Thursday, 16 September 2010

Red Bull Salzburg 0 - 2 City

  • Tradition won out. The callous franchise outfit, the caffeine-drink hawkers were routed by romantics of Manchester City, pierced by strikes from local lads David Silva and ; the greatest such triumph since the 1967 European Cup final in Lisbon. (This might be the last time I can write this, I need to extract every drop while I can.)

  • To give it the right kind of praise, though: this was a European performance of almost perfect application. I've got an uncharacteristic confidence about the Europa League this year, and this felt like precisely the sort of performance that might take us far. We controlled possession, suggesting that playing three defensive midfielders might not be quite as pointless as Tony Cascarino suspects it to be. Our attacks were built around Silva and Carlos Tévez, who look and play with the kinship and understanding of cousin imps, both dropping off , running at defenders, linking well with team-mates and of course with each other. Thirteen more performances like this and we'll be flooding Dublin in May.

  • It helped that RBS were defensively incontinent, lacking any control or discipline. At the least I expected them to be well organised. We were arranged in a 4-4-2 diamond, with Silva at the peak. It was from a forward break of his that we scored our first - arriving in the box to slot home Jô's lay-off from Wayne Bridge's cross. The goalkeeper might have done better, as he might with our second - when he palmed a Carlos Tévez shot into the path of , who finished smartly. That's not to say that our only chances came through errors - both Silva and Tévez went close at other times, and on another day we might have scored three or four more.

  • All this was founded on another solid midfield performance. It was another outing for the iron triangle of Nigel de Jong, Yaya Touré and Gareth Barry - clearly the default foundation stone for any potentially challenging game. They controlled the play - de Jong had his best game this season. We won't do anything in Europe without being able to keep the ball, and whatever you think about the suitability of Mancini's approach in the Premier League it's certainly and obviously appropriate for European competition. There were times when Red Bull slung some balls into the box under which we looked vulnerable, but I rarely felt like the win was in jeopardy.

  • Progress from the group stages requires three wins and a draw or two. We could very easily throw it away from here, but there is no doubt that this is a strong start. Juventus at home will be very different. But we've got three games in two different competitions between now and then. Rotating enough to maintain freshness while not doing so much as to dissipate momentum is Mancini's next task. James Milner and Adam Johnson in on Sunday, I think.

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