Manchester City’s well-accredited groundstaff put on a performance of their own yesterday, clearing the pitch three times of snow to ensure that this match went ahead. In a week that saw them win a coveted award for pitch presentation and attention to detail, nothing less was expected from this dedicated group who week after week produce a carpet of a football field totally different to the mud baths we will recall from the late sixties.
And from minute one Mancini’s reshuffled team seemed to take their cue from this and the match could and should have ended in a cricket score.
With Balotelli leading the attack almost disdainfully, you just always have the feeling that he knows he’s going to score and you know he’s going to score.
Last night’s biggest mystery was why did it take so long?
But when it arrived the first goal was true class as Jo found Zabaleta overlapping on the left and his pinpoint cross towards the 6 yard box looked to be heading to safety but Balotelli had different ideas. Quick as a viper he extended his foot to catch the ball on a controlled volley which found the back of the net.
For the remainder of the first half, City clearly outclassed their opponents and the match should have been dead and buried before the teams headed for the warmth of the changing rooms at half time.
The second half got under way before Super Mario came out to play and quickly began to resemble the first. With Juventus now known to be struggling in Poznan the door to the knock-out stages was wide open for City although at 1-0 and with Salzburg trying hard you could not be certain. Chances went begging with Wright-Phillips trying to seek out Balotelli rather than play a simpler ball in to Jo parked unmarked on the 6 yard line. Milner worked relentlessly in midfield alongside Vieira and SWP and Johnson found space wide out.
The back line never really looked ruffled with Boateng quite masterful in his tackling and covering. Toure looked well in control. Zaba- well when does this remarkable footballer ever let you down?
Just after the hour, though, a bit of a scramble led to a hurried attempt by Vieira which squirted its way through to Balotelli, again only 6 yards out, and he promptly and remorselessly made it 2-0, this time perhaps showing a little hint of a smile.
Shortly afterwards, Johnson cut in from the left, held off two or three weak looking challenges and then curled a right-footer beyond the Austrian keeper and in to the far corner. 3-0, job done.
Balotelli put his feet up for the night and Salzburg introduced their star Brazilian….Alan! Did the singing section enjoy that one, giving the poor youngster a bit of stick. From a country that produces stars with names to match..Robinho, Elano, Pele, Socrates, Zico, Subbuteo, Alan doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it.
We turn our attention to Turin next in this competition with more or less a free rubber, although it would be good to get the result we need to head the group. A draw will do provided that Lech don’t win by more than 2 against Salzburg. Juventus have seen the exit door by virtue of the separation devices deployed by UEFA. If Juventus were to beat City and Lech lost against Salzburg, Lech still go through by virtue of the goals scored away against Juventus. They would end the group on equal points, 8, neither team having beaten the other on the head-to-head, no goal difference between the team as they were both drawn, so goals scored in the away match become critical. The match ended 3-3 in Turin so Poznan gets the vote.
No doubt it will be all change for the intriguing match against Bolton this weekend….groundstaff permitting!!
CITY v BOLTON ON VMC:
Head for the VMC Match Day Experience Forum for the build up and beyond to City’s next important challenge coming in the form of resurgent Bolton.
Vital Man City on:
Vital Man City on: