Well apart from the disappointing fact that we simply weren’t anywhere near good enough, certainly for a team with Champions League ambitions anyway, I don`t really know what to say following that depressing evening at The City Of Manchester Stadium.
Should the alarm bells be ringing? I don`t know. Suffice to say that despite a much improved second half performance, which still in truth left a lot to be desired, we failed to repair the damage caused by a completely ineffective, and way below par first half offering, that had the travelling Villans shaking their heads, and loudly voicing their concerns. It was a lack luste showing, a showing that saw us very lucky to go in at the break only 1-0 behind.
We simply didn’t turn up until the second half got underway. We had lacked fight, spirit, and confidence, the latter I guess the result of our recent stutter, a stutter that needs to be addressed and rectified, before the stumble becomes a heavy fall.
I must admit that I’m even more disappointed tonight, than I was after Stoke City’s two late killer blows on Sunday afternoon.
I think that I had tried to convince myself that Sundays shocker was a one-off, just one of those crazy ninety minutes that befall every club throughout the course of a season. ‘We’ll bounce back at Eastlands’ I confidently assured all who would listen, but, when it came down to the crunch, we didn’t. And the very fact that we didn’t is worrying, and has to be a concern.
Martin named the same team that started against The Potters, Friedel, Cuellar, Davies, Knight, Luke Young, Barry, Milner, Petrov, Ashley Young, Heskey, Agbonlahor.
On the subs. bench we had Carew, Delfouesno, Reo-Coker, Gardner, Shorey, Guzan, and Harewood.
Mark Hughes fielded a weakened City side, minus Richards, Bellamy, and Robinho but it was his men that stepped up to the plate, delivered the goods, and eventually ran out 2-0 winners. I thought that Ireland, Wright-Phillips, and Elano were outstanding for them, the three best players on the pitch by far.
I have no complaints. We were well beaten. We created very little, only having our first shot on target in the 70th minute, a Gareth Barry volley, parried for a corner by City keeper Shay Given. It was Given who was in goal for the opposition the last time we were beaten on our travels, the 2-0 reversal at St James Park, and arguments raged on the way home as to whether he had an even easier night tonight, than he did on that cold night in the north-east last autumn.
An excellent claret and blue following yet again, vociferous throughout with their vocal encouragement, and we weren’t even put out of our stride by the ‘You’re Not Going To Istanbul’ chants from the City faithful. A lot of worried faces amongst those travelling Villans though as the game progressed. We’re not used to being second best when we’re away from Villa Park.
With some very tough games fast approaching, our credentials are obviously going to be thoroughly tested, and more performances like this evenings effort, just wont be acceptable.
‘Too many players being played out of position’ complained the guy in front of yours truly, while his mate responded with the observation that the players look tired and jaded, ‘they lack the spark that they showed earlier in the campaign’ he continued.
‘No, key players are not performing, and we’re not getting the run of the ball, and the breaks that we once were’, chipped in the friendly elderly dude from Shrewsbury who sat next to me.
We had no threat in the box. Even though we poured forward second half, we didn’t look convincing. We didn’t suggest that an equaliser was within our capabilities.
We didn’t play balls over the top, to make Dunne and co turn, giving Gabby and Ashley the opportunity to use their pace. Gabby notched a hat-trick on opening day against this shower, but tonight he never had a sniff. He looked way off the pace, but he wasn’t the only offender wearing the claret and blue at who you could level that criticism.
Too many simple passes went astray, we failed to control the ball, we mistimed tackles. Is the pressure getting to us? After all, a top four place is virgin territory to most of our lads.
John Carew’s arrival second half (he replaced Curtis Davies) certainly helped liven us up somewhat, but no doubt MON had had some sharp words to direct at his charges during the break. But even with Carew in the mix, we didn’t look like taking the game by the scruff of the neck.
We simply had no answer to a spirited and determined Manchester City team, no ideas of how to get back into the game once Elano had put the home team 1-0 up from the penalty spot midway through the first half.
The superb Shaun Wright-Phillips goal at the death was a deserved reward for the man who had tormented us pretty much all night long.
Well fellow Vital Villans, the hard work begins now. The easy part has been getting where we are, the hard part lies ahead. MON has to lift his squad, get them back on track, firing on all cylinders, and up for the task of taking three points off Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday week.
None of us wants to see almost eight months of graft, excitement and success, go up in smoke.
It wont. Our destination is in our hands. A top four place is ours to throw away. Come On You Lions!
I’m trying to be positive and upbeat, but we all know whats ahead, and we all have our opinions as to where our destiny lies. I’m not fooling anyone, nor attempting to.
Right, for what its worth, here’s my marks out of ten for the players performances.
Friedel – 7
Knight – 6
Davies – 4
Cuéllar – 6
Luke Young – 5
Milner – 5
Petrov – 5
Barry – 7
Ashley Young – 6
Agbonlahor – 5
Heskey – 5
Carew – 6