Date: 18th September 2013 at 7:55am
Written by:

The scribes sharpening their swords were brought back down to earth as Manchester City laid to rest the ghost of Mancini’s misery in Europe beating Viktoria Plzen comfortable 3-0 in the Czech Republic last night.

City paraded their new-look white strip and had he had a Fyffes sticker down one side, Joe Hart could have resembled one of the inflatable bananas so often seen in the Kippax.

Pellegrini once again shuffled his pack. Captain Kompany was sprung from sick bay to play alongside Nastasic in a much more accomplished looking last line, while for some reason the vote went in favour of Kolarov to partner Zabaleta on the corners. Midfield virtually self-selected in the absence of Silva and Dzeko got the forward nod at the expense of Negredo.

The game got off to a false start with the home side kicking off before the adverts had finished. Was this about to signify another false dawn on the European stage for the Blues? Not so because straight from kick-off City got into a pattern of attack. Yaya at last was trusted to ply his trade further up the field in his bid to try to connect play between the front men and Navas who was hugging the right touchline.

The chances started to arrive early on with Navas hitting one from outside the box which Kozacik did well to tip over. There were a couple of chances falling to Dzeko too but he tended to hit the keeper rather than the netting.

Plzen were restricted to the usual array of unnecessary free kicks which seem to follow City this year as time and again they invited the aerial threat that on occasion has been their undoing so far this season, well at Cardiff anyway. Kolarov was first to pay with two unnecessary actions in two minutes. He was promptly yellow-carded. Up next was Fernandinho again with something not needed and he too picked up what has become an almost customary yellow card. A foul from Zaba must have left him wondering what he had done wrong as he escaped the admonishment of the referee.

The Czech Republic lads couldn’t punish City in the way some of the Premier League or indeed better teams in Europe can. Indeed Kolaf looked as though he was having a laugh and Horvath looked lively without looking a threat. But it was on the back of one of these free kicks that Hart had to be on his toes to keep out the opposition after twenty minutes.

The stats favoured City heavily in the first half but a goal wouldn’t come. But it just had to and when it did it was a reminder of the 53 bus heading along Great Western Street. None for an hour then three at once!

We didn’t have to wait an hour though as almost immediately after the restart Aguero went on one of his tricky and unstoppable runs, drew in the cover and slipped the ball aside for Dzeko to sidefoot into the corner.

The Blue mooners had hardly got back into their standing positions in front of someone else’s seat when Yaya accelerated his way past two defenders as he cut inside and curled a beauty beyond Kozacik and into the top corner.

A few minutes later it was Aguero’s turn as he put in a trade mark goal getting open in the box using his own strength and coolly slotting it into the corner.

So barely 55 minutes on the clock and the night’s work was done leaving Fleet Street’s finest to find another scapegoat for their wrath. For their part City only had to keep the ball and they did that with ease. At times they still conceded these bugging free kicks which a better equipped team will exploit, but it was only for a short period that Plzen looked as though they might score, without actually getting there.

With the clock having ticked past the hour and all looking safe and sound it was time to ring the changes. Milner replaced Nasri, Negredo replaced Dzeko and finally Yaya stood down for Garcia. Even with Garcia on there was no real threat.

So Pellegrini’s first venture into the Champions League with City got off to a perfect start and with Bayern dismissing CSKA Moscow with a similar scoreline, let’s hope that the group has taken the shape we want from day one.

Hart, playing behind probably his sixth different back line (including internationals) in as many matches did what he had to do without scares. He has been an easy target of late but since the Cardiff debacle he hasn’t visited the back of his net.

With Kompany back in, there is an air of invincibility about the back four at least until Kolarov is anywhere near the ball, anywhere near the City goal. The midfield looked untroubled. Nasri put in a couple of useful runs and moved the ball more quickly, but David Silva he never will be and too much of his play falters on the wrong pass. Playing further up front Yaya wreaks havoc and he has taken on the habit of scoring from inside left. Dead ball situations or not. Please get one on Sunday, Yaya.

Despite another unnecessary booking Fernadinho had probably his best match so far for City, not quite as effective in search-and-destroy as Barry, but much better in bringing the ball forward. Navas out wide looked dangerous and cutting in looked as though he would get on the scoresheet.

Aguero looked to be getting back to full fitness as he put in those darting runs, held off defenders twice his size and had them twisting and turning everywhere. Dzeko got one but could have been taking the ball home, but his play was unselfish, strong and resolute.

The cynics would say “it was only Plzen”, but let’s face it, City have hardly set any Champions League worlds alight since the journey started. Maybe this is a season of coming of age for the Blues, although it will not be easy against Pep Guardiola’s men when they present themselves in October.

With this showing, City should be able to collect points against CSKA and the home version of this match. They must make sure they don’t lose at home to Bayern and qualification could be in the bag.

It was interesting to see Isco getting in on Real Madrid’s six-goal act last night. Has he scored every time he’s played? Did you see Ronaldo’s face when Ancelotti brought on Bale especially to take a free kick? He has the last laugh though as once it had pinged around the six yard box, the ball fell to Ronny who promptly scored.

So up next is Derby day with the horrors of Stretford inviting themselves to our Stadium on Sunday. There is not much need to tinker with the team provided everyone is fit although I wouldn’t want to give Nasri another chance to chicken out of a free kick block and please don’t put Kolarov in against Young who has clearly visited a lot of swimming pools in the summer and refined his diving technique.

UPCOMING DATES FOR YOUR FILOFAX:
all times East Manchester BST

Su 22 Sep 16h00 The rags, The Etihad PL
Tu 24 Sep 19h45 Wigan Athletic, The Etihad LC3
Sa 28 Sep 15h00 Aston Villa, Villa Park PL
We 2 Oct Bayern Munich, The Etihad, CLGS2
Sa 05 Oct 12h45 Everton, The Etihad PL
Sa 19 Oct 17h30 West Ham, Upton Park PL
We 23 Oct 17h00 CSKA Moscow, Arena Khimki CLGS3
Su 27 Oct 16h00 Chelsea, Stamford Bridge PL
Sa 02 Nov 15h00 GMT Norwich City, The Etihad PL
Tu 05 Nov 17h00 GMT CSKA Moscow, The Etihad CLGS4
Su 10 Nov 1405 GMT Sunderland, Stadium of Light PL
Su 24 Nov 13h30 GMT Spurs, The Etihad PL
We 27 Nov 19h45 GMT Viktoria Plzen, The Etihad CLGS5
Tu 01 Dec 16h10 GMT Swansea City, The Etihad PL
We 4 Dec 20h00 GMT West Brom, The Hawthorns PL

 
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