Typical City 2.0
September 19, 2012

Photo: MCFC.co.uk

That’s right, fans of Manchester City Football Club, it’s official. Our “Typical City” curse has been upgraded a notch. Unlike the new iPhone, however, this update is a massive one. If yesterday Typical City meant losing a game to a goal scored by a balloon (Sheffield United away, FA Cup 2008 -- the balloon was ours), today, it’s a matter of Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a last minute winner in front of a packed Santiago Bernabeu after trailing the visitors twice in the last 20 minutes of the game.

Sure it's a spectacle for the neutrals. Would I take it, though? Hell no.

Fair enough, Real Madrid thoroughly deserved the win after a convincing first half saw them missing out on a few chances and Iker Casillas touching the ball only once; thrown to him by the ball-boy. Heck I’d rather Madrid put the game to bed at the break so that I could go back to bed and get an extra 45-minute sleep. But to lose the game the way we did?

Who am I kidding anyway. It’s City we’re talking about here. If Steve Carell and Ben Stiller had a love child in the form of a football club, it would be ours. All these years, we have been supporting the ultimate institution of anti-heroism.

Have we learned anything from it? I think not.

Have the players learned anything from all those time we’ve conceded an entire three point in the league thanks to defensive mishaps? Of drifting away and losing focus immediately after the hopes of the thousands around the world are lifted by a Dzeko header or Kolarov thunderbolt coming out of nowhere. That little bit of light at the end of the tunnel too often shun by a split-second error erasing the dreams of loyal blues everywhere.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. It’s as if they do it on purpose.

But what fun is watching football without these heartbreaks and minor cardiac arrests? Being a City fan is about committing oneself to a non-refundable emotional rollercoaster ride. Our honorable Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak once said that the title win last season has simultaneously thrown the Typical City tag out of the window. If I may, sir, the spell is well intact, only in a different form.

City went to Madrid at the best of times. Ronaldo sulking after scoring a brace recently is still fresh in our minds, and with the club’s current form in the league dwindling them to twelfth place, Jose Mourinho had enough reasons to say what he said a few days back, “I don’t have a team.”

When Brylcreem Boy slotted in that abrupt winner and threw himself to the ground with a gratifying trademark smile, however, an overjoyed Mourinho sliding a good three feet summed the night to the despair of my shattered spirit.

In hindsight, that was the only positive I could garner from the game. The Special One’s gonna have a hard time removing the grass stain from his suit.

Football Only a Mother Could Love
September 16, 2012

Photo: MCFC.co.uk

I’ll be honest. I’m bummed. All these talks about the Britannia being a fortress and no top four team came home with more than a point last season mean nothing. They all finished above Stoke, didn’t they?

Not to mention the repetitive stat of this fixture’s historical record -- which has been a point each for the past three seasons. But is that an excuse for the trend to be continued?

City started off well retaining the majority of possession nestled amidst the always intimidating home crowd who by the way, took no time booing Mario Balotelli at every opportunity. Must’ve been their intense, long-time rivalry with Inter Milan.

I was excited to see what new signings Javi Garcia and Maicon could bring to the pitch, as they were in the starting line-up. We all know Maicon and what he’s capable of doing from the right flank. The brilliance of those mind-blowing goals he’s scored from the edge of the box over the years has been worthy of numerous re-uploads on YouTube. But the man is 31 now and outside of football, that’s about as old as Larry King. So one does wonder if he still has it.

Garcia on the other hand, is a name that hasn’t been all that familiar. At least to me, having followed very little of the Portuguese league. With one senior team cap to the Spaniard’s name, and having secured his signature only seconds before the recent transfer window closed, it’s not unfair for the media to conclude him as a panic purchase. Which I disagree though as our only panic buy during the period was Richard Wright.

