked out Dzeko at the back post. The Bosnian did all he could to direct it back across goal and it was dropping into the top corner until a brilliant save from Valdes pushed it behind. Zabeleta was then on the end of a deflected cross, but he couldn’t turn it in on his left foot.

With 66 minutes played, though, City were ruing their missed chances. A through-ball deflected off Lescott and straight into the path of Messi, one-on-one with Hart. The goalkeeper did his best to cover the goal, but he could do nothing about the Argentine’s deft chip into the far corner of the net.

It went from bad to worse for City with just over ten minutes to play. Dzeko was denied a clear penalty when he was chopped down by Pique when he was about to pull the trigger and, for his protests, Zabaleta was shown a second yellow card. It was an awful decision, compounded by a red card for the full back.

With a minute of the game left, the visitors equalised. A corner was played into the middle by Navas, where Dzeko headed at goal. Kompany, just onside in the six-yard box, turned it into the net.

However, with seconds of the game remaining, Iniesta got his head up after rounding Hart when played through and found Alves. The defender smashed the ball past Milner on the line and the result was confirmed.

Manchester City 0 Barcelona 2

UEFA Champions League, Round of 16
Tuesday 18 February 2014, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy, Navas (Nasri 57), Toure, Fernandinho, Kolarov (Lescott 57), Silva, Negredo (Dzeko 74)
Unused: Pantilimon, Richards, Garcia, Jovetic
Goals:
Booked: Negredo, Kolarov
Sent Off: Demichelis

Referee: Jonas Eriksson
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta

Demichelis brings down Messi for a penalty.

Demichelis brings down Messi for a penalty.

City’s Champions League hopes are dangling by a thread – as two away goals for Barcelona look to be enough for the Catalan giants to make it safely into the quarter finals.

The away side were impressive throughout but found City’s back-line difficult to break down, with Hart rarely troubled in the first period. The City keeper was needed to punch clear a corner from Xavi, before that same man tried a speculative effort from range that Hart got over well to palm away.

Despite enjoying very little possession, the Blues actually carved out the better first half chances. Negredo, played through by Silva, tried to flick the ball over the on-rushing Valdes, but the effort didn’t make the goal and Kolarov couldn’t arrive in time to finish.

The Spaniard should have done better when Navas picked him out from the right flank, but under pressure from Pique, he could only flick his header wide. The game settled back into pattern: Barcelona possession, City stoic and disciplined at the back. Kolarov though was lucky not to be shown red for a two-footed lunge.

The same couldn’t be said for Demchelis early in the second half. City’s discipline broke and Messi was clean through on Hart. The Argentine defender dived in on his compatriot, but missed the ball and brought him down in the box. Red card and penalty – no arguments – and Messi got up to score.

Negredo tried to dink the ball past Valdes.

Negredo tried to dink the ball past Valdes.

An already difficult job became almost impossible, as the visitors exploited gaps and dominated possession more so than before. Still, though, City wouldn’t lie down: Nasri had a shot blocked en route to Valdes following a cute back-heel from Negredo.

Xavi headed well over Hart’s bar, before Alves should have doubled the visitors’ advantage. A series of one-touch passes put the right back in and he drilled a shot inches wide of the goalkeeper’s far post.

City were giving it a real go with ten minutes to play. Toure picked out Zabaleta on the right and he volleyed inside for Silva. The Spaniard brought it down on his chest and turned to smash at the far corner, but Valdes was down well to block. Dzeko almost nicked in between the two centre backs, but again the goalkeeper blocked – it wouldn’t have counted though, as the referee spotted a foul.

A 0-1 defeat would have been a tough enough task going to the Nou Camp, but, in stoppage time, Barcelona added a second to virtually end the tie. Another one-touch move sent Alves in on Hart’s goal – and this time he drilled it under the keeper and into the net.

Only a miracle now will see City remain in the Champions League this season.

Bayern Munich 2 Manchester City 3

UEFA Champions League Group D
Tuesday 10 December 2013, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Richards (Zabaleta 16), Kolarov (c), Demichelis, Lescott, Garcia, Fernandinho, Milner, Navas, Silva (Negredo 73), Dzeko (Rodwell 88)
Unused: Pantilimon, Boyata, Kompany, Aguero
Goals: Silva (28), Kolarov (pen 59), Milner (62)
Booked: Dzeko, Milner, Fernandinho, Zabaleta

Referee: David Fernandez Borbalan
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta

Silva opens the scoring for City.

