Dortmund 1-0 City

Lars Baron

The European campaign comes to an end as City become the first English side to fail to record a victory in the group stages...

For all the debate pre-game about the pros and cons of the Europa League, an insipid 2nd half display from City rendered the discussion obsolete. The player’s motivations and thoughts on the matter were demonstrable through inaction here. Against a much-changed Dortmund team so far unscathed atop the “Group of Death” victory would have restored some pride and helped infuse the spirit within the squad irrespective of the potential hurdles the Europa league would have brought later in the season. Worryingly, once the hosts had taken the lead following some clever play down the right flank there was no fightback, no urgency and no passion from the visitors.

Aside from sounding the European death knell for the 2011/12 season this encounter was utterly forgettable. Dortmund had their foot off the gas for the majority of the opening period and City were the brighter outfit, looking to seize the initiative early on. Nasri was prominent switching from right to left and drifting infield and Carlos Tevez was industrious and committed operating up front with Edin Dzeko - returning to the country where his reputation was forged.

The lack of options in midfield presented Scott Sinclair with the opportunity to show what he was capable of yet he was unable to display his pace and dribbling qualities to any effect. Confidence would appear to be understandably low for the former Swansea wideman. Javi Garcia and Gareth Barry formed the central duo with Toure and Silva - now a doubt for the Derby - absent. Perhaps their presence would have provided greater authority in midfield as City’s early dominance receded and Dortmund steadily grew into the game. Perhaps not. A shot from distance by Dzeko and a clearance from the 6 yard line was the sum of City's pressure; for Dortmund, Reus was denied by a fine save from Joe Hart but neither defence had been truly stretched at any point as half time approached.

The second period was to open with a headed opportunity for Dzeko which he should have converted before Dortmund began to assert their dominance. Exploiting the space in and around Nastasic – deployed at left back here – substitute Błaszczykowski fired in an excellent centre and Schieber was on hand to prod the ball past the prone Hart. For a side that had something to play for against one that didn’t the response was pithy, with Hart again called upon on more than one occasion to keep the score down. The introduction of Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli – heckled vigorously by the home support – did nothing to alter the pattern of play or suggest that either man was returning to their best form imminently.

City’s European demise this campaign has been detailed in depth and it goes without saying that again they were beaten by the better side. The lack of character in this display was as startling as it was concerning but generally speaking this has not been a criticism oft in evidence at the club, despite what the media detractors would have us believe. The tenacity, resolve and will to win has to return at the weekend in what is now an even more intense fixture against table topping United. A display demonstrating more pace and creative expression would also be welcome amidst the white-hot atmosphere of a local derby. For all that City have tightened up defensively their attacking play in recent fixtures has appeared a little stolid and lacking in spontaneity. Rather than playing a conservative midfield war of attrition City will be best set to go for the throat against an unconvincing defence and dispel the cloud of negativity that this doomed European campaign has created.

Man of the Match: Joe Hart

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