After focusing the main part of the blog on Wayne Rooney last week, I thought it would only be fair for Manchester City to have their piece. This week I’ll mention how the British clubs faired in European competition, talk Tevez and an unexpected result at the Portugal Masters on Monday.
As the Champions League swung around again for gameweek three, both Manchester clubs would of been feeling the heat after neither had recorded a win in their opening two games. In City’s case, it looked like a ‘must win’ game if they wanted to venture further in their first attempt to win Europe’s most prestigious domestic crown.
And it wasn’t going well, when Villarreal opened the scoring inside five minutes any chance of qualification from this tricky group looked to have gone. But, after snatching an equaliser just before half time I thought the game seemed their for the taking in the second half, with City bound to throw the Sheikh’s chequebook at the Spaniards in the second 45.
But it didn’t materialise, the home side lacked creation and movement in the final third as a team with good European pedigree seemed to be doing a thorough job on shutting out the Champions League newcomers. However, Mancini brought on Sergio Aguero with half an hour to play, and there was always a sense that he could add the needed spark to unlock the visitor’s defence.
Inevitably Aguero scored, with City packed into Villarreal’s box, the sub knocked in what could be one of the most important goals in Manchester City’s season. Gary Neville commented after that winning at the death was the best way to win a football match, and it certainly looked that way to Mancini, who was overjoyed when the final whistle sounded.
The question on many peoples’ lips would have been whether City had the stomach for a fight when the chips were down, and Carlos Tevez did little to convince City doubters with his shenanigans in Munich. But Aguero’s stoppage time winner has shown that this City team do have some bottle, and what better way to show it before tomorrow’s showdown at Old Trafford.
The irony that Tevez’s countryman made such an impact off the bench will leave Mancini smarting after Carlos’ antics, the goal has magnified Tevez’s lack of respect to the club, and Aguero has shown him the benchmark of how a professional should act. Surely after all that’s been said Tevez will be shown the door in January. But he might change his mind, after all, he swore that he would never return to Manchester, “not even for a holiday”.
Tevez’s former employers Manchester United completed a routine midweek victory over Otelul Galati to strengthen their position in Group C, Wayne Rooney became the Champions League’s highest scoring Englishman, dispatching two penalties to take his tally to 26. Whilst Nemanja Vidic received a questionable red card on his return to the side. United should now qualify quite comfortably after registering five points at the halfway stage.
Elsewhere, Chelsea helped themselves to five goals against Genk, with Fernando Torres bagging a brace. Arsenal snatched an unlikely and morale boosting three points against a poor Marseille side.
Besides Europe’s major competition, Stoke’s Europa League game on Thursday was a really good watch. I’m not a fan of Stoke’s kick and chase style, but with hard working players and using the simple tactics of playing to their strengths, Tony Pulis has created a very difficult team to beat, especially at home. The cauldron-like atmosphere of the Britannia is very intimidating to away sides, whilst it can also plays on the minds of officials. Stoke ran out 3-0 winners but the main highlights were the two red cards given, one for Cameron Jerome in the first half which was debatable, and one in the second to crowd villain Yoan Ziv, which was simply hilarious. He was ridiculed for the part he played in Jerome’s second booking, and the crowd jeered every time he touched the ball. Eventually he buckled under the fiery atmosphere of 20,000 clay-heads, as he kicked a boot at an assistant referee in frustration.
Scattered around the continent there were credible results for Celtic, drawing away at Rennes, and a last gasp winner for Birmingham against Brugge, showing that British football has strength in depth outside of the Premier League. Fulham were unfortunate to lose against Wisla Krakow after some shoddy play acting leading to the dismissal of Moussa Dembele, and Tottenham fielded a team missing several marquee names as they beat Rubin Kazan 1-0, with Roman Pavlyuchenko smashing in a thunderbolt free kick from 20 yards.
Football aside, it was a great week for young golfing protégée Tom Lewis, he climbed over 400 places in the World Rankings after winning the Portugal Open, finishing 21 under and two shots ahead of his nearest competitor. The fact that this was only Lewis’ third tournament since turning pro puts it into context, he has surpassed Tiger Woods record of being the youngest ever winner of a professional title.
The field included Thomas Bjorn, Francesco Molinari and Martin Kaymer to name a few, Lewis will now have his eyes on the Order of Merit as he tries to catch Rory McIlroy.
Finally on a more sombre note, England are now playing for pride as they trail India 3-0 in their five match series, after some devastating batting displays from the hosts. As demoralising as the first three games have been, England can still sleep safely in the knowledge that India can not take their Test crown away.
So stick that up your arse Duncan Fletcher.