AS Roma v Udinese Calcio

AS Roma v Udinese Calcio (Serie A)

28th October 2015

They do things differently in Italy.  From using a foot pump to operate a tap at a sink to the complex protocols for ordering a coffee.  You get used to it and you have to admire the originality of everything.  Growing up, Serie A and Gazzetta Football Italia were the pinnacle of football.  The great Milan team of the early 90s with its Dutch and ‘Yugoslav’ contingent were the best team in Europe. However, like many Italian engineering endeavours, the beauty and originality didn’t last long and its majesty was somehow personified in parallel by Berlusconi – all conquering but of questionable underlying integrity.

AS Roma are currently top of the league and playing very well.  They play in the Stadio Olimpico, a colossal white elephant of a stadium whose fitness for purpose diminshes every day.  The other ‘colossal stadium’ in Rome probably had more visitors on Wednesday with no match to enjoy.  Peering into the distance through a damp fog of volatilized ristretto, I saw an excellent football match as Roma’s direct and slick passing game left Udinese twisted like spaghetti on a spoon.

Stadio Olimpico - first turnstiles
Stadio Olimpico – first turnstiles

Getting to Roma

Every time I take a Ryanair flight I find myself uttering the words ‘never again.’ Each flight seems to have less room and more passengers than the last.  The poor cabin crew seem mercilessly drilled to hurt our senses with sales-driven patter and cosmetics for the whole flight to the extent that sleep is an unattainable luxury. The passengers were herded onto the tarmac before the incoming plane had even landed, simply amplifying irritation.  However, when their flight is a third of the price of their competitors’, it leaves you no realistic choice.  My return to Rome Fiumincino Airport from Brussels was a few cents over 50 euros.  It’s a no-brainer really and, ultimately, made this trip financially possible.  I refuse, on priniciple, to include a link to their website – you know who they are.

Transfers from FCO airport to Roma Termini train station are available via bus or train.  There are numerous discounts available if you book in advance.  The bus is slower than the train but is a few euros cheaper.  Upon arrival in Termini, where I was meeting my occasional accomplice Shug, I stumbled out into a busy mélange of cigarette smoke, coffee and corruption.

Tickets and Accommodation

Getting tickets as a ‘foreigner’ was far more difficult than it ought to have been due to the club’s glitchy ticket purchasing service (http://www.asroma.it/en/tickets/matchday.html).  Eventually, after several days of trying, I was able to acquire two tickets in the ‘Distinti Sud’ for 35€ each.  Tickets along the side of the pitch are much more expensive.

While food and drink are generally very reasonably priced in Roma, accommodation can be expensive.  Shug was awarded the responsibility of sourcing a cheap bed and he did well.  For 2 nights, he booked a twin room in the ‘Dreaming Hostel’ in San Giovanni district of town (http://www.dreamingromehostel.com/).  Permit me the indulgence of elaborating a little.  We arrived at the designated address to find a block of flats and no sign for a hostel, grateful that we had only paid a 10% deposit.  Upon closer inspection, we found buzzer in the block of flats labelled ‘dreaming’.  As directed, we climbed to the second floor to a flat – hostel is pushing it a bit – decorated like Victoria’s Secret.

Are you sure about this place Shug?
Are you sure about this place Shug?
Room Decor
Room Decor
Old Roman Stadium
Old Roman Stadium
Note the Martini glass where the pint glass should be.
Note the Martini glass where the pint glass should be.

The ‘brother’ who checked us in was simply fabulous dahling and offered us a jam jar of white wine, before leading us back out to a flat on the fourth floor.  We politely declined his offer of dinner as I wasn’t there to meet like-minded travellers.  We tiptoed up past the long suffering Roman residents of this apartment block and we were shown into a room full of binbags and beer bottles (and goodness knows what other mail-order products – it had that ambience about it).  Clearly disgusted, our host showed us into an adjacent room with a double bed and a camp bed (ironically, the least camp thing in the building) and a half-fitted chandelier with a few stray wires. However, it was merely a place to shower and sleep so it was, especially at the price,more than satisfactory.