Silva opens the scoring for City.

The impression that it was going to be a long night for the visitors was there from the off, as Bayern quickly took control of possession and pinned City back into their own penalty area. With just five minutes played, the first real chance sprung the opening goal – Muller, who looked just offside, got in behind Kolarov and beat Hart on a one-on-one.

City were all at sea and it was two after ten minutes. Hart had been alert to touch the ball onto the post, but from the resulting corner Lescott and Garcia fumbled over a clearance. It landed to Mandzukic, whose shot landed to the feet of Gotze. He was never going to miss facing Hart, as he was played on by Demichelis.

Milner came close to pulling a goal back after Dzeko nodded a Navas cross back to the midfielder, but it was saved by Neuer. From the resulting break, the Blues lost Richards – who had pulled up previously with a muscle injury, and in the sprint to get to the ball first seemingly made it worse.

With the half hour approaching, Bayern slowed their tempo down and City picked it up. A spell of possession allowed Navas to cross from the right and it bounced through to Milner on the left. He nodded it back to the middle, where Silva was unmarked to slot it under Neuer.

A cute through ball from Ribery picked out Gotze in behind Zabaleta, as Muller was offside in the middle and the City players stopped. Hart, however, stayed big and was off his line swiftly to make the save – and he won the goal kick, deflecting the ball behind back off the striker. Seconds later, it took a last-gasp block from Demichelis to stop Muller pulling the trigger facing the City keeper on a one-on-one.

Zabaleta passes past Alaba.

Zabaleta passes past Alaba.

Five minutes into the second half, and both sides had been feeling their way back into the match. Kolarov was needed to tidy up a skewed Demichelis clearance, after Zabaleta had blocked an Alaba cross. Some neat work by Milner and Silva forged a chance for Dzeko to shoot – but Neuer gathered his near-post effort at the second attempt.

With the hour mark approaching, City were handed the chance on a plate to pull level. Silva slipped Milner into the inside left channel and he had his ankles clipped by Dante – who was lucky not to see a second yellow card – and the referee pointed to the spot. Kolarov stepped up and sent Neuer the wrong way.

Three minutes later and City had the lead. Silva threaded Navas through on the right flank and he crossed low towards Dzeko. It should have been cleared ahead of the striker by Boateng, but he missed it completely and it fell to Milner, who slotted first time across Neuer and into the bottom corner.

With ten minutes to play, Negredo’s pressure on Dante bought him a chance to shoot on goal. He nicked the ball from the defender and was clean through wide on the left. His shot to the far corner was just – just – saved by Neuer’s trailing leg.

In the end, City came back from two goals behind and completed three away wins in the Champions League – they were one goal away from topping the group.

Manchester City 4 Viktoria Plzen 2

UEFA Champions League Group D
Wednesday 27 November 2013, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Kolarov (c), Demichelis, Lescott, Garcia, Fernandinho (Toure 64), Milner, Nasri (Negredo 74), Aguero (Navas 45), Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Boyata, Huws
Goals: Aguero (pen 33), Nasri (64), Negredo (78), Dzeko (89)
Booked: Milner, Toure, Demichelis

Referee: Firat Aydinus
Man of the Match: Samir Nasri

Milner puts his body on the line.

Milner puts his body on the line.

With a much-changed line-up and a chance for a dropped goalkeeper to impress, City ran out 4-2 winners in a game that could – quite easily – have ended goalless. A damp squib… A dead rubber… Call it what you want: One side was out of the competition and the other was already through.

The game took a while to get going (some would argue it never did), but the first real chance fell to the hosts, despite the visitors having more of the ball in the opening stages. Nasri played a free kick low to the penalty spot, where Garcia connected to it and prodded it just wide.

Dzeko had a shot easily saved by Kozacik, before Nasri – who was settling into the creative role without Silva in the team very well – cracked a great shot from range against the crossbar. The Frenchman then volleyed wide from an Aguero cross, when he might have done better. Aguero had a goal disallowed as he latched on to a long punt from Hart, after he was caught tugging the defender’s shorts. City were unlucky not to have been leading.

Just before the half hour, the visitors should have gone ahead. Rajtoral wriggled through challenges from Lescott and Kolarov and – with the home side’s defence like statues – rolled a side-footed effort wide of Hart’s far post, as he faced the goalkeeper for a one-on-one. He should have netted.

