Déjà vu all over again. Dortmund, Bayern and Napoli all came to the Etihad with a skilful mid field intent on a high and fast pressing game and we didn’t cope then exactly like last night. Part of the reason is tactical in my opinion – we seem to believe that our two up front system will prevail in Europe as it so often does at home even though it is bound to leave us numerically short in the engine room. Dzeko and Aguero do a small amount of tracking back and attempts at tackling but not enough to make up for the deficiency in numbers. The other reason is the mobility of crucial players. The lumberingly slow Touré just isn’t the player he was last season yet we persisted with him throughout the game. We were short of people and short of athletes in the middle last night.
Roma’s midfield dominated the first half organised by the very quick and talented number 15, Pjanic. Up front we were undone by quick breaks and instinctive first time passing and eventually after our early penalty from Aguero, a delightful chip from the 38 year old Totti saw the scores level.
In the second half Pellegrini changed things around a bit and when Milner cam on for Navas then later Lampard for Dzeko was on we had more meaningful possession and looked so much more likely to score but didn’t. Plenty of near misses and oohs and aahhs but even with five minutes of added time we failed to make an impression.
So can we progress in this competition? Maybe we can but not for the obvious and super optimistic idea of us “needing to win in Rome” which we won’t do. A draw there would suffice if Roma draw with Bayern in both legs and we beat Bayern at home – of course we must beat CSKA twice. It’s possible we’ll progress but very unlikely though. We’ll just have to make do with the three other domestic competitions and the hugely popular Europa league unless we contrive to finish bottom.
Much has been made of the 35,709 crowd but a full house would have surprised me. This initial league system has been designed by U.E.F.A to make money not to inspire fans and these days the extra cost (£30 for the Colin Bell stand) can’t be afforded by everyone. There must be a fair few like me who don’t care for the competition anyway and since it was on ITV anyway why bother to shell out?
I apologise for getting the score prediction right, I doubt it will happen again. Oh and I wouldn’t be totally surprised if Roma win this group not Bayern.
On a brighter note our EDS group followed their drubbing of Bayern in Germany with a win over Roma youth at Ewan Fields at Hyde. They came from behind to win 2-1 and so are top of their group.