The hostel was five minutes walk from a metro station and less than twenty minutes stroll from the Colosseum which suited us perfectly.

Rome

I won’t try to act as tourist information for Rome.  Suffice to say, it really is a unique city.  Rome successfully juxtaposes the ancient with the modern leaving you in awe of human achievement.  Even if you don’t like churches, the Pantheon is a fabulous building worthy of a visit.

In terms of nice areas for eating and drinking, there is no shortage of choice.  We particularly enjoyed the Trastevere area around Sir John Cabot University and found it to be eclectic and interesting.  Campo de’ Fiore, on the inner city side of the Tiber, is also a nice big market square where choice is abundant.  I had a particularly nice Calzone in Roma Beer Company in that square and would recommend it as a pizza or beer destination.

Stadio Olimpico

The Olympic Stadium is in the North West of the city.  I had diligently noted how to get there by public transport but ended up walking there from the Vatican City in the drizzle – it rained on and off all day – making a couple of pit-stops for refreshments.  There is no metro stop anywhere near the stadium and the tram stop is on the other side of the river – surely this kind of hassle deters the less hardcore fan and will be addressed when the new stadium is finished in Torre del Valle (the Stadio della Roma  http://stadiodellaroma.com/about/the-stadio).

When you get there, a mosaic-tiled slippy-as-hell-when-wet path awaits. It is small things like this that make Germany and Italy opposite sides of the same coin.  Having skated across the surface of the mosaic under the watchful eye of some illuminated marble statues, we approached the first security barrier.  A word to the wise for any would-be calcio fan – bring ID to the ground and have it handy.  We had to show ours to four different people and proceeded through two turnstiles.  Thankfully, I had read about this before leaving so half expected it and experienced a more dilute ID check at Paris St Germain last year.  This compartmentalising and segmenting of the stadium makes a walk-round very difficult and inhibits integration with other fans.  However, I suspect its designed purpose of segregation is being well served.

Slippy Mosaics
Slippy Mosaics
The Weeping Angels are everywhere!
The Weeping Angels are everywhere!
Carlo Pilkingtonio photobombing
Carlo Pilkingtonio photobombing
You can see the pitch in the distance
You can see the pitch in the distance
Cage them up!
Cage them up!
Maybe make these seats cheaper?
Maybe make these seats cheaper?
Il Stadio
Il Stadio

The stadium is large although not vertically imposing like Celtic or Dortmund.  It just has a vastness about it more than a purposeful capaciousness.  It could, nevertheless, do with modernisation: the home of Totti is looking tatty.  Once the security were convinced we were neither fugitives nor hooligans, we proceeded to the snack area and ordered a beer and a ‘pizzette’.  Each of these things were 4€, making it a little pricier than Germany or Belgium but not prohibitively so.  The smell of ristretto is remarkable even at the football – I was hoping I wouldn’t need concentrated caffeine to keep me awake at the game.

The concourse where the ‘too small for purpose’ toilets were found was very narrow but the stairway in and out of the stadium is wide. Like a narrow tributary flowing from an estuary.  The seats were far away from the pitch – I had expected this – but I was surprised to find that even the fans in expensive seats would need to climb a metal fence and do a middle distance run to get anywhere near a player.  It’s a real shame.  Running tracks have no place in a football ground anyway but the metal cage dehumanizes the fan.

That said, we did have a good view given the elevation and we were thankfully in one of the more populated sections of the ground.  Just under 30000 fans for a wet midweek game against Udinese (who had no fans at all) is not necessarily a bad turnout but inside the Olympian carcass, it felt empty.  The Roma fans weren’t bad but there was a notable and sad absence of any Ultras or noisy supporter groups.  Rain wouldn’t dissolve the Yellow Wall or the Gladbach Nordkurve and I expected a more vociferous Curva Sud.