The game had turned in favour of the Czech side by the stage the Blues went ahead. City broke quickly down the left and Rajtoral handled a ball into the middle, leaving the referee to point to the spot. Aguero sent the keeper the wrong way and the home side were ahead.

However, three minutes before half time, Plzen drew level. Horava rifled a shot past Hart from outside the box, as the home side’s defence were caught napping. The England keeper had no chance with the effort and, in truth, the visitors deserved to be on equal terms.

Hart is disappointed to concede.

Hart is disappointed to concede.

A different City side came out for the second half. This one was more involved in the game and looked much more dangerous than they had before the break: Navas clipped the post, after Dzeko had a shot deflected into the keeper’s arms, and Fernandinho had a flicked header superbly pushed over by Kozacik.

The Blues re-took the lead just after the hour mark. Yaya Toure – on for Fernandinho – did well to keep possession on the by-line and flick it back to Navas, who chipped a neat cross into the middle. There, waiting, was Nasri, who coolly slotted the ball into the net at the back post with his first touch.

The lead, though, lasted just four minutes. There had been a warning sign, as Hart excellently flicked a shot from range over the bar, but the warning wasn’t heeded. Kolar slipped the ball to Tecl inside the box and he slotted it past Hart from four yards out.

On 78 minutes, substitute Negredo scored for his sixth successive game at the Etihad, as he arrived late at the back post to slot the ball into the empty net from Navas’s low cross. It had been missed by both Dzeko and the goalkeeper at the front post and it was a simple finish.

Plzen almost hit back immediately once more. The ball was played through on the right flank and it needed quick reactions from Hart to be off his line speedily and spread himself in order to block the shot.

With only a matter of seconds left on the clock before stoppage time, the home side secured their three points. Milner crossed deep into the box where Dzeko was available to nod the ball home and give City a two-goal lead for the first time all evening.

It wasn’t a pretty game, but it got the job done – leaving City with a chance (however small) of topping the group after the final game.

CSKA Moscow 1 Manchester City 2

UEFA Champions League Group D
Wednesday 23 October 2013, 17.00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Garcia, Nastasic, Kolarov, Navas, Fernandinho, Toure (c), Silva (Nasri 79), Aguero (Clichy 89), Negredo (Dzeko 72)
Unused: Pantilimon, Richards, Lescott, Jovetic
Goals: Aguero (34, 42)
Booked: Negredo, Toure, Zabaleta

Referee: Ovidiu Hategan
Man of the Match: David Silva

Toure stretches to a loose ball.

Toure stretches to a loose ball.

On a very testing surface, the game got off to a difficult start. Hart was out quickly to clear from Doumbia before the visitors should really have been in front. From the first corner of the match, Aguero flicked the ball towards the back post where Toure was completely unmarked. With the goalkeeper struggling to get back to cover, the Ivorian missed the ball, misjudging the bounce off the painted surface.

With ten minutes played and with the home side coming into the game a little, City tried to get themselves a foothold in the match and they spurned another good chance to open the scoring. Zabaleta was neatly found by Toure and he lifted it in for an unmarked Aguero, but the Argentine didn’t connect with the volley and it dribbled wide.

Moscow’s first real attempt at a breakaway was well cut out by Nastasic, as Doumbia carried the ball forward. He had an option to his left, but a bad touch allowed the City defender to get a foot in, leaving Navas to complete the clearance.

Despite the pressure from the home side, the visitors fell behind just after the half hour. Tosic capitalised on a flicked header from Honda and was through on goal. Hart came out to close, but could do nothing as the ball was lifted over his head and into the net.

The lead lasted no more than two minutes: Silva picked up the ball on the left flank and centred towards the run of Aguero. The Argentine beat the defender to the ball and it sat very nicely for him to roll it into the corner of the net. In the blink of an eye, the Blues had fallen behind and equalised.

As the game appeared to be settling back into the previous pattern of City possession, the Blues nicked themselves in front. A lovely chipped ball to the middle from inside the corner of the box from Negredo found Aguero. With the goalkeeper diving out at him, the Argentine nodded into the bottom corner.

Silva beats his man to cross.

Silva beats his man to cross.

