One day we are going to go into one of these matches and take a team apart…or are we?
We entered the cauldron of the Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium to be met by a sea of yellow, red and black, with the stands on three sides literally bouncing. The first MCFC flag tied to the railings was grabbed and torn in half by opposition fans who ran unopposed across the pitch to get at it and who then paraded half of it as a trophy at their end.
Looking at the team Mancini selected suggested that we were going for it and at the same time bring Aris proud 42 year record of being unbeaten at home in European competition crashing to a halt. How wrong could we be?
This was a dismal performance played out in a magnificent atmosphere, where it looked as though, against clearly inferior opposition, we were happy for them to keep their reputation intact, as long as we didn’t lose and to some extent guarantee an attendance at the return leg next week.
The reality of the matter is that 0-0 is a dangerous result, because it affords the away team any kind of score draw.
Aris had no quality in defence and similar in attack. Their midfielders held their shape well and always did enough to stifle City’s limited ambitions. They hardly had a shot on goal, but equally harldy had much to defend.
With de Jong missing Mancini plumped for Yaya in the central role, where he was way too deep to have any impact on the match. With Dzeko reinstated Tevez was pushed to parts of the pitch he doesn’t like and played like it. Kolarov was asked to do full back and wing back all in one and it didn’t work. SWP was asked to do his job and the only normal thing to come out of it was that he still struggles to get crosses in, even after some good flank play.
Some of the passing from midfield was woeful with Barry and Yaya constantly failing to find unmarked Kolarov wide left and failing to read Silva’s runs into space between the lines. Ball movement was treacly with Yaya being the main culprit trying his best to play like Vieira.
With the backline looking totally untroubled, I cannot see why we couldn’t step up the tempo for ten minutes and snatch at least one goal.
Dzeko’s one clear chance, on a night he will wish to forget, brought a great save from the Aris goal tender, but the night was summed up when a promising chance saw him and Tevez get in each other’s way.
How pleasing it was though to see Balotelli back in the fold and I cannot wait to see him get more involved. We need this guy. He can do the unexpected, he is quick over five yards, he does know where the net is.
It was not going to be City’s night playing the way they did. We must use Silva as much as possible and have more movement from midfield. Silva does move the ball quickly and he does find the forwards, but I suspect that those forwards are going to look a little disjointed if Tevez wants every forward ball played.
Dzeko has emerged as a shadow of a player who got on to the end of just about everything a relatively poor side in Germany could throw forward, Tevez looks like someone who is not going to allow anyone else to get goals and Balotelli needs matches quickly.
On a night when Spuds took apart another of the big names in world football in a match which resluted in Gattuso giving Joe Jordan his version of a Glasgow Kiss, City were struggling against against a non-descript team unheard of outside Greece. We are supposed to be competing with them and Chelsea for fourth place in the league and the resultant entry into the Champions League. If we play like we played last night we will be one of the league’s third or fourth placed teams in the group stages, which will have told the world we’re not good enough.
Spurs have shown that at 0-4 down they can make a fist of it the Champions League, we have shown an inability to beat Aris Thessaloniki. There were very few if any positives from this performance. No injuries was one and Richards re-emergence was another. Up the tempo, City. We don’t want another repeat on Sunday.
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