Hopefully, many of the practical considerations (or absences thereof) of the Olympic Stadium will be addressed when the new stadium is built.  Juventus have gone from strength to strength since leaving the little-loved Stadio delle Alpi and moving into a purpose-built stadium.

The Match

I had seen the highlights of Leverkusen v Roma in the Champions League only last week and, while this wasn’t an eight goal thriller, the Calcio itself didn’t disappoint.  Roma lined up in an offensive 4-3-3 formation with attacking full-backs.  I was looking forward to seeing Nainggolan and Dzeko in particular.  From the off, Roma’s play was crisp and their passing direct.  Nainggolan directed the play and won back the ball with authority and confidence and was the origin of most Roma attacks. Dzeko led the line superbly and his all round game was excellent – he’s not just an awkward goalscorer. However the star of the show was Maicon who created one goal, scored another and completely bossed his flank.

Roma were two goals up inside eight minute and, given that the likelihood of a close game was now virtually nil, we were hoping for a right good battering full of goals.  It wasn’t until the 63rd minute when the former Arsenal forward – Pussy Gervinho, according to the stadium announcer – made certain of a home victory.  Thereafter, despite a fine team goal finished off by Thereau for Udinese, the game petered out a little.

After the match finished, we made a dash for the tram, along with several thousand other spectators across the bridge towards Piazza Mancini.  We managed to sardine ourselves onto the tram for Flaminio.  To our amazement, the metro at Flaminio was closed (before 11pm – turns out they close it at 10.30).  This seems remarkably short-sighted on behalf of those responsible for public transport in the capital, losing out on thousands of fares.  Pretty poor show.  So, we legged it to Piazza del Popolo, enjoying a nightcap before our exhausted bodies were taxied back to the hostel.

The next morning, Shug left before the first sparrow started nipping my head.  I got up and showered and woke up one of the hostel proprietors (at 0945) to give him the keys: that’s obviously how the Bohemians of today roll.  I then spent three hours wandering around Rome with my hand-luggage, sweating any remaining pollutants out of my body leaving a shell of fatigue and newly-acquired wisdom.

Exhausted, the thought of a chaise-longue in an airport seemed increasingly appealing.  That my Roman adventure would terminate at Termini seemed appropriate.  A few hours of perpetually changing gates at Fiumicino would leave me seeing more of the airport than Tom Hanks did in that awful chick-flick.  Thinking my strength couldn’t be sapped anymore, a few luggage and seating-based tantrums would delay my densely populated flight home before the brisk Brussels breeze battered my bruised body onto a bus home.

In summary, Roma are a great team and Rome is a truly wonderful city.  However, provided the date of completion of the new Stadio delle Roma isn’t too elastic, I’d wait and see them there.  It looks like it could be another Roman landmark for years to come while the Olimpico is made into a museum, a symbol of a bygone era of supremacy.

Stadium Ratings

  • Quality of match:  ****
  • Stadium character: ***
  • Stadium atmosphere:  **
  • Hospitality: ***
  • Ease of access: **
  • Things to do around the stadium: ****
  • Overall: ***
 

RSCA should Wear a Gillet this Winter

‘Gillet had become ‘persona non grata’ under the Hasi regime, stripped of captaincy and dignity.’

It has reached that time of year again when the fleeces, gilet and winter clothes need to be unpacked.  There are always a few pleasant surprises: that big woolly jumper you forgot you had and the deer stalker that your wife hates.  I will undoubtedly supplement my wardrobe with a few new items but it’s the old favourites that I will wear and enjoy most.  It makes sense to buy what you need once you look into the winter clothes and not before you have established what you have.

