Thursday, 2 December 2010

City 3 - 0 Red Bull Salzburg

  • Progress to the last 32. It's what we wanted and it's what we achieved, thanks also to Lech Poznań holding out for a draw against Juventus. We haven't ensured that we win the group yet: that comes down to the last match. But it was a comfortable win, achieved without requiring a minute from the team's spine: Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry, David Silva and Carlos Tévez all sat it out.

  • If we can have one complaint is that it should have been more. We could have won by five or six, and had we done so then winning Group A would have been easier. But it's certainly worth commenting, positively, on just how many chances we created. I don't know whether it was a response to recent criticisms, or just to the personnel available, but Roberto Mancini betrayed himself last night, with thrilling consequences.

  • We set up in a 4-2-4 that owed much more to Mark Hughes than to anything we've seen in 2010. No 'three defensive midfielders' here, no 'broken team': but cavalier, expansive football. The feeling of its being a Mark Hughes tribute evening was only enhanced by the inclusions of Shay Given, Joleon Lescott and Shaun Wright-Phillips. SWP played wide on the right, with Adam Johnson on the left, and Mario Balotelli and Jô up front.

  • They ripped into them from the start. It helped that Red Bull Salzburg were just as limited as they were in Austria, but even then I was surprised by the number of opportunities we created. We were 1-0 up at half time, Mario Balotelli hooking in a Pablo Zabaleta cross over his shoulder on the volley, although it could have been more. Balotelli was put through on goal twice, and both times chose the wrong option: once shooting rather than squaring, and diving the next.

  • There was some frustration early in the second half: we've all seen City too many times not to worry when so many chances go begging in a 1-0 lead. But Balotelli scored his second, tapping in from Jô's pass after Johnson won the ball in midfield. Johnson scored the third himself, swerving past three defenders and clipping the ball round the keeper with his right foot. One of the best goals we've seen this season.

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