Two minutes into the second half, City had the ball in the net once more, but it wasn’t to count: Zabaleta flicked for Navas to run clean into the box and the Spaniard blasted the ball into the centre. The goalkeeper got a touch on it and it clipped Negredo’s arm on its way into the net. It was disallowed and the forward harshly booked.

Doumbia found space inside the City box, peeling away between Zabaleta and Garcia, as a ball was weighted nicely for his head – but his effort on goal was well held by Hart. The goalkeeper was then quickly off his line to twice sweep up balls over the top.

The chance for a third goal was once more missed by the visitors, as a low ball in from Kolarov on the left passed by Aguero and found Silva. The Spaniard, though, wasn’t expecting it and it bounced off him into the hands of Akinfeev.

As the 80-minute mark approached, there was a let off for the visitors. A free kick curled in by Honda dropped on the edge of the box and the referee blew to give City a free kick for a high foot challenge on Toure. A split-second after the whistle, the ball was rifled into the net by Doumbia, but it didn’t stand.

A toe poke from Musa could have spelled trouble for City, but it was right at Hart – who did well to hold it as it bounced off the difficult surface – and the Englishman did well in a similar situation from a long range drive by Tosic. That followed Dzeko’s chance to give the visitors a two-goal cushion, but he couldn’t turn Toure’s header past the goalkeeper.

With 20 seconds of the game to play, Hart protected City’s victory. With a man apiece down on the edge of the area, Moscow played on and a cross was flicked to the back post, where Honda was unmarked. His first touch set him up to volley, but Hart was out quickly to block brilliantly and Toure completed the clearance.

Another away match in Europe and another victory for City.

Manchester City 1 Bayern Munich 3

UEFA Champions League Group D
Wednesday 2 October 2013, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Clichy, Toure, Fernandinho, Navas, Nasri (Milner 70), Aguero (Silva 70), Dzeko (Negredo 57)
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Lescott, Garcia
Goals: Negredo (79)
Booked: Aguero, Nasri, Milner

Referee: Bjorn Kuipers
Man of the Match: Micah Richards

Bayern1

Aguero battles for the ball.

It was always going to be a difficult task for City to take on the reigning European champions, but a poor showing didn’t help in addition to a dominating performance from the visitors. The warning signs were there: Robben nodded over inside the opening four minutes with a free header in the box.

But it wasn’t a warning City took notice of and, less than three minutes later, the ball was in the net – though it probably shouldn’t have been. Ribery found space on the left flank and cut inside to fire a shot towards goal. Hart got a hand on it, but couldn’t keep it out and it went in at his near post. It was a goalkeeping error.

That City didn’t face many more shots in the half is something of a minor miracle – the hosts could barely get a kick of the ball, as the visitors overpowered them by far in the midfield. Hart was forced to play it long and it was coming straight back at the Blues’ defence. It was a stark lesson by one of the best sides to have visited the Etihad.

The hosts started brightly in the second half, however. A series of corners offered the fans a brief spell of hope, as Richards and Dzeko both came close to getting a vital touch towards the Bayern goal. Kompany was unlucky not to have been given a penalty, as he was dragged down by Boateng.

But the hope quickly evaporated. On 55 minutes, a brilliant cross-field ball picked out Muller coming in from the right flank. Clichy seemed to simply stop and allow him to run, and it left the striker the chance to round Hart and slide his shot into the empty net.

If there was to be a way back for City it would have had to have come soon – but all that followed was a third goal for the German side to kill off the game, before the hour was up. Fernandinho was dispossessed in midfield and the visitors broke down on goal. Robben took the shot on and, once again, Hart was beaten at his near post – and he probably should have done better.

There was some sense of recovery from Hart – who was clearly annoyed with himself for the goals – as he got down well to block from Kroos as the Bayern man was through on goal. The rebound could only be blazed over by Robben on the volley and City were hanging on – it could have gotten embarrassing such was the difference in the teams.

Bayern2

Muller beats Hart to double Bayern’s lead.

The introduction of Milner and Silva arrived on the 70 minute mark, but it was too late for the Blues to add any steel to the midfield. It did see the home side regain control of possession for longer spells and they did become threatening, but a snapshot from Milner from the left was as close as City came, with Neuer touching it over the bar.

However, with just over ten minutes to play, the unlikely happened and City grabbed a consolation goal. Silva nicked the ball back inside the Bayern half and found Negredo inside the box. He turned and smashed a lovely shot into the net via Neuer’s right hand post, but it was to be too little too late for the home side.