Gilet
Gilet
hat'll do nicely
hat’ll do nicely

However, while fashions fade, quality remains. The first time I went to watch Anderlecht, three players stood out: the blond defender (Deschacht), the long-haired midfielder who controlled the game (Gillet) and the tall winger (Jovanovic).  Deschacht remains an integral part of the Anderlecht defence, partly because there are no better options. Despite his advancing years and occasional lunge, he is the best defender at the club. Quality remains. Jovanovic was probably in the twilight of his career then and has subsequently retired.

Last August, I found myself sitting in the Parc des Princes watching PSG v Bastia.  While Pastore and Cavani starred during the game (and Brandao in the tunnel), the Bastia number 6 had a good game.  I recognised him. Gillet didn’t have much of the ball but when he did, he was solid and when he didn’t, he worked hard and was positionally disciplined.  Gillet had become ‘persona non grata’ under the Hasi regime, stripped of captaincy and dignity. He was loaned to Bastia to get him off the wage bill and in the hope that a permanent transfer would be completed.

Gillet, understandably, thought that there were worse places to live than Corsica and subsequently went on loan.  By all accounts he did well and played almost every game for Bastia but financial difficulties prevented them from making the transfer permanent. So, Gillet returned to Anderlecht and was reluctantly accommodated by the club.

Gillet’s form – he has, for the most part, been the club’s best midfielder this season – has left Hasi with some options.  He has recognised that Gillet is performing well and has tinkered with the team’s formation to include him.  His adaptability makes him an excellent asset for a coach, although I don’t think right back is his best position.  He has a knack of scoring important goals in big matches but this seems to go unnoticed.

There seems a general reluctance at the club and amongst fans to acknowledge his importance and contribution.  This leads me to think that there must be some personality clash between Gillet and either another senior player or Hasi himself.  The club should be telling him how important he is and convincing him to sign a new contract; not to walk away for nothing.

Another player who has fallen out of favour under the Junta is ‘Flying’ Frank Acheampong.  His introduction as an out and out winger against Tottenham completely changed the game in Anderlecht’s favour, producing one assist and several other chances from the left wing.  Not only did he give the right back, Trippier, a torrid time but he pinned him back as an offensive threat.

Against Club Brugge, Acheampong as a left winger would occupy Meunier and nullify his offensive threat.  It would also allow Obradovic to be a defender.  Anderlecht have conceded several goals from his poor positioning but I believe this is due to the burden of creative responsibility that he has in the absence of any other genuine wide player.

Furthermore,  it seems criminal to have a centre forward like Okaka and not supply him with crosses from dangerous zones.  Going back to 4-3-3 with genuine wide players i.e. not Suarez and Praet would allow Anderlecht to stretch teams and would allow our central midfielders more space to be expressive and play.  Ezekiel could play on the right wing (since Najar is pinned at right back in the absence of Vanden Borre) but needs to involve himself more.

Line up like this v Brugge please
Line up like this v Brugge please

To use the clothing analogy, Anderlecht are lining up with three jumpers but no underwear or shoes.  To redress the balance, Hasi must equilibrate the team by reverting to a shape that works. He must ensure that the team have shoes that match the hat and scarf and, importantly, a warm Gillet.

 

 

 

When do you sack a manager?

I’m a big fan of continuity.  Long-serving managers like Guy Roux, Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Jim McLean or Thomas Schaaf. None of these guys brought instant success.  They had ups and downs.  Ferguson was famously an FA cup tie away from a sacking. However, what each of these guys had was a long term plan that they were allowed to stick to. And, over time, each of them brought in success which exceeded the expectations of them when they were hired.

A coherent and clear plan lets the players and fans see what you are trying to achieve.  Even if the team is on a bad run, if there is light at the end of the tunnel and the players look like they are playing for the jersey and, ergo, the manager then fans are more likely to tolerate defeat.  I once remember watching some inane Disney film about ice hockey and the coach said ‘it’s not about picking the best players, it’s about picking the right ones’.  Those words have stuck with me and strike a chord.

