UEFA Champions League Group D
Wednesday 21 November 2012, 19.45 KO
City: Hart, Maicon, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Kolarov (Garcia 45), Y Toure, Nasri (Tevez 60), Silva, Dzeko, Aguero (Milner 89)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Barry, Sinclair
Goals: Aguero (pen 73)
Booked: Y Toure, Maicon, Nasri, Zabaleta, Garcia
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi
Man of the Match: David Silva
In a must-win game, City started quite brightly, though it did often feel like the team were always on the verge of the wheels falling off during the opening stages. Kolarov produced a free kick that needed Casillas to dive to punch away, before the left wing-back blocked brilliantly as Benzema blasted a shot after stepping past Nastasic.
But, with ten minutes played, City’s already difficult task became harder. From a right-wing cross, Benzema ghosted in, unmarked, at the back post. Kompany couldn’t stretch enough to head the ball clear, while Maicon was caught daydreaming and the Frenchman touched it past Hart, who could have come to collect the cross. It was another defensive mistake that had cost City another Champions League goal.
It could have been worse just two minutes later, as Ronaldo turned Kompany inside out on the left wing and crossed for Khedira to head at goal. Fortunately for the home side, his effort hit the side netting, though he should have done better. Nastasic did brilliantly to clear the ball from behind Hart after a Ronaldo lobbed the City keeper. It took another fantastic save from Hart to keep the ball out again, as Khedira waltzed through the back line, but the England international blocked the one-on-one.
At the other end, City were struggling. Aguero managed a shot from range that needed Casillas to tip it over the bar – though he would have been disappointed had it gone in – before the Argentine was forced wide on a breakaway and had to settle for a corner as his shot was deflected behind. Maicon should have pulled City level after trying the direct approach and breaking into the box, but he toe-poked wide.
Early in the second half, the home side were showing signs of improvement. Aguero couldn’t quite turn a Maicon cross into the net, before Silva broke into the box and the ball ran on to Aguero, but he couldn’t get it under control. It escaped his grasp and Casillas was able to block, before Silva found the goalkeeper’s hands after some neat work by Dzeko on the right flank.
Just after the hour mark, City would have been level but for a brilliant Casillas save. Maicon’s cross to the back post was deflected right into the path of Aguero and he seemingly had a tap-in. He side-footed the volley and got it on target, but, out of nowhere, Casillas arrived to scoop it off the line and Silva couldn’t force the rebound towards the net. City really should have equalised.
Ten minutes later and City had a golden chance to pull level. Arbeloa, who had already been booked in the first half, pulled down Aguero as he was played in on goal, and the Madrid man earned himself a second yellow card. City were awarded the penalty and Aguero dusted himself down to send the goalkeeper the wrong way. The hosts had pulled a goal back, but still needed another to keep any faint hopes of qualifying alive.
With ten minutes to play, Dzeko did well to get to the by-line and smash a cross through the six-yard box. However, unfortunately for City, Aguero couldn’t grow enough and couldn’t get the vital touch to take it into the net. Tevez then shot straight at Casillas after some great interplay between himself, Aguero and Zabaleta.
As the game entered stoppage time, it was now or never for the home side. Silva broke away from midfield and lofted a great ball over the top for Tevez to chase through on goal. Unfortunately, though, it bounced just too far ahead of the Argentine and that allowed Casillas to collect and the City striker couldn’t get a touch to take the ball into the net.
With that, City’s hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages disappeared and the highest they can finish in the group is third place. A win in Dortmund could see the blues in the Europa League, providing Ajax don’t win in Madrid. In truth, though, City haven’t been good enough in the groups and have been taught some very harsh lessons.