You knew today was going to be good when Vinnie was back in the lineup. Playing against one of the weaker sides in the Champions league helps as well. But, it is a game like today’s that can give City confidence going forward in the Champions League group stage, as it gets the proverbial CL monkey off the back of the boys. It could have been easy for City to look past this game, no matter the importance, with a game against United this weekend. But, the boys stayed focused and put in a total team effort away from the Etihad. This could be huge for team confidence going forward for the whole season, not just Champions League. I hope we can continue getting solid road performances.
The first half of the game saw a performance all too familiar to MC fans. City had plenty of chances, but just couldn’t put the final touch on the ball to slip it passed the goalie. And the Plzen goalie had quite the first half, which seems to always happen for sides facing City. I know many of you were, like me, nervous going into the half. All I could think was, “Not again. Plenty of chances, nothing to show.”
Both sides had plenty of chances in a surprisingly open first half of play. This was unexpected since most teams pack the box against City and counter attack; but not Plzen. The Czech side had their chances to go a goal or two up, but some solid saves, well-timed defending and missed opportunities left them wanting. During the first half, Aguero and Navas stood out offensively for City as they constantly put pressure on the Plzen defense. Navas won most if not all the corners for City in the first half, pushing our attack wide and stretching the defense. At the same time, Aguero put pressure through the middle, doing his best to get Dzeko and others chances to put City ahead. Aguero was surely missed against Stoke, coming on as a sub, and I’d love to see him and Negredo play a whole game together. Now that’ll be fun.
The second half was a tale of two Cities, and the piece de resistance of the second half was Yaya’s beauty from outside the box. I mean, that was a spectacular piece of individual skill. It overshadowed his central midfield partner, Fernandinho, who played a HUGE role in the midfield tonight. When Plzen began an attack or counter, he’d track back to either slow down the play or win the ball back. His only negative was his awkward fackle (fall and tackle together? Get it?), but that’s really being nit picky.
Defensively, we looked pretty solid. Kolarov had a rough 10 minutes or so during the first half, which saw him given a yellow card for a handball. He also committed a silly foul in a great position for Plzen to convert a free kick into a goal, but he did a solid job joining the attack. Fortunately, Plzen were unable to capitalize on the weak spots. With Vinnie at the back, the defense looked more organized and prepared to face any attack from Plzen, who is normally a solid goal scoring side.
There were times though, especially from free kicks, where we looked lost on the question of whom to defend, and left a player open for a chance on goal. In the second half, the back four got a lot of rest because we 1) scored an early goal, and 2) continued to open up play and score. Joe Hart had a solid game in net today, and his great form from the last few games continued (I think he felt more confident with Vinnie back, too).
Good news, when Yaya was subbed off, it wasn’t because of injury! HUZZAH!!! Enjoy the rest of the week Blues, this Sunday should be fun!
Dzeko (6) – Good to see him find the back of the net, again. He should have had at least two goals, but that is wishful thinking. On a serious note, he needs to be more clinical when given chances like he had in the game today.
Aguero (8) (MotM) – He is the obvious choice for man of the match, it was really no competition. In the first half, him and Navas, were the bright spots for City, constantly putting the back four of Plzen under pressure. A lovely turn from him in the second half lead to his goal. He also began a great build up, which led to the Dzeko game-winning goal.
Navas (6) – With him in the side, he provides a real threat on the wing and he put plenty of pressure on the VP defense. He won an absurd amount of corners from just kicking the ball off of the opponent defending him. Quite funny to me.
Nasri (7) – Got on the ball a lot, and made runs to open up the attack in the final third. Good performance from him, even if he was unable to get a goal.
Yaya (6) – What a beautiful goal, huh? With Fernandinho primarily playing as the holding midfielder, Yaya was given freedom to push forward and be aggressive.
Fernandinho (7) – His defensive play stood out to me in this game. When Plzen pressed our defense, Fernandinho played his part to either slow them down, or win the ball back.
Zabaleta (5) – Quiet game from Pablo, which isn’t a bad thing. He tried to get involved in the attack, but Jesus was not playing nice! (Kidding). He had an accidental block on a chance from a Plzen player, but the second half he wasn’t really tested.
Nastasic (6) – I do love his aggressive nature when tackling and helping to defend, and he has done that consistently since he has come back from injury. Finally, he thrives when paired with Kompany in the center.
Kompany (6) – Good to see Vinny back in the lineup, when he is in the defense just looks so much more organized.
Kolarov (6) – Although he had some silly fouls in the first half in great free-kick positions, he made up for it in attack, almost assisting on a cross Dzeko headed into the keeper. I almost gave him a 3 for hitting Aguero in the head with a cross, poor Sergio.
Hart (7) – His recent performances, national and domestic, have given him the confidence to be aggressive in his box. He made quality saves when needed, and came out to claim crosses at the right time.
Milner (5) – He is a work horse, and tried his best to press the Plzen back line.