Sergio Aguero’s top draw finish earned City this thoroughly deserved derby win but we made heavy weather of it, and it was a long last twenty minutes. The score line should, though, have been far more emphatic than 1-0 and it would have been if referee Michael Oliver and his officials had a backbone between them. They denied City three clear penalties. Sergio Aguero (twice) and Yaya Toure were clearly tripped but for reasons best known to Oliver and his linesmen, they did not award any of them. Rojo should have been sent off for his trip on Yaya which would have reduced United to 9 men, following Smalling’s deserved sending off. It is impossible that they all could have been unsighted for the incidents concerned.
I’m unable to write a full match report this time (normal service will resume for the CSKA game in midweek), because I didn’t see all the game live (as it happened), so to speak. After leaving my job after 27 years, a break was needed and we only arrived back to see the second half. I did catch up with the incidents of the first half later in my jet lagged state, and it’s great how a Derby win can wake you up and course your veins better than any extra shot of caffeine!
After three poor results City are short of the sort of confidence and swagger that we have become accustomed to. David Silva is a big miss, but we haven’t been playing well recently even when he has been in the side. That of confidence was evident in an uncertain start in which City surrendered possession too easily, sometimes just belting the ball forward hopefully.
After that City were clearly the better side , even with eleven v eleven, and our chances were better. Navas really should have scored after good work from Zabaleta and Aguero; and De Gea did well to thwart Aguero from Fernando’s cross. Indeed we’d have been out of sight before half time if it wasn’t for De Gea being in fine form and Oliver and the linos not doing their jobs properly. Fellaini clearly caught Aguero from behind in the box. Rojo clearly denied a goalscoring opportunity when he clearly (that word again) upended Yaya in the box as he closed in on Jovetic’s sublime lofted pass. Oliver has form in the invertebrate stakes, having denied Fulham a clear cut penalty at Old Trafford a couple of years ago.
Not that our players were perfect. Joe Hart should not have put his head so close to Oliver’s when protesting about Smalling putting his foot up, and some referees might have booked or even dismissed him for that (Kevin Horlock once got booked for “aggressive walking” at Bournemouth back in our Third Division days). Zaba could have been booked for his trip on Van Persie in the first half.
City were the best team after the break, and out football was cutting United to ribbons. Navas continually troubled Shaw with his pace. We should also have had a penalty when Aguero was clearly tripped as he tricked his way across the box. In fact there were two attempts to fell him, first by Carrick then by the hapless Fellaini, yet Oliver for reasons best known to himself refused to award a spot kick. It was disgraceful refereeing, and the TV replays show that he had a clear view of the trips. Match of the Day’s commentator Guy Mowbray indeed highlighted the fact that Fellaini looked guiltily at Oliver, saying “his face gives the game away”. Maybe young Oliver knew that his erstwhile intimidator, Alex Ferguson, was watching in the stands.
Our winner was a beautifully executed move. Yaya Toure’s diagonal pass which evaded the stretching Di Maria was perfectly weighted for the advancing Clichy to cut back then Sergio Aguero cleverly pulled away from his marker to sweetly strike home with his left instep. There aren’t many better feelings than the net billowing after a City goal in a Manchester derby! It was top draw in every way.
We should have kicked on from there but we made it difficult for ourselves by taking off Milner and later, Aguero, and slowing the tempo of the game down. We missed their running power, skill and Aguero’s pace up front. Surely if you want to close out a game it is better to have an all rounder like Milner than an attacking player like Nasri, who to compound the problem is feeling his way back to fitness after injur
Pellegrini’s tactics in recent weeks have been a cause for concern and his attempts to shut up shop are not inspiring confidence.
We should have been pressing home our man advantage by moving the ball quicker and playing at a tempo. Instead, with City slowing play down United snapped into tackles, forced us onto the back foot and had good chances to score. Van Persie tested Hart with an angled shot. Rooney’s straight run into the box resulted in the dangerous Di Maria having a clear sight of goal. It was a horrible few seconds and we had Joe Hart to thank for stretching out a firm hand to palm the ball away.
It was United who were dominating those last twenty minutes. Thankfully Fellaini fluffed one good headed chance, and Vincent Kompany was present to deflect his countryman’s goal bound header away.
We could have put the game to bed. Navas hit a post with a half chance from the angle, and Yaya Toure headed a cross over with the goal gaping in the dying minutes.
Like in Moscow, we invited pressure by sitting deeper and deeper as the game progressed. Unlike the Moscow game we prevailed but, sheesh, did we make heavy weather of it at the end, with our defensive jitters and surrendering possession far too easily. Not one ball stuck to the off form substitute Dzeko up front. It was such a relief to hear the final whistle blow, but even without the brilliant David Silva, our team has the talent to do much better than be hanging on against a ten man mid table side – that is what United are. Still, well done to our boys in Blue for having the character to play enough football to give us the advantage and to see this one out. Our defence did well with both Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy having good games to suppress the threat of Angel Di Maria. Milner and Yaya stood out in midfield, and Aguero’s quality was there for all to see…while he was on the pitch.
A derby win is always welcome, no matter how it happens, and with us going into this game in poor form, this was a particularly welcome win that at least keeps us in touch with Chelsea.
So that’s four derby wins in a row. Six wins out of the last seven in the League. The pure elation of that is almost indescribable. Thank you, sukran, Sheikh Mansour!
Hopefully this win will give us the confidence to regain our swagger and go on a long winning run that sees us head towards the top of the League and qualify from our Champions League group.
Come on City.