Today two Premier League managers left their clubs.  In Dick Advocaat’s case, I really don’t think he was the problem.  A Director of Football assembles a collection of mercenaries for him to get the best out of.  Good players, but definitely not the right ones. Sunderland will only stop being a crisis club if they can change their recruitment strategy of bringing has-beens and nomadic mercenary journeymen to the club.  So unless a top down change in strategy is implemented, the new guy will be given the target of “finish 17th” and the same cycle will propagate itself until inevitable relegation.  In this case, the manager leaving is unlikely to have a long-term positive effect.

In the case of Brendan Rodgers, the board have done the right thing by the club.  Ironically, Rodgers arrived at Liverpool with a clear plan and ‘philosophy’ – I’ve grown to cringe at the overuse of that word since last summer – and gradual progress was made.  Some will say that his he was a victim of the team’s overachievement two years ago.  I disagree.

That excellent and exciting team that were almost champions lost one very good player and then Rodgers completely abandoned the methods and strategies that brought success.  He lost sight amidst the influx of players who arrived after Suarez left.  I could have forgiven the poor recruitment if he had remained true to his self and his methods instead of constantly changing formations and styles, trying to accommodate the wave of new signings and, essentially, not knowing how.

He should’ve stuck to his guns and been a more assertive member of the now infamous transfer committee.  Of course losing Suarez would set them back but that’s not the main reason for their decline. I really don’t see Liverpool as a team struggling just because the players aren’t good enough but also because the manager probably didn’t want them and doesn’t know what to do with them.

If, as is being predicted, Klopp is brought in to replace Rodgers then here’s what will happen.  He will bring that squad closer together and get rid of those who don’t ‘fit’.  They will start fighting for each other and will have a very clear idea of what the manager wants.  He will be fiercely loyal to a core group of players who will run through brick walls for him.  He will identify that the team are desperate for a good centre half, a goalie and decent replacement for Gerrard.  However, at Dortmund, Klopp worked under Zorc as a Director of Football and there was a feeling of mutual respect and trust.  Will Klopp be happy working under the ‘committee’?  So, because Rodgers abandoned what worked for him,  Liverpool were right to sack him.

At Anderlecht, my team, Besnik Hasi’s tenure is becoming increasingly uncertain.  Despite the frustration of watching the team being unable to win the league last year when all their rivals were stumbling, I was prepared to give him a chance.  Why?  Because he had a strategy and a philosophy that was understandable.

“However, what worries me more is that he has changed the team’s playing style and match strategy to accommodate those he considers to be the best players whilst leaving out the ‘right’ ones (again, see Rodgers)”

When Kouyaté left, he replaced him with Defour and the rest of the team were mostly promising young players from the academy or players like Mitrovic with potential who were clearly bought with resale value in mind.  That has been the Anderlecht way: attacking wingers, commitment and players brought through the club.  The flopped loan signings of Marin and Rolando last January should have reinforced his commitment to this strategy and acted as a lesson to learn from.

This year however, Mitrovic and Mbemba were replaced by Ezekiel, Okaka, Obradovic, Kara and Hassan.  It reads like Rodgers with Suarez, replacing class with volume.  However, what worries me more is that he has changed the team’s playing style and match strategy to accommodate those he considers to be the best players whilst leaving out the ‘right’ ones (again, see Rodgers).  I don’t really blame him for recruitment but I do blame him for not having the bottle to leave a ‘star’ on the bench for the sake of balance.  So, because Hasi has sold out on his principles and because there is a lack of cohesion and passion, he has to go.  Results and performances are way below expectation levels that are not unrealistic.

For all that Wenger has his detractors, he has stuck to his principles and his team generally play great football.  When he finally calls it a day, there will be no shortage of people wanting the job but a lot of Arsenal fans don’t realise how lucky they are.  Of course he has made mistakes, like not playing Cech in the Champions League, but you just know they’ll be challenging and there is a clear plan in place at Arsenal.  I can see Arsenal having a few years of mediocrity once he does step down, like Man Utd have had, and they won’t realise what they have until he’s gone.