Scott Sinclair also started in his City debut wearing the number 11 jersey Adam Johnson left behind. While I’m still quite bothered by Johnson’s inevitable exit, I’m not one to dwell in the past so my hope is for Scotty to prosper to become the young Chelsea prospect he once was and not go out on six loan spells again.

Masters at punting the ball from set-pieces and scoring from various body parts, Stoke opened the score with a Peter Crouch goal from inside the box after a great assist by his hand. The goal was a far cry from his wonder-volley last season but had it not been for referee Mark Clattenburg’s negligence of the lanky striker’s handling of the ball, it wouldn’t have stood.

In the words of Roberto Mancini after the game, "If you want to start with the first goal you should talk about NBA basketball, not football."

I’m still bitter.

Not one to give up with plenty still to be played, City remained composed and retained possession mainly contributed by the anchor that is Yaya Toure in the middle of the park; brushing off Tony Pulis’ men like the bulldozer that he is. City’s persistence was rewarded in the 35th minute after new boy Javi Garcia stylishly headed in the ball, giving Stoke a lesson in scoring properly.

The second half proceeded with City unceasingly executing waves of offensive plays while Stoke returning with the odd counter-attacks, mostly well-dealt with by City’s defense. Clattenburg continued his fine form for the afternoon by stopping the game every other minute whenever a Stoke player falls down at the touch of sizeable City players like Gael Clichy.

As the clock ticked further and the hope to end the stalemate draw spell at the Britannia faded away, the penultimate kick of the game nearly brought City all three points after a shot from outside the box by Edin Dzeko was deflected away on the line by Ryan Shawcross.

Another season, another draw against Stoke away. Is it acceptable? Yes. Am I happy? Not quite. We need a new target apart from the desired position in the league next year. It reads, "F*****g beat Stoke already."

Footnote: Jose Mourinho’s assistant Jose Morais was in the stands yesterday. A Real return to the Bernabeu for Michael Owen anyone?

The Ghost of Season Past
September 02, 2012

Photo: MCFC.co.uk

There appears to be an emerging trend among football managers lately and I for one wouldn’t mind if it stays for good.

When James Collins scored his second goal for Swindon Town in the League Cup last week, manager Paolo Di Canio celebrated by giving the man a high five, before proceeding to kick his bum. Collins went on to score a hat-trick to trump Stoke City 4-3, and bring them to the next round. It’s hard to fault tough lovin’.

Three days later, yesterday, Edin Dzeko scored Manchester City’s second goal in their 3-1 win over QPR at the Etihad. The goal came a minute after QPR leveled the score with a Bobby Zamora header in a game largely controlled by the home team. It was long time coming as City could have easily killed the game in the first half no thanks to a number of wasted chances.

For the fans and staff in the City dugout, despite the final score, it was a ball-breaking 90 minutes. A bright sunny afternoon against QPR at home was a setting all too familiar to that -- here I go again -- fateful day in May. Though the stakes are not as high, and as much as we’d like to relive the moment all over again, I’d much rather City put the game to bed and let us enjoy the rest of the weekend in peace.

So when the camera panned to Roberto Mancini after the Dzeko goal, he was seen celebrating by cussing in the air words that probably only him and David Platt know unless we have the guys from the Suarez-Evra saga translate them for us. It was not quite Di Canio’s roundhouse kick but it was a sight that defined the afternoon.

In Mancini’s words after the game, "I think we played well in first half, but we have one problem at the moment -- when we have a chance to score, we don't score and the game can change."

It’s not rocket science. But the man echoes what some of us thought of the performance. Three games into the season without a clean sheet now and I begin to wonder if we’re being fair, or if we’re simply asking too much i.e. spoiled.

I don’t expect us to be finishing games at half-time week in week out. But when we’re bossing the game, it’s probably best if we don’t wait until extra time to score the winner. It took ex-City defender Nedum Onuoha playing Carlos Tevez onside for him to score in the 92nd minute to cement the win and secure all three points.

I take back everything I ever said about Phil Neville, Everton and Manchester United.

Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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