CurioCITY Killed the Cat
October 07, 2012

Photo: MCFC.co.uk

Two days before the game, an interview with Adam Johnson in the form an ex-player-taking-dig-at-former-club article made its round in the media. In it, Johnson explained how young players shouldn’t join City because they’ll only play second fiddle to the likes of Yaya Toure. This opinion of his was widely interpreted in different ways by the City fans I know but if I could summarize their thoughts correctly, it would basically read, “Who cares?”

Yaya Toure can knock a cow out with a sneeze. And if you really want to get technical, 19-year-old Matija Nastasic has made two appearances in two for City in the Champions League. It all comes down to consistency and doing as the manager says.

So buck up and watch your spot, Adam. Good luck fighting for it with Colback and McClean.

Moving on, after a run of mostly unconvincing performance since the beginning of the season, City seems to be getting back on track since the Fulham game last week. An away win is always a good morale booster and injection of confidence.

The return of Micah Richards was a welcoming sight albeit in place of injured captain Vincent Kompany. Seeing Gareth Barry and James Milner in the team-sheet was refreshing as well. I can imagine how the Dortmund game mid-week led to a long line for ice bath at Carrington. The squad’s depth has yet again proven crucial for the club’s sustainability playing in all these competitions.

Lacking in depth still, however, is one Mario Balotelli. A misunderstood genius to some, especially after his penalty masterclass recently, Mario’s fluctuating performance and mood-swing continued against Sunderland. His pairing with Carlos Tevez up-front has all the promises of a lethal strikeforce. What Tevez possesses in work-rate and resilience however, could only be matched with Mario’s lackluster enthusiasm and petulance.

He stormed off the pitch after Sergio Aguero came in for him in the 57th minute. Aguero scores, the enigma that is Mario continues.

An early thunderbolt from Aleksandar Kolarov and a beast of a free-kick from Milner toward the end of the game wrapped up a convincing display of the City I know, and missed. Three points in the bag and three goals in bring City to second in the league.

If only all games are like this. Then again, that wouldn’t be City. If I wanted teams let us walk all over them and referees give every decision our way, in fear of our oppressive manager and mob of players, I might as well support you know who*. But what fun in watching football is that?

That's like playing FIFA all by yourself in 2-player mode.

*United.



HART STOPPING
October 04, 2012

Photo: MCFC.co.uk

Now that the little pun in the title is out of my system, perhaps I could proceed to thoroughly analyzing City’s tactics and performance at the Dortmund game. Then again maybe not. Suffice to say, Joe Hart aside, we were rubbish.

The game was played at 3am here. So watching the game half-asleep was a bit like a bad dream you couldn’t wake up from. Sure it wasn’t a tragic drubbing worthy of a scoreline printable on a t-shirt. But to see your team being outplayed so dominantly by the opponent, at home, warrants a feeling of unease on what the future holds.

The first half was just okay, at most. Too many a time our defenders looked nervy and evidently intimidated by the bright neon yellow men running around the pitch. Or could it be the visiting fans? Who couldn’t stop singing as they reverberated the stands. Whenever they made way, echoes of Blue Moon filled the air, albeit too briefly before the Germans led the way again. This is how it feels to be Wigan.

The second half wasn’t any better. In fact, Dortmund should’ve been one-up at the break and the City players could have used the fifteen minutes for some reflection over Lucozade. Gael Clichy and Yaya Toure looked tired and Vincent Kompany was barely the beast at the back he usually is. The side-passing and long balls into the Dortmund half -- only to be intercepted or deflected back -- was uninspiring to say the least. At the end of the game, we led the offside count 6 – 0. Silly little rule isn’t it?

There were sparks of brilliance from David Silva and Pablo Zabaleta in feeding in those nifty passes to Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko. While Aguero did have some promising shots, Dzeko had his invisible cloak on for the majority of the night. On the bench not sharing a tracksuit shelter from the Manchester drizzle, unlike before, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez were on camera having what appeared to be a lengthy discussion about the happenings on the pitch. It was a situation that screamed for Tevez. Roberto Mancini being the mystery man that he is, brought Balotelli in. And it paid off.

At 0 – 1 after a Jack Rodwell mistake gave way for Marco Reus to slot one in pass the seemingly impenetrable Hart, a miracle happened in the form of Neven Subotic’s handball. A non-penalty to most, not including Czech referee Pavel Kralovec. The sight of Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller whispering into Balotelli’s ears before the kick will be a few frames worth in the tournament montage. So would the “yapping” hand gesture that followed after Balotelli slotted in yet another cool career penalty.

With a 1 – 1 scoreline at full-time, I can’t disagree that Dortmund was robbed. And when your goalkeeper is Man of the Match, you do have to worry about your defenders.

We are of course still very much in the competition. But over in Amsterdam, one Cristiano Ronaldo had just scored his second hat-trick of the week for Real Madrid to bag home all three points. Only two teams will go through the knockout stage. Madrid is inevitably through. And while Ajax has collected 0 out of the 6 points available so far, we’re not better off with 1. Plus the next game against Dortmund is an away fixture at the Westfalenstadion where the home fans pack the tiers like those CGI ships in that movie Troy.

But we’re in good hands. Joe Hart eats CGI ships for breakfast.



About Time
October 01, 2012

Photo: MCFC.co.uk

Finally. After four games without a win, silhouetted by the Michael Jackson statue in front of the stadium, City breaks the deadlock with a win at Craven Cottage. The Real Madrid and Arsenal games aside, I was particularly bothered with the home loss to Aston Villa at home in the now Capital One, League Cup. Of course, there was the draw with Stoke at the Britannia but they’re not a football team so why bother.

The Capital One Cup, on the other hand, was supposed to be a platform for academy players to get a run in the first team and get some action going to boost their confidence. Looking back at the team fielded, I’m not really sure if Mancini intended on throwing in the towel this early in the competition. It was a strong side with Balotelli and Tevez up front. Only Razak, Helan and Suarez weren’t senior team regulars. City being City though, we could’ve had Messi and Ronaldo and still lost the game.

In essence, it was the only trophy we have a chance of winning this season.

The win at Fulham was very much needed after our dire run in the past two weeks. Silva appeared to be back on track with his wizardry and Aguero seemed comfortable enough, coming back from injury. City looked convincing from the start and for the majority of the game, the movements and possessive tactics were reminiscent of the City we know last season. In fact, it was the first time since the beginning of the season that I could watch a game without spewing a curse word every two minute. A personal record that.

City was cruising and playing so well that it took referee Mark Halsey to hold the momentum and won himself a couple of thousand new haters with the blow of a whistle. Not to be outdone by himself after the shocking performance at Anfield last week, Mr. Halsey awarded Fulham with the softest of penalties in the 10th minute, earning them the lead. The footballing world, including some of the people who hired him at the FA I’m sure, were baffled.

The equalizer from Aguero a minute from the break was important in two ways. It boosted the recovering striker’s morale, and it saved the servers running the City forums from dying during the fan half-time meltdown.

Suffice to say, Mancini has yet to lose his tactical substituting masterclass/luck after the introduction of Edin Dzeko in the 86th minute brought City the winner, and the nervy few minutes that followed.

Again, this return to form is exactly what we need ahead of the Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund. The Bundesliga champion is no Real Madrid. They’re better.



Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

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