UCL: Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund
October 6, 2012 in Europe
So let’s get one thing out of the way up top. A 1-1 result was extremely flattering to City, and extremely harsh on Dortmund. To say that City mugged this point would be a not insubstantial under-sell of the degree to which Dortmund out-played, out-classed and out-thought City last night. They isolated City threats (never seen Yaya Toure so utterly neutralized in his 3 years at Man City) and snuffed them out. They pressed City’s defence tirelessly and relentlessly, to the point that they completely threw off City’s passing game and the link from midfield to attack, leaving City to pass it around their centre-backs impotently for the lion’s share of the time they had the ball. Reus, Lewandowski and Blaszczykowski were tireless, probing threats, even if their finishing was wasteful/facing Joe Hart in full on invincible mode. They looked a world class team tonight, and an upset against Real Madrid seems to be something they are entirely capable of.
City were the home team, but you would have never have known it, particularly in a mercilessly bleak second half where they were barely able to enter the Dortmund half with the ball, let alone resemble a goal-scoring threat. The first half though was a slightly different affair. Dortmund still looked the better team, more in sync, more disciplined and with a much greater directness and pace in attack, but both teams were creating chances, and to be honest it probably should have been 3-3 at half time. Dortmund’s numerous one-on-ones foiled, either by outstanding saves from Hart or by generally panicked finishing, but they hit the post and the bar before half-time. City meanwhile had their own chances, Aguero spurned a couple of good chances and David Silva? Well, David Silva thought the best way to tap a fast moving crossed ball into the gaping net was a Pele style scissor kick as opposed to I don’t know, just heading it in. Needless to say, it went over and wide. Fail.
Silva was actually one of City’s better players on the night, looking lively and threatening when they could get him the ball, ditto with Aguero, who despite uncharacteristic misses looked a threat to the Dortmund defence. I was also extremely impressed with Nastasic again for City, and he is certainly the most in form centre-back the club has at its disposal right now. And of course Joe Hart had one of the best games of his career, making nine world class saves to leave Dortmund’s strikers disbelieving and exasperated. But yet again Vincent Kompany put in another poor, indecisive display, repeatedly giving the ball away and over-committing into tackles allowing strikers to get the wrong side of him again and again. I think Mancini holds a lot of blame for City’s defensive woes this season, too much changing both of personnel and of formation, but it can’t help when your captain and icon looks so completely off his game. Kompany is impossible to drop, but he needs to discover his form quickly if he wants to maintain the name he earned for himself last season.
The 2nd half came and Dortmund came out with a plan, knowing that City’s wide-players, Silva and Nasri, like to play anywhere but wide, and do anything but defend. They exploited the space on the city wings, dragging out City’s ‘rough around the edges’ Rodwell and Yaya Toure out wide and exploiting the huge space in the middle. The sheer domination this gave Dortmund in the centre meant City’s ‘plan A’ game of ‘pass the other team into submission’ was completely nullified, and it’s well documented that Mancini hasn’t put together a functional plan B yet. But again, this is to take nothing away from a Dortmund side that came, saw and conquered in every way bar the final result. Reus took his goal excellently (although Hart came very close to saving that as well) and it took a questionable penalty and the nerveless Balotelli to steal a point for City.
I think this may have been the night Dortmund announced themselves as a team ready to compete on the European stage, and perhaps the night City showed that they needed more time. Mancini has never really known even marginal success in European competition, but I think a second group stage exit with Manchester City looks very much on the cards now, needing at least 3 wins from 4 remaining games, and the pressure will very much be on him. It’ll be a big, must win game against Ajax for City, while Dortmund take on Real as worthy rivals.