Manchester City 2 – 1 Hamburg – Review
First Leg: Hamburg 3 – 1 Man City
Second Leg: Man City 2 – 1 Hamburg
Aggregate: Man City 3 – 4 Hamburg
Starting on a ferry in the Faroe Islands and finishing with inflatable bananas in Manchester, City’s European journey has been quite an adventure! Encompassing countries such as Denmark, Germany, Spain and Cyprus, the Blues have travelled across Europe in the search for the UEFA Cup, but their journey came to a sudden halt on Thursday night after a 2-1 victory over Hamburg meant they lost 4 -3 on aggregate to the Germans. A wonderful match, accompanied by a rip-roaring atmosphere from a capacity stadium, saw City reach heights previously unseen, as they came from one goal down on the night to lead 2-1, and came ever so close to reaching the semi-finals. Despite an early goal from Jose Paolo Guerrero, City never lost belief, and thanks to a penalty from Elano and a neat finish by Felipe Caicedo (no, I’m not joking), they came within a whisker of causing one of the great UEFA Cup upsets in recent memory.
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. Rather than anger at the end as would have been expected following a City defeat, the home supporters were content with the effort displayed and although there was disappointment, it was not of the bitter kind. Hamburg, arguably the better side over the two legs, now advance to the next round, the semi-finals, where they will face a fellow German side, Werder Bremen, who overcame Udinese 6 – 4 on aggregate.
A young City fan with a dodgy bottom lip joins in with the fun as he gets his face painted
As expected, City manager Mark Hughes took a number of risks with his team selection, handing starting berths to injury doubts Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and Wayne Bridge, and recalling to out-of-form Brazilian star Robinho. Sparky, no stranger to these European occasions having played at Manchester United and Bayern Munich, demanded the utmost effort from his team and of Robinho in particular. Devoid of the services of former Hamburg player Nigel de Jong and the ineligible Valeri Bojinov, Hughes was further depleted by the loss of influential midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips, who failed to recover in time from his injury. Elano was recalled to the side as he aimed to show the manager his undoubted talents, whilst there was a surprise name up-front, with Ecuadorian battering ram Felipe Caicedo preferred ahead of either Danny Sturridge or Ched Evans.
Hamburg, led by Martin Jol, the former Tottenham manager, were without key defenders Collin Benjamin and Guy Demel, and recalled goalscorer from the first leg Jose Paolo Guerrero in place of Croatian striker Mladen Petric. The visitors opted for a 4-4-2 formation, hoping to score twice and push the game out of City’s reach, and their wide men in particular, Piotr Trochowski and Jonathan Pitroipa, were dangerous on the counter-attack.
City Line-Up (4-2-3-1)
Richards Dunne Onuoha Bridge
Elano Ireland Robinho
Subs: Hart, Logan, Garrido, Petrov, Fernandes, Evans, Sturridge
Felipe Caicedo, seen here competing for the ball with Joris Mathijsen, was a surprise inclusion in the City side
With a capacity attendance expected, fans were arriving earlier for the kick-off, as an atmosphere more accustomed to the Britannia Stadium reverberated around Eastlands. Supporters harked back to the 1988/89 season as they carried with them bright yellow inflatable bananas, a paddling pool (thankfully with no water in) and a variety of other blow-up assortments. The noise that accompanied the players out onto the pitch was the loudest I have ever heard watching the Blues, and if ever Robinho was in doubt that this was the occasion for him to produce, he could not have failed to have been impressed by the cacophony of sound.
A sight to behold – the bananas were out in force
The game started, and although no clear-cut chances were created, it was obvious that City were in the ascendancy. The tempo was fantastic, with Elano at the forefront of everything. However, for all the Blues’ attacking, they could not find a way through, and as would become a frustrating recurring theme throughout the match, Felipe Caicedo was caught offside three times within the first ten minutes.
But then, on twelve minutes, disaster struck. With the Blues already facing an uphill task, they could ill-afford to concedea goal, but concede they did, when, following some scrappy work on the right, the ball found its way to Jose Paolo Guerrero, who slotted home past the helpless Given. Hamburg, at this stage, led 4 – 1 on aggregate. Tie over?