So, to summarise, you sack a manager when he loses sight of his own plans and strategies and improvement doesn’t look likely. Unfortunately (or not?) for Liverpool fans, that time is now.

 

Borussia v Man City

Borussia Monchengladbach v Manchester City

UEFA Champions League Group Match: 30th September

In light of the introspective post-mortem regarding the Premier League Clubs’ surprisingly predictably poor performances and results the night before, the interrogation light was burning into the soul of Man City for their trip to Borussia Monchengladbach.  It was one of two Bundesliga/Premier League clashes, with City’s quiet (it’s hard to be noisy with a langoustine in your mouth) neighbours and Wolfsburg playing out the other match.  Could the Bundesliga boys batter the Manchester boys and rub more salt in the gaping coefficient wound?

Well, no they couldn’t but in Borussia’s case, they were unlucky and Hart-broken by the end.  It was a fantastic football match.  The notion of going was really only conceived on Monday morning, taking the tram to work at an hour so early that it was almost hallucinogenic.  I checked my phone, checked my permission status with my very patient wife, and snapped up one of the last tickets from Borussia’s own website (see earlier Borussia reviews for details).

I’d hasten to point out that this is not a Borussia blog.  However, they are my closest Bundesliga team and I’ve grown to really like them; it’s a great club!  When Wednesday came (doesn’t have the same ring as Saturday, does it), I hopped into the car, pre-rush hour for a chilled drive and a playlist of Roxette, Roxanne by The Police, Rockin’ Robin and the theme from Rocky III.  This was a genuine sequence of songs on the radio.  I just couldn’t get the link.  Nevertheless, I rocked up to Borussia Park in good time, despite heavy traffic around Leuven hoping to rock out to Granit and Die Elf vom Neiderrhein and really hoping the players were confident and not bricking it.

'Sun'chengladbach
‘Sun’chengladbach

It was a beautiful evening, if a little breezy: Borussia Park is very much out in the open.  Around the stadium – even nearly three hours before the game – fans were hanging out having a UEFA-enforced alcohol-free beer.  For what it’s worth, I quite like alcohol-free beer and was driving anyway.  It seems tragic though that fans have to change their habits and suppress and sanitise what is part of their pre-match ritual so that the corporate nuggets can drink their free, self-righteous champagne or ‘Heineken’.

I was Garnock Academy Sports Champion 1995. Surely you'll let me in?
I was Garnock Academy Sports Champion 1995. Surely you’ll let me in?
Ooh, but I came alone :(
Ooh, but I came alone 🙁

Since my last visit (5 weeks ago) to Borussia Park, a lot has changed.  I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks Favre should’ve stuck it out a little longer and results would’ve picked up.  Seems a shame. However, since Favre left, Borussia – under the guidance of Andre Schubert for now – have started winning.  Pivotal to this upturn in form, in my opinion, is the redeployment of Lars Stindl as more a free-roaming trequartista than a holding midfielder with defensive responsibilities.  Mo Dahoud has been given a chance and, so far, seems to be improving with every game alongside Xhaka.  Raffael has become the main striker, as opposed to Favre’s preference for a partnership.

So, to see only one change in the XI from the last two matches was unsurprising.  City, on the other hand, started the season in great form but had a couple of consecutive defeats coinciding with the absence of Vincent Kompany among others.  The return of Hart and Silva would also provide Pellegrini with some options.

Having had my bratwurst, pommes und pils (alcohol frei) I made my way to my seat in section 20A.  It was the back row.  Once I got there I looked and saw something looked different – seats in the Nordkurve.  I feared for the effect this may have on the atmosphere – another UEFA ‘put your balls in a Pepsi cup’ sterilising initiative. My fears, however, were unfounded.  The atmosphere was, at times, as good as it gets.