There could have been an exciting finish, but for a matter of inches, as Silva came close to adding a second for the Blues from a free kick. Boateng had brought Toure crashing down – as the Ivorian was through on goal – and sent off on his return to the Etihad. His curling effort left Neuer standing, but it came back off the crossbar.

Negredo almost reduced the deficit further deep into stoppage time, as Milner dug deep to cross to the centre from the left flank. The Spaniard rose higher than the Bayern defence, but his header dropped just wide of the far post.

If anything, though, the scoreline flattered City – it could have been many more than three from one of the best sides the Blues will ever have faced.

Viktoria Plzen 0 Manchester City 3

UEFA Champions League Group D
Tuesday 17 September 2013, 19.45 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Kolarov, Navas (Milner 67), Toure (Garcia 80), Fernandinho, Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko (Negredo 83)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Rodwell, Jovetic
Goals: Dzeko (48), Toure (53), Aguero (58)
Booked: Kolarov, Fernandinho

Referee: Paolo Tagliavento
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero

City’s third Champions League campaign started – at the second attempt, after a false start by the home side – with the away side beginning to ask the early questions. Navas tested the goalkeeper from the edge of the box with a swirling shot and a combination of Dzeko and Toure should have netted, but the Ivorian headed over.

But, soon enough, Plzen had settled and were sensing City were feeling fragile. Kovarik got in front Zabaleta, but couldn’t direct his header on goal, just after Kompany had got up well to clear a cross from the near post. A whipped free-kick needed Hart’s intervention, but he parried straight into the middle of the box and City were lucky the ricochet didn’t end up in the net.

Having been on the back foot, the away side should have been in front on 23 minutes. Kolarov found space on the left flank and found the head of Dzeko, unmarked at the back post. His header was straight at the keeper, who pounced on it at the second attempt. It was a sitter.

The visitors were beginning to settle. Aguero picked the ball up in the midfield and carried it forward to the edge of the box. There, he belted it for the bottom corner and did everything right but for a matter of inches – he struck the base of the post. Kolarov could only belt the rebound back at the goalkeeper, who recovered well.

With the half hour up, there was a scare from returning captain Kompany, as his short back-pass almost allowed the hosts in for a chance, but Hart was out to slide the ball clear. As the play moved up the pitch, Nasri took the hosts on and should have had a free kick after his mazy run through six players was brought to an unfair ending.

On the stroke of half time, the visitors had two more good chances to take the lead, both through Aguero. First, he rattled the same post as earlier from a great low cross from Kolarov. Then he managed a snapshot as the ball broke to him on the edge of the box, but his curling effort didn’t bend enough and was a confortable take for the goalkeeper.

Early in the second half, Aguero did the hard work for Dzeko to open the scoring in City’s Champions League campaign under Pellegrini. He battled hard to win the ball in the Plzen half and powered forward to set up a two-on-one. There, he squared for the Bosnian, who slid the ball past the goalkeeper with his left foot.

Two more chances fell to Dzeko immediately after, but he was unable to take either – he volleyed Aguero’s touch-back over, before blazing over a good chance inside the box from a Plzen mistake. However, the hosts almost equalised, as a pull-back was blocked by Zabaleta – unwittingly, it has to be said – and the visitors cleared.

Suddenly, City were beginning to show their dominance as, out of nothing, Toure doubled the lead with a brilliant strike. He picked up the ball outside the Plzen box and, having gotten the ball on his right foot, bent it into the top corner spectacularly. It was vintage Yaya Toure, who was beginning to show some better form.

And it got better just before the hour mark: City, now dominating, kept possession brilliantly around the box and Aguero, with his back to goal, held it up. Shifting it to one side, he turned and fired a left-footed drive into the bottom corner. The visitors were in full control.

However, from there on in, the game slowed down. City were content to shut it down and keep possession around the edge of the Plzen area, while the hosts had resorted to long shots that were rarely tasting Hart.

With only a few minutes remaining, Aguero almost made it four for the visitors as, with no support, he won the flick on and got to it first. His volley, though, stung the hands of the keeper, but didn’t find the net. Negredo then found the Argentine on the break, but he couldn’t finish, firing over. At the other end, Hart was helpless, as a near-post corner allowed Plzen to get a volley away, but it hit the post.

It was three Champions League points for Pellegrini, at his first time of asking.