Guerrero celebrates his early goal with Ivica Olic and Piotr Trochowski
It would now require a Herculean effort from City to advance to the next stage, as they needed three goals without reply just to take the tie into extra-time. But they were given a helping hand in the form of the referee, who fortuitously awarded the home side a penalty in the sixteenth minute for a handball by Trochwoski after an Elano shot. The ball seemed to strike the Hamburg player on the hands inside the penalty area, so the referee, Nicoli Rizzoli from Italy, was within his rights to award the spot-kick, but Trochowski had turned away and was only a short distance from Elano as the Brazilian shot. But no-one inside the ground was complaining (apart from all the Hamburg fans) and Elano, as he should have done against Sunderland, stepped up to take the penalty. Everyone knew where it was going, but despite the goalkeeper diving the correct way, the accuracy and pace of the penalty saw the ball find its way to the corner. The comeback was on.
Elano shows the urgency required by City after scoring the penalty
City sensed the momentum was with them and surged forward at every opportunity. Caicedo under-hit a pass to Robinho when the Brazilian would have been through on goal had the pass from his fellow South American been better. Stephen Ireland, hitherto not involved in the game, found the side-netting after a sumptuous cross from Elano, whilst at the other end, Hamburg were still dangerous on the break and Trochowski forced Given into a save from his speculative 30 yard shot.
Caicedo should have scored as half-time approached, but Rost in the Hamburg net made a good save from the Ecuadorian’s prod. And then, as the end of the first period was nigh, City were awarded a free-kick, slightly to the left of centre, after Robinho was fouled. If anyone remembers Elano’s wondrous free-kick against Newcastle last season, then it was very similar to this one, as the Brazilian, from the best part of 30 yards, stepped up and drove a pile-driver with the outside of his right boot, only to see the ball thud into the crossbar with Rost beaten. It was a marvellous effort from Elano, but the scores were still level as the whistle blew for half-time, and City still had a mountain to climb.
Mark Hughes had to do something at half-time, otherwise City were out of the UEFA Cup
The second-half started and City set off like a house on fire. They were not going to be deterred from their mission of scoring twice, and despite Vincent Kompany’s booking, meaning he will miss the next European match, the Blues pressed forward. And they got their just rewards after 52 minutes, when Felipe Caicedo showed unbelievably good footwork inside the box, to collect Robinho’s pass, turn Jérome Boateng, and coolly slot past Frank Rost in net. One more goal would now do it for City and the stadium erupted.
With this neatly taken finish, Caicedo brought City to within touching distance
With just over half an hour left on the clock, it was imperative that City took any chances that came their way, but disaster struck for the Blues shortly after, when Elano hit the post from another sensational free-kick. It was a fantastic effort yet again from the set-piece expert, but was it going to be our day? Evidently not, when from a resulting corner, Caicedo somehow managed to lift the ball over the bar from three yards with an empty net gaping. It was a truly shocking miss, and (may have) cost City their place in the semi-finals.
Taken by a fan at the game, this picture shows Elano’s free-kick heading towards goal, but unluckily for City, it hits the post
Undeterred, City pressed again with Pablo Zabaleta showing ridiculous amounts of energy for someone who was doubtful for this encounter. He saw his curling shot saved by Rost, who then brilliantly foiled Robinho after the Brazilian was played through by Elano’s inch-perfect pass. Caicedo then had a goal correctly disallowed for offside as the noise levels rose to fever-pitch. A Robinho diving header (yes, you read that correctly) was pounced upon by Rost, and the Premier League’s richest player then hit the post but the referee’s whistle had already gone for an earlier foul.
Just as City were cranking up the pressure big time, they, or rather, Richard Dunne, shot themselves in the foot. The captain had been booked in the first half and was walking a disciplinary tightrope as he committed another couple of fouls which were let off by the referee with a surname which I though was a pasta; Rizzoli. When substitute Mladen Petric, who had just replaced Trochowski, knocked the ball down the line, Dunne should have used all his experience to shield the danger without feeling the need to lunge into a tackle. But lunge he did, missing the ball and catching Petric, thus earning a second yellow card and then a red to force City down to ten men. A hard task was now even harder.
Caicedo’s’ goal’ was ruled offside as City mounted the pressure
So, with fifteen minutes left, and in desperate need of a goal, what substitution would you make? Would you bring on Martin Petrov, Ched Evans or Daniel Sturridge, all naturally attacking players? No, let’s bring on Gelson ‘I’m Running Out Of Words To Describe How Bad He Is’ Fernandes! Well, that was the thought process of Mark Hughes, who sent on the Swiss holding midfielder in place of the injured Pablo Zabaleta. Unbelievable!
Hamburg went close at the other end, but were ultimately denied by the brilliance of Shay Given, whose outstretched leg foiled Olic, as the visitors searched for the goal that would win the tie. With the Blues rapidly tiring, any chance now would be crucial, but unfortunately for City, that chance fell to defender Micah Richards who blazed over the bar following Robinho’s delicate chip. Sturridge finally came on, replacing the impressive Elano, and the young striker prodded a shot just wide in the final minute. That was the final opportunity and the whistle went to signal the end of Man City’s heroic UEFA Cup journey.
Hamburg celebrate the victory with their fans, and best of luck to them in the rest of the tournament
Micah Richards ‘v’ Piotr Trochowski
Richards kept his place rather fortuitously after his non-showing against Fulham, and his performance here was not much of an improvement. Defensively, he looked shaky, allowing Trochowski to get the better of him on some occasions, whilst when the England international was attacking, he twice contrived to fluff his lines, firstly falling over in the box when through on goal, and then blazing over the bar after being delightfully set up by Robinho. This contest ends in a Draw.
Robinho ‘v’ Jérome Boateng
Boateng, suspended for the first leg, was issued with the unenviable task of marking Robinho, who was bought by City specifically for this type of occasion. The Brazilian was up for this encounter, displaying an array of skills, albeit with limited end product. Boateng was generally sound, although his positional play at times was as bad as that of Micah Richards! The winner will therefore be Robinho.
Daniel Sturridge ‘v’ Michael Gravgaard
Rather surprisingly, Hughes opted for Caicedo up-front instead of either Evans or Sturridge, so this contest has No Winner.
Chairman Khaldoon-Al-Mubarak was in attendance, sitting just in front of England manager Fabio Capello
Given - Made one stupendous save towards the end as City pushed forward. Handling was generally sound, and apart from one early sliced clearance, kicking was assured - 7
Richards - Should have scored twice, once when he fell over in the box, and once when he blasted over in the final few minutes. Struggled at times defensively, and should have got forward more – 5
Dunne - Get a grip lad! Correctly sent-off, and could possibly have been shown the door earlier. Could he have been taken off at half-time? That is what I certainly mooted at the interval. He needs to be taken out of the firing line for a while - 5
Onuoha - Strongest of the back four. Made countless defensive interceptions, and looked dangerous from set-pieces. Looks a lot more reliable at the moment than Dunne – 7.5
Bridge - Had to pass a fitness test before he could start, but put in a fabulous shift, bombing forward at pace, and looking fairly sound in defence - 7
Zabaleta -Like a Trojan! The amount of work he gets through makes the Duracell bunny look weak! Another one who was doubtful for the match and would not have played if this was a normal Premier League game, but performed remarkably and deserved to be on the winning side - 9
Kompany – Started quite slowly as he readjusted to the pace, but once he got a grip of the game, he was magnificent. Made a number of blocks and interceptions and looked a class above any Hamburg central midfielder. Could maybe have got forward more in the second half - 8.5
Elano - Wow! Simply stunning vision for some passes, and was inches away from sending City through to the semi-finals with his free-kicks. Back to his best, and must show more of this form in the last few games - 9.5
Ireland – Was a weird performance from Ireland. Didn’t seem to want the ball, and although he made a few decent passes, the game passed him by - 6.5
Robinho - It was time for him deliver, but the jury is still most definitely out on him. Lots of fancy footwork, but as said previously, not much end product – 6.5
Caicedo - Took his goal very well, but caught offside eleven times. Gave City no physical presence up front. Looked so slow and someone needs to teach this man/donkey how to jump. The seven dwarfs from Snow White are better in the air than him! - 4.5
Fernandes – Accomplished nothing. I was very tempted to throw my banana at him! - 0
Sturridge - Brought on much too late, should have come on at half-time - No time to mark
Wayne Bridge contests an aerial battle with Piotr Trochowski
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli -Handled the game well. Supported at every occasion by his flag-happy linesmen, but they got the majority of decisions right. Rizzoli tried to allow the game to flow, but was disciplined in his actions. Could have possibly sent Dunne off earlier, but gave him a final chance which the City captain proceeded to ignore. Gave the Blues a very fortunate penalty, but was a calm and assured figure – 7.5
Man of the Match: Elano