Look at that sky!
Look at that sky!
Seats in the Nordkurve!
Seats in the Nordkurve!
A quick photo between Gazprom ads.
A quick photo between Gazprom ads.
Fill me up, buttercup
Fill me up, buttercup
Choreo
Choreo

One thing that does irritate me though is the liberal attitude to smoking.  The spherical lady in front ensured that I had passively smoked about 10 cigarettes throughout the match.  She even burned her accomplice on the side of the face with her oral light saber, striking down his dark side as he brought her copious bratwursts.

The constant interruption of UEFA sponsor adverts was a pain. Bloody Gazprom…  It did not however, spoil the atmosphere.  The scarves were waving and the fists were pumping in time to the music.  City fans wont be used to this kind of thing.  Then there was the Choreo, which looked fabulous.  I held my black rectangle aloft, sneaking a bit of footage before all 46000 pieces were scrunched up and lobbed into the air before kick-off.

The gentleman, and that is the most appropriate word, who did the announcements in English sounded like he was doing overtime from making ‘English as Foreign Language’ videos.  In his 1950s BBC voice, he sounded like he had been plucked from a colony to extol the Virtues of Blighty’s Empire.

The Match

The statistics do not paint the full picture.  In the first half, Borussia were excellent.  Xhaka was assured, Hermann very dangerous and they had a guy up front who looked a lot like Raffael but played more like Ronaldo.  Pity his finishing wasn’t up to the standard of the now portly Brazilian.  Demichelis and Otamendi couldn’t handle him, they played very high up the pitch and were caught out over and over.  Joe Hart made a number of outstanding saves from Raffael and Hermann, not to mention a penalty save.  He kept City in the match.

Hart doing a Grobbelaar
Hart doing a Grobbelaar

City for their part, looked most dangerous whenever Aguero was near.  He is a genuine class act and his touch, strength and overall game was excellent.  He missed a couple of chances and Sommer made a point blank save from about 2 yards but the first half belonged to the home side.  Sterling worked hard, De Bruyne had an off night and Silva looked only half-fit.  Yaya Touré was hooked at half time for Fernando, the Ivorian having a ‘nightmare’, according to the stadium announcer.  He had been poor.

For all that Borussia were good in the first half, Pellegrini deserves credit.  Every substitution he made had a positive effect for City. Fernando’s introduction at half time allowed them to control the match.  Yet, Borussia still had attacking intent and, in the 54th minute, Stindl finished a cross from the right low to Hart’s left and Borussia were 1 up.  Scenes!  Borussia Park was bouncing.  Xhaka also had a strike that came off of a City arm in the box but no penalty was given.  It was a decent shout from my view.

From this point on, however, City dominated.  Borussia worked very hard for the first hour and players were tiring.  Passes were looser, tackles less assured, Raffael increasingly not being found.  City looked stronger and it wasn’t a great surprise when Otamendi spanked home a half-clearance via Christensen.  There was panic and confusion as there was doubt as to whether the Demichelis header was over the line but Otamendi got on with the game instead of hounding the ref and got his reward.

City continued to press and control and Borussia, despite bringing on Hahn and Traore, couldn’t keep possession.  The full backs started to really struggle and the back line was stretched.  When the penalty came for city in the dying minutes, it seemed so cruel and undeserved.  A draw would’ve been a fair result, but Aguero’s fall was rewarded with the penalty.  He was never going to do a Raffael. Too good.

When City look back on this rarest of away wins, gratitude to the goalie should be foremost in their minds – Hart was outstanding.  It is a group of death but life has been breathed into Man City’s chances of success in the Champions League and resuscitated  the much maligned coefficient.

Borussia, for their part, will be disappointed but expectations, especially since the draw, have been more about enhancing reputation and getting the CL experience.  A double header with Juventus will be approached with excitement and not fear.