Thursday, 15 September 2011

City V Napoli Report

After all the build up, the night we have all been waiting for finally came, and what a night it was.  It was emotional, exciting, thrilling and slightly disappointing all rolled into one.  We have been building towards the Champions League since the day that ADUG bought the club and last night the dream was realised, and for spells of the game we looked more than capable of mixing it at the highest level of club football, unfortunately there were also periods where we looked slightly overawed by the occasion.

As 'that' music built to a crescendo I think we all had high expectations, personally I felt it was a game that we had to win to get out of what is clearly going to be a particularly brutal group for the 4 teams involved.  I was very aware of the talents of the Italian side but I must now admit to be surprised by just how good they actually were, their attacking trio of Hamsik, Lavezzi and Cavani caused problems, but the more noticeable thing for me was just how organised and defensively astute they were.  For the majority of the game they were barraged by City attacks which they managed to repel repeatedly.

The first half saw City firmly on top, driven on by a superb atmosphere they flew out of the traps and created numerous chances in the opening period.  Nasri, Aguero, Silva and Dzeko were reunited as the front 4 and Napoli had to work hard to contain the effervescent attacking play.  Richards and Clichy were surprisingly omitted in favour of Zabaleta and Kolarov, it was a decision that I am not sure ultimately helped the team.  The width provided by the former 2 was sadly absent, the attacking threat of the South American and the Serb sadly not as impressive.  I suppose the thinking is that they would offer more defensively, but in a game we really needed to win I am not sure it was the correct decision.

City carved out a flurry of good chances, Dzeko saw a shot somewhere miss the far post, Toure slammed the crossbar with perhaps the best chance of the half.  We also caused problems from corners with Dzeko again seeing a header flash wide.  The only chance the Italians had was to be fair a pretty awesome effort, as Ezequiel Lavezzi turned away from Kompany and curled a wonderful effort past Hart only to see it crash against the crossbar.  It is credit to City that Napoli didn't even play badly and yet at half time they had been under immense pressure, which they had stood up too extremely well.

The second half was a bit of a different story, whether City were running out of idea's or Napoli decided to push out more, they were much more involved.  Our defense began to be put under more pressure and worryingly they didn't handle it particularly well, Kompany in particular seemed to not be on top of his game and made a few errors that lead to opportunities for the Serie A side.  The opening goal came from another City move that perhaps saw us over commit somewhat, Gareth Barry pushed a long way up the field and tried an out of character back heel in an attempt to find Nasri it never got to its destination however, Christian Maggio raced onto the loose ball and flew through the worryingly empty centre of the field before he fed the ball to Cavani who slotted the ball cooly past Hart to give the visiting side the lead.  It was a goal that had been coming in the second half, and proved that just one mistake will be pounced on in this competition.  

City to their credit rallied well and became more urgent, but they still seemed to lack the cutting edge that they couldn't find in the first half either, they were patient and worked some nice passing triangles but were unable to pick their way through the defense.  5 mins after Napoli had taken the lead, we were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box, at perfect range for Kolarov, he curled the ball beautifully into the net and brought the teams level, it was nothing more than they deserved.  The game then went into overdrive with both sides trading blows and to be fair it could have been snatched by either team, both threw the kitchen sink at it and City had a great chance to take a win with Sergio Aguero meeting a cross to only turn it against the bar, it was extremely unlucky.

It is only fair to point out that City weren't particularly bad, but they also weren't allowed to be at their best, a draw was probably a fair result on the balance of 90mins but really we should have taken one or two of our other chances that would have secured a victory.  Napoli to their credit were excellent, they defended well and countered with pace and precision, they will provide a really stern test for Bayern.  As for us, next is a trip to the Allianz Arena which clearly will be incredibly difficult, a victory blows the group wide open, but i'd probably take a point.

What of the individual performers, lets see how it broke down:

Joe Hart: 6 - Nothing he could really do with the goal, looked nervous at times but remained in control when some of those in front of him seemed to be struggling.

Pablo Zabaleta: 6 - Full of energy and his work rate was excellent, he was willing but didn't really manage to offer anything offensively meaning we were woefully short of width at times.  Battled hard and defended reasonably well however.

Vincent Kompany: 6 - Not one of his better performances at all, looks lost at times.  He did make one excellent clearance off the line but was at fault on several attacks and could perhaps have done better at times.

Joleon Lescott: 7 - Maybe I am in the minority but I thought he had a decent game, should have done better with a header in the second half, but defensively he was sound and every high ball that came forward he won, his positioning wasn't perfect but he battled very hard.

Aleksandar Kolarov: 6 - A mixed night, as with Zabaleta he was rarely a threat coming forward but immense for playing a long time with a broken nose.  He was willing and showed more effort than normal.  The free kick he dispatched for our equaliser was superb and he deserves much credit for that.

Gareth Barry: 5 - He didn't really perform that badly for the most part but his catastrophic error in the second half lead directly to the goal we conceded.  He began solidly, holding his position well, but as the game went on he got sucked too far up field and it cost us.

Yaya Toure: 7 - Struggled to get involved as an attacking threat, but mopped up extremely well.  He worked hard and snuffed out many attacks using his power and experience to great effect, he was also incredibly unlucky to not give City the lead early on after a superb sweeping attack.

David Silva: 6 - Sadly there was no sparkle from the Spaniard who was snuffed out by an extremely organised Napoli defensive unit.  He was counter acted by the denial of space there was no room for him to operate and sadly that made it difficult for the whole team.

Sergio Aguero: 6 - As with Silva there was just no space for the Argentine to play in, unlucky not to score late on when he hit the bar.  Credit goes to him for the endeavour that he showed but there was just not enough room for him to operate to the best of his ability, too often came deep and wide for the ball.

Samir Nasri: 5 - Probably suffered the most from the lack of space outside the Napoli area, his delivery at times was lacking and he was involved in the mistake made for their goal, on another day more would have come off for the Frenchman but it wasn't a great day at the office for the new boy.

Edin Dzeko: 7 - Continued his good form sadly though without adding to his goal tally, he looked like a real threat early on and his touch and poise made him very hard to handle for the opposition defense, saw a couple of shots whistle narrowly wide and perhaps shouldn't have been subbed for Tevez.


Adam Johsnon: 7 - Added real impetus when he came on and offered something really different, the Italians didn't know how to deal with him and his introduction should have come much earlier.

Gael Clichy: 6 - Attacked with passion and verve, should have started the game to add the width we sadly missed for the majority.

Carlos Tevez: 5 - I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he still doesn't look fit and ready, but time is running out on that excuse.

Tough to call a man of the match really, because no one really shone that much more than anyone else, for the most part everyone did a good job, but were inhibited by some fantastic defending, but for all round game i'd probably plump for Yaya Toure. He did well in the new role that is he doing for the club, worked well defensively and his experience of the competition was clear to see, he also attacked well and picked the right times to do so.  Went incredibly close to netting in the first half after a barnstorming run, Toure could be vital in our ongoing quest in the Champions League.  

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