Thoughts on the Poznan defeat

Poznan

With virtually a whole side rested after in making eight changes with an eye on the forthcoming games against West Brom and United (with only James Milner potentially starting when Premier League action resumes), it looked as though the side had done enough to come away with a point and leave themselves firmly in the driving seat with two games remaining before a freak goal and superb strike consigned City to a third successive defeat.

Having started well over the first half of the group fixtures, it allowed Roberto Mancini the cushion to make so many changes this evening with possibly only James Milner of the starting eleven likely to feature over the coming week and there were notable rare starts for Shay Given, Wayne Bridge and Shaun Wright-Phillips

It was a poor first half performance from City, possibly as a result of the sweeping changes, but Poznan had a vociferous crowd behind them and the boost of a new manager making his debut behind the bench; on the run of play it was deserved that Poznan took the lead having been the brighter and livelier side.

It was good timing that the equaliser came when it did. Poznan went into the break very much in the ascendancy with City looking out of the game at that stage. The performance over the first forty-minutes was not good; occasional flashes of good play but too often on the back foot, being stretched defensively with Poznan keen to press forward.

After the goal, City grew in confidence as you'd expect with David Silva continually involved and Adam Johnson looking bright. Poznan became more tentative, sensing the threat City possessed, but despite the increase in possession and territorial advantage it would have been a big surprise had City gone on to win the game.

With the minutes ticking away, it looked as though Mancini's decision (not quite a gamble) had paid off. At outset, a point at Poznan would have been acceptable and maintained the three point cushion but with both sides seemingly having settled on a point, Boyata's headed clearance bounced back off Manuel Arboleda.

Positives on the night? Adam Johnson showed plenty over ninety minutes to suggest he should be in the starting line-up whilst David Silva again provided some quality moments. The return of Aleksandar Kolarov was a boost following a lengthy absence and his appearance will likely consign Wayne Bridge to the wilderness, where he will surely be joined by Shaun Wright-Phillips who both turned in abject performances.

Whilst it was virtually a changed eleven out there tonight, the concern (as much as the dropped points) is the effect the defeat will have on those players who were not out there. Many of the side who struggled tonight were not regulars, let alone close to being part of the strongest side but another defeat can chip away at the confidence of a side that has struggled performance wise this past week - again lacking the command and authority in midfield that has dictated the tempo so often this season.

The pressure and focus that was on Mancini though is only going to be ramped up with a third successive defeat and another disjointed performance will only serve to highlight concerns that the reported off-field issues are very real and are hampering the side. It also did nothing but serve to evidence that the side is too heavily reliant on the talismanic figure of Carlos Tevez to dig them out of a whole time and again.

The hope is that the 'league' side comes back in on Sunday and takes advantage of a West Brom side that played on Monday for the most part in a tiring game at a numerical disadvantage that has to take its toll. Victory there (and a performance to match) will steady things and put the side in better heart for the derby.

In terms of the Europa league, with two games remaining, the defeat sees Poznan go atop Group A, ahead of ourselves on goal difference. With Salzburg (home) and Juventus (away) to come four points are needed to secure progression but whilst the Salzburg game should garner three points, it will still leave a tricky trip to Turin where a point will be needed.

Not an easy scenario of course, but one that can very much still be navigated.

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