Man City – Review of our UEFA Cup Journey
With thoughts and minds already turning to next season, this seems an opportune moment to review City’s UEFA Cup campaign, which took in a vast array of countries, ranging from Cyprus and the Faroe Islands to Spain and France. It was a competition that provided many highs for the City faithful and there were some unforgettable experiences along the way. So sit back, relax and (try to) enjoy my complete UEFA Cup review.
A truly memorable start to City’s UEFA Cup campaign commenced in the Faroe Islands against part-timers EB Streymur, in a match which began even before our pre-season had started. With City fans having major difficulties in accessing the stadium, the atmosphere was non-existent, but the Blues produced an efficient performance, with goals from Didi Hamann and Martin Petrov securing a 2-0 advantage.
The second leg of this tie took place at Barnsley’s Oakwell ground, with the City of Manchester Stadium being used by (Valeri) Bonjovi. Despite the occasional moment of panic, City advanced comfortably to the second round thanks to another goal from Petrov and one from Darius Vassell. The journey had begun!
Hamann’s shoulder clearly appeals to Stephen Ireland
With confidence high, City moved on to face Danish side FC Midtjylland and they were nearly on the end of a monumental shock. Nobody gave the visitors any hope of an upset when they came to Eastlands, but a Richard Dunne mistake handed Danny Olsen an opportunity to give the Danes a 1-0 lead. and that is how it stayed, despite Petrov and Danny Sturridge hitting the woodwork.
The Blues still fancied their chances as they headed to the SAS Arena, but they came within one minute of departing the competition. Incessant pressure all night for City had failed to break the deadlock, but in injury time, Michael Ball swung over a cross that Welsh striker Ched Evans managed to flick on. The ball was travelling wide, but the Gods must have been favouring City at that point, as the ball took a deflection off Danny Califf and settled in the back of the net. Half an hour of extra time failed to provide anything, so it was a penalty shootout which would decide which side progressed. The score was 2-2 in the shootout when Michael Johnson stepped forward and saw his effort saved. Maybe it wouldn’t be our day after all. But Joe Hart produced a couple of sensational stops and Vedran Corluka slotted home to send the Blues through and the City faithful ecstatic.
Hart and Corluka celebrate, whilst in the background, Shay Given tries his hand at refereeing
After the nerve-jangling affair of the previous round, City moved on to face Cyprus champions AC Omonia. The first leg was away and the Blues started slowly as Klodian Duro gave the Cypriots the lead with a spectacular finish. City then sprang into action and drew themselves level thanks to summer signing Jo, before the Brazilian striker netted again to give the visitors a 2-1 advantage heading into the second leg.
A professional performance from the Blues secured their place in the following round after goals from Elano and Shaun Wright-Phillips handed then a 4-1 lead. A late consolation from Rasheed Alabi failed to take the gloss off the win and City were looking good as they moved into the group stage.
The City support in Cyprus was as superb as ever
City’s first match in the group stage was a home tie against Steve McClaren’s FC Twente side. In a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable encounter, City ran out 3-2 winners, with a memorable strike from Robinho providing an unforgettable moment. Shaun Wright-Phillips scored early before the visitors equalised through Eljero Elia. Two quickfire goals for the Blues from Robinho and Benjani Mrawurawi handed City the lead, but Rob Wielaert made sure it was an exciting finish as he drew FC Twente back into the tie. City just about held on, and recorded their first three points of the group campaign.
Benjani and Robinho celebrate together after helping City to victory
Banished to Germany to face an in-form FC Schalke side for the second part of the group section, City produced what was arguably their best performance and result of the season. A goal after half an hour from Benjani, his second in consecutive European matches, and another one later on from Stephen Ireland saw City record a highly impressive 2-0 victory, and one which sent a message to the other sides still left in the competition. With 60,000 passionate Germans wildly cheering on their team, City were ruthless in their win, controlling the game from the outset. It meant that the Blues had gained six points out of six in their two matches so far, and moved onto to future fixtures with confidence. The full report is here.
Goalscorer Ireland battles with Kevin Kuranyi for the ball
Paris Saint Germain
After the excitement of the previous two European matches, much was expected from City in this encounter, but they failed to reproduce anything similar to the displays against FC Twente and Schalke. Instead, this fixture, played in front of a paltry crowd, was about as boring as humanely possible and made the prospect of watching paint dry very appealing. A goalless draw wasn’t exactly uplifting, but it did continue City’s unbeaten run so far.
Looks appealing …
Along with the second leg of the Hamburg tie, this was my personal highlight of our European campaign, as it signalled my first ever away match in a country other than England. With about 900 fellow die-hard supporters, Manchester Airport at 5.00am in the morning was a sight to behold and the day lived upto all expectations. It’s just a shame about the final result! Producing their worst performance upto date, City were beaten heavily, losing 3-1 to Racing Santander, with only a last-minute consolation from Felipe Caicedo, his first for the club, providing any highlight. The full review can be found here. Following this result, City progressed to the knockout stage of the competition, where they faced Danish side FC Copenhagen.
Kaspar Schmeichel is clearly petrified by Micah Richards’s gaze
After advancing with relative ease through the previous rounds, City came up against FC Copenhagen in the first part of the knockout stage of the UEFA Cup. The first of the two legs, held at the Parken Stadium, culminated in an exciting 2-2 draw, with the hosts grabbing a last-minute equaliser courtesy of a Martin Vingaard header. City opened the scoring thanks to a blooper of gigantic proportions after Copenhagen’s goalkeeper somehow managed to let Nedum Onuoha’s shot squirm beneath his legs. A header from Ailton Almedia from a corner brought the Danes back level, before Stephen Ireland put City ahead once again from the edge of the area. Victory looked assured, but as always with City, there was a twist in the tail, and that duly arrived with Vingaard’s header.
With it all to do at Eastlands, City produced an accomplished and professional performance to progress to the next round, the last 16, of the UEFA Cup. The Blues were in full control of this match from start to finish, with both goals coming courtesy of Craig Bellamy, who then dedicated the victory to his cousin and best friend who tragically died on the eve of the match. The visitors were disappointing throughout and the final scoreline, thanks to a last minute consolation, probably flattered them.
Ireland and Bellamy celebrate putting City through to the next round
After defeating Copenhagen, the Blues moved onto face the challenge of their third Danish opposition, this time in the form of AaB Aalborg. With the first leg being played at Eastlands, City had the chance to press home their advantage, and they made full use of their extra quality. Goals from Felipe Caicedo and Shaun Wright-Phillips assured the Blues of a comfortable lead as they headed to Denmark, but nothing could have prepared anybody for the drama that was to follow. The first leg review can be found here.
84 minutes into the second leg and everything looked rosy. City were in complete control and Aalborg still needed to score twice just to take the tie into extra-time. Surely nothing could go wrong? Oh wait. We’re talking about City here. Of course it could go wrong! And sure enough, it did. A Luton Shelton strike from inside the penalty area reduced arrears and then, in injury time, an accidental handball on the line from Welsh striker Ched Evans gifted the hosts a glorious opportunity from the penalty spot to draw the tie level. Michael Jacobsen duly obliged and Aalborg had equalised!
A period of extra time followed, but both sides sensed that penalties would be the decider in this contest. So it was, and with the Blues scoring four out of four efforts, Shay Given’s saved from Shelton sent the Blues through to the last eight. Another rollercoaster of a night in Denmark and one which left the City fans elated. A complete review of this game is here.
City players rush towards their saviour, Shay Given
After all the excitement of the previous tie, City moved into the final eight of the UEFA Cup, where they travelled, for the first leg, to Hamburg. Led by former Tottenham boss Martin Jol, the Germans were top of the league and were one of the favourites for the competition. A heavily fancied outfit, Hamburg possessed quality in every department, so City had a battle on their hands to progress. And so it proved, because after 90 gruelling minutes, the hosts had established a convincing 3-1 lead to take to Eastlands. Despite a wonderful early goal from Stephen Ireland, Hamburg dominated the play and the Blues were indebted to Shay Given for keeping the deficit at just two. The review of the first leg is here.
Thursday 16th, April 2009. A day that will live long in the memory for any fan privileged enough to be at the game. Trailing 3 – 1 from the first leg, City knew they were staring down the barrel of defeat as they took to the hallowed turf of the City of Manchester Stadium, but a monumental effort, both on the pitch from the players, and off it with the fans, will live long in the memory for those who witnessed the spectacle. A full house at Eastlands, including the Chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, and England manager Fabio Capello, witnessed a stirring City fightback. The atmosphere was electric, with a vast array of inflatable bananas bringing back countless memories.
An early goal from Jose Paolo Guerrero looked to have decided the contest, because after his goal, City needed to score three times just to force extra-time. But led by Elano, reborn again after a hitherto unproductive season, the Blues produced a Herculean effort. The Brazilian scored a penalty after a quarter of an hour, before he rattled the crossbar with a thunderous free-kick. Shortly after half-time, Felipe Caicedo showed an impressive piece of footwork to advance into the penalty area and slot home to bring City within one goal. But then the Ecuadorian failed to convert the easiest chance of the game, slashing over from two yards. Elano hit the post again with another free-kick, and the Blues faithful sensed that it would not be their day. A Richard Dunne sending off further dampened spirits, and Hamburg just about held on for a nail-biting victory. City’s European hopes were over, but they departed with their heads held high. The complete review of the second leg, albeit with a few picture malfunctions, can be found here.
Caicedo rues missing the chance that would have put City through
So there you go. In the final, Shakhtar Donetsk defeated Werder Bremen, who had earlier proved too strong for Hamburg. If you feel I have missed out any memorable moments from our cup run, then please comment below. Thanks for reading.