Saturday, 1 May 2010

City 3 - 1 Villa

  • For the first time since 1981 (or maybe 1999) we've won a semi-final. That's how Mancini described this game on Thursday and he was right. By winning today we have set up Wednesday night's game with Spurs are our final; perhaps not quite our biggest match since the final against the same opposition in 1981, but most probably the biggest since Gillingham.
  • Let's not let the context distract us from the match itself. This was an excellent result against a side with one of the best away records in the division. Villa had nine away wins and 32 away points, second only to Manchester United on both metrics. Their coiled spring approach - tight and firm at the back, quick and expansive on the break - is perfectly suited for the road. That's how the game went at first. We started at a good tempo, thanks to the surprisingly impressive Patrick Vieira. We moved the ball quickly between our forwards, forcing a number of corners but never creating anything more than a half chance. Villa defended excellently.
  • The second part of the Villa gameplan, pace on the break, was our undoing. Stewart Downing dashed inside Wayne Bridge and played through John Carew, who escaped Kolo Touré and whose shot found its way past Márton Fülöp. There were at least three individual errors on our part, to say nothing of the collective failing. When Carew hit the bar ten minutes later it looked as if we had learned nothing.
  • It is to the credit of the players, the manager and even the fans that we kept our nerve having gone behind. Too often in these situations tension on and off the pitch creates a destructive feedback loop. Not today though; we stuck to our plan and were ahead before the break. Early in the game we focussed on releasing Craig Bellamy against Carlos Cuéllar with little success. Both of our goals came from getting the ball quickly to Adam Johnson on the other side. Steven Warnock was twice isolated against his fellow England aspirant. The first time he felled Johnson, with Carlos Tévez converting the penalty, the second Warnock watched as AJ ghosted past him before setting up Emmanuel Adebayor.
  • It was a crazy spell, the sort of brief suspension of order and pattern which usually ruins our seasons, rather than reigniting them as this did. It also transformed our approach to the second half. When you area leading at home against Villa the worst thing you can do is throw bodies forward and risking being caught on the break. So we defended deep, kept the ball and only broke when it was propitious. It would have worked comfortably, were it not for Wayne Bridge's surprising enthusiasm for Ashley Young to fire crosses in from the right. These caused a few problems but ultimately no goals.
  • Villa needed a win, threw more men forward and left space in behind. We confirmed our win with minutes left when Shaun Wright-Phillips surged forward, danced past two tackles and set up Craig Bellamy. An impressive performance from the team and well played from Roberto Mancini too. Everything is set for a momentous match in mid-week.

1 comment:

Blue Moon said...

Paddy was immense today - especially in the first half. Dare I say, he was Pirlo-like. His passing was superb - finding AJ again and again...

AJ obviously MoM - so tricky, so intelligent, knew what he was doing to earn the penno. He really should be on the plane to S.A.

Fulop looked shaky -- that was a soft goal given that it was hit right at him. Saved Young's shot/cross well tho'

Really liked Ade's energy - even though I wished he were more Niall Quinn in the air, and more direct, he has so much skill and movement that he opens up the rest of the pitch for others.

Thought Bellamy was very, very poor once again. Not sure what is wrong with him. He crosses were terrible, his corners not much better. Shocked that he kept trying to go to Cuellar's outside rather than cut in -- he scored with his right against the Arse, so it's not like he can't.

Wednesday is arguably the second most important game in City history behind Gillingham. The difference between 4th and 5th for City is the difference between 3 years of stability going forward and 3 years of continued wandering in the wilderness. It's the difference between Kun Aguero and Darren Bent...