I’m not a huge fan of friendlies, without the edge that comes from true sporting competition, they’re not a true representation of what sport is all about. This game was supposedly a “dead rubber” – as near to a friendly as you can get, in theory!
The Final group game of City’s Champions League adventure, so far, was at the home of Bayern Munich, arguably the best team in Europe. They fielded a very strong team and had just won 7-0 at Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga, so what a challenge for City’s shadow squad. Ten minutes into the game I feared the worst, the Blues were looking completely outclassed, a bit like Norwich, Tottenham and United were at the Etihad this season. The only question in my mind at that stage, and if you’re being honest you’ll have been thinking the same, was how many would Bayern score. Frank Ribery was running City ragged.
I’m not sure if the next development was co-incidence or not, but Micah Richards then suffered a hamstring problem, made worse by his brave sprint to stop Mandzukic adding a third for the Germans. On came Pablo Zabaleta. The game slowly changed.
Did Bayern think they’d won it, did they ease off, since everyone (pre-match) assumed City had to win by three clear goals? Did Bayern think that group winners spot had been secured, did Zabaleta for Richards make such a difference or did City simply start to outplay the European Champions? Whatever the reason, the game changed, and bit by bit the Blues clawed their way back into it.
By the time James Milner’s brilliant strike gave City the lead I was trying to work out if another goal, a win by two goals (4-2) would be enough to secure an easier last 16 draw. I hardly have time to think, as I commentate, but I concluded that was the situation and I asked, on air, for confirmation from the studio back in Salford. I was told my assumption was right, and since the winners would be decided on the head to head record of a City and Bayern, one more goal would do it.
I was therefore puzzled when a late substitution didn’t see Aguero enter the field and there seemed no urgency from the bench or the players to get the ball forward. I couldn’t understand why. Surely finishing top would avoid PSG, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona in the next round and topping the group would also have meant City would be at home in the second leg of the tie?
Why, then, did a fantastic, confidence boosting victory at the home of the European Champions, feel a little bit of an anti-climax when the final whistle blew?
This wasn’t a win at York, Fulham or even Spurs, this was away at Bayern Munich, in the Champions League, the stuff dreams are made of. This was where Tevezgate had happened too, another reason that a wrong righted should have feel good factor.
After the game I asked the first question at the Pellegrini press conference, and wondered if he’d ever imagined City would be one goal from winning the group, after that 3-1 defeat to Bayern at the Etihad? His answer left me confused. He simply said stuff like, “yes this was a great win, coming here and winning 3-2”. It hadn’t crossed my mind, at that stage, that he hadn’t worked out that one more goal would have done it.
A short time later I was told Sky had asked him if he knew that 4-2 would have topped the group, by the British journalists in Germany, who’d seen that interview (I hadn’t) and they believed he didn’t know.
Suddenly that was the big story, rather that the great comeback and win.
The players gave each other high fives as the came off, I’m sure the squad belief will have benefitted from that result, even though there’s still a bit of me that doesn’t want to carried away by it. I still remember the 3-1 home defeat at the Etihad and the first fifteen minutes of this game in Germany.
Let’s take the positives, and there were many, and move onwards and upwards to the visit of Arsenal; now there’s a game that will definitely be a keenly fought sporting event.
On the trip to Munich I had the good fortune of chatting to City fan/comedian Jason Manford. Firstly I interviewed him during the flight, and he explained that he’d done CityLive event last summer, in return for him and his family to be flown out to Munich, with the team. He also wondered whether there’d be “English Markets” in Munich, seeing as we have “German Markets” in Manchester 😉 That Monday night I bumped into the Manfords at the Hofbrauhaus, the best known of the Munich breweries. A good night was had by all.
On the return flight, Jason took the basket of boiled sweets off the air stewardess and handed out the earpop preventers. A surreal moment, as he’d had audiences rolling in the aisles at the Manchester Arena on the evenings before the trip.
If you missed Blue Tuesday from Munich, we revealed during the show that Shawn Goater is my new summariser and phone in guest for home games, at least until he gets a managers job. Excited is not the word (him and me!) The Goat makes his debut at the Arsenal game, at the Etihad, “ring the goat and he will talk” could be his new song!
What a game we can look forward to, is it too early to be a title decider? Of course it is, but it feels like one.
To download the podcast of Blue Tuesday just go to bbc.co.uk/radiomanchester
– Ian